American Samoa facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Unincorporated and unorganized territory
|Anthem: "Amerika Samoa"|
Location of American Samoa (circled in red)
|Sovereign state||United States|
|Partition of Samoa||December 2, 1899|
|Ratification Act||February 20, 1929|
|Ethnic groups||88.9% Samoan
|Demonym(s)||American Samoan (official)
|Government||Devolved presidential constitutional dependency|
|Lemanu Peleti Mauga (D)|
• Lt. Governor
|Salo Ale (D)|
|House of Representatives|
|77 sq mi (200 km2)|
|Highest elevation||3,170 ft (970 m)|
• 2020 estimate
• 2010 census
|670.8/sq mi (259.0/km2)|
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
• Per capita
|Currency||United States dollar (US$) (USD)|
|Time zone||UTC−11:00 (SST)|
|ISO 3166 code||
American Samoa consists of five main islands and two coral atolls. The largest and most populated island is Tutuila. Other islands and atolls included in the territory are the Manuʻa Islands, Rose Atoll, and Swains Island. All islands except for Swains Island are part of the Samoan Islands, located west of the Cook Islands, north of Tonga, and about 300 miles (500 km) south of Tokelau. To the west are the islands of the Wallis and Futuna group.
The U.S. 2010 census showed a total population of 55,519 people. The total land area is 199 square kilometers (76.8 sq mi), slightly more than Washington, D.C. American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the U.S. and one of two U.S. territories south of the Equator. The other territory that is south of the equator is the uninhabited (nobody lives there) Jarvis Island. Tuna products are the main exports, and American Samoa's main trading partner is the United States.
During the 1918 flu pandemic, Governor John Martin Poyer quarantined the territory. Because of his quick action, American Samoa was one of the few places in the world where no flu-related deaths occurred.
American Samoa has the highest rate of military enlistment (people who join the military) of any U.S. state or territory. As of September 9, 2014, the local U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Pago Pago enlisted the most soldiers out of the 885 Army recruiting stations and centers under the United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC). This includes the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Korea, Japan, and Europe.
- Notable Events
- Interesting Facts about American Samoa
- Images for kids
18th Century: First Western Contact
Contact with Europeans on the Samoan Islands began in the early 18th century. Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen was the first known European to sight the Samoan Islands in 1722. This visit was followed by French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who named them the Navigator Islands in 1768. There was little contact before the 1830s, when English missionaries and traders began arriving on the islands.
A battle in the eighteenth century took place between French explorers and islanders in Tutuila. The site of this battle is called Massacre Bay. The Samoans were blamed in the West and this made people believe that the natives were ferocious.
Mission work in the Samoas had begun in late 1830 when John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived from the Cook Islands and Tahiti. By that time, the Samoans had gained a reputation for being savage and warlike because violent fights had occurred between natives and European visitors. However, by the late nineteenth century, French, British, German, and American ships regularly stopped at Samoa because they valued Pago Pago Harbor as a refueling station for coal-fired shipping and whaling.
In March 1889, an Imperial German naval force entered a village on Samoa. When they did, they destroyed some American property. Three American warships then entered Apia Harbor and prepared to engage the three German warships found there. Before any shots were fired, a typhoon wrecked both the American and German ships. Because there were not warships to fight, the two countries were forced to call an armistice.
Early 20th Century
The 1899 Tripartite Convention settled struggles between the three countries involved in the fight over the Samoan Islands:
- Britain gave up all claims to Samoa and in return accepted the end of German rights in Tonga and certain areas in the Solomon Islands and West Africa.
- The United States and Germany agreed to divide the Samoan Islands into two parts:
- The eastern island group became a territory of the United States (the Tutuila Islands in 1900 and officially Manu'a in 1904) and is today known as American Samoa.
- The western islands, the much larger section of land, became known as German Samoa.
The next year, the U.S.A. formally occupied its part of the islands, a smaller group of eastern islands, one of which contains the popular harbor of Pago Pago. After the United States Navy took possession of eastern Samoa for the United States government, the existing coaling station at Pago Pago Bay was grown into a full naval station, known as United States Naval Station Tutuila. The Navy received a Deed of Cession of Tutuila in 1900 and a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa in 1904 on behalf of the U.S. government. The last sovereign of Manuʻa, the Tui Manuʻa Elisala, signed a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa after a series of U.S. Naval trials, known as the "Trial of the Ipu," in Pago Pago, Taʻu, and aboard a Pacific Squadron gunboat. The territory became known as the U.S. Naval Station Tutuila.
On July 17, 1911, the U.S. Naval Station Tutuila, which included Tutuila, Aunu'u, and the Manu'a Island group (Ofu and Olosega -joined by a bridge- and Ta'u) was officially renamed American Samoa.
World War I and the 1918 Flu Pandemic
In 1918, during the final stages of World War I, the flu pandemic was spreading rapidly from country to country. American Samoa became one of only three places in the world (the others being New Caledonia and Marajó island in Brazil) to have prevented any deaths during the pandemic through the quick response from Governor John Martin Poyer. After hearing news reports of the outbreak on the radio, Poyer requested the use of quarantine ships from the U.S. mainland, so that the disease could be contained and not spread to American Samoa. The result of Poyer's quick actions earned him the Navy Cross from the U.S. Navy. American Samoans regarded Poyer as their hero for what he had done to prevent the deadly disease. The neighboring New Zealand territory at the time, Western Samoa, suffered the most of all Pacific islands. 90% of the population became infected; 30% of adult men, 22% of adult women, and 10% of children died. Poyer offered to help Western Samoa, but the administrator, Robert Logan refused to listen. Logan had become angry after seeing the number of quarantine ships surrounding American Samoa and had cut off communications with American Samoa.
American Samoa Mau Movement
After World War I, during the time of the Mau movement in Western Samoa (then a League of Nations mandate ruled by New Zealand), there was an American Samoa Mau movement led at the same time by Samuelu Ripley, a World War I veteran who was from Leone village, Tutuila. After meetings in the United States mainland, he was prevented from getting off the ship that brought him home to American Samoa and was not allowed to return because the American Samoa Mau movement was being stopped by the U.S. Navy. In 1930, the U.S. Congress sent a group of people to investigate the status of American Samoa, led by Americans who had a part in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Annexation of Swains Island
Pan American and First Trans-South Pacific Flight
In 1938, the noted aviator Ed Musick and his crew died on the Pan American World Airways S-42 Samoan Clipper over Pago Pago, while on a survey flight to Auckland, New Zealand. Sometime after takeoff, the aircraft experienced trouble, and Musick turned it back toward Pago Pago. While the crew dumped fuel to prepare for an emergency landing, an explosion tore the aircraft apart.
World War II and Aftermath
During World War II, there were more U.S. Marines stationed in Samoa than people who lived there. The marines had an enormous cultural influence on the locals. Young Samoan men aged 14 and above were combat trained by U.S. military employees. Samoans served in various jobs during World War II, including soldiers, medical personnel, code personnel, and ship repairmen.
In 1949, Organic Act 4500, a U.S. Department of Interior-sponsored try to incorporate American Samoa, was introduced in Congress. The Samoans did not want to be incorporated, and the Samoan chiefs, led by Tuiasosopo Mariota, helped to defeat the act. The hard work of these chiefs led to the creation of a territorial legislature, the American Samoa Fono, which meets in the village of Fagatogo.
By 1956, Peter Tali Coleman, who was locally elected, replaced the U.S. Navy-appointed governor. American Samoa rules itself under a constitution that became effective on July 1, 1967. The U.S. Territory of American Samoa is on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, even though the territorial government officials disagree with their being included on the list.
American Samoa and Pago Pago International Airport was involved with the Apollo Program. The astronaut crews of Apollo 10, 12, 13, 14, and 17 were picked up a few hundred miles from Pago Pago and brought by helicopter to the airport before being flown to Honolulu on C-141 Starlifter military aircraft.
While the two Samoas share language and ethnicity, their cultures have recently followed different paths. Many American Samoans have emigrated to Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, and have adopted many U.S. customs, such as the playing of American football and baseball. Western Samoans have tended to emigrate instead to New Zealand, whose influence has made the sports of rugby and cricket more popular in the western islands. Travel writer Paul Theroux wrote that there were clear differences between the societies in Western Samoa and American Samoa.
Because of economic difficulty, military service has been seen as an opportunity in American Samoa and other U.S. overseas territories. Because so many American Samoans have joined the military, it has meant that a higher percentage of American Samoans have died in war compared to citizens of the United States. As of March 23, 2009, 10 American Samoans had died in Iraq, and 2 died in Afghanistan.
On December 10, 1787, French sailor Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse landed two exploration parties on Tutuila's north shore: one from the ship La Boussole ("The Compass") at Fagasa, and the other from L' Astrolabe ("The Quadrant") at A'asu. On December 11, 1787, twelve members of Jean-François de La Pérouse's crew (including First Officer Paul-Antoine Fleuriot de Langle and 39 Samoans) were killed by angry Samoans at A'asu Bay, Tutuila, thereafter known as "Massacre Bay." This incident gave Samoa a reputation for savagery and kept Europeans away until the arrival of the first Christian missionaries four decades later. On December 12, 1787, at A'asu Bay, Tutuila, French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse ordered his gunners to fire one cannonball in the center of the attackers who had killed twelve of his men the day before and were now returning to launch another attack. He later wrote in his journal, "I could have destroyed or sunk a hundred canoes, with more than 500 people in them: but I was afraid of striking the wrong victims; the call of my conscience saved their lives."
On March 25, 1891, Robert Louis Stevenson paid a rare visit to Pago Pago.
On December 15, 1916, English writer William Somerset Maugham arrived in Pago Pago. He was thought to be accompanied by a missionary and Miss Sadie Thompson. His visit inspired his short story "Rain," which later became plays and three major motion pictures (movies). The building still stands where Maugham stayed and has been renamed the Sadie Thompson Building. Today it is a famous restaurant and inn.
On August 11, 1925, Margaret Mead arrived in American Samoa aboard the SS Sonoma to begin fieldwork for her doctoral dissertation in anthropology (the study of people and cultures) at Columbia University, where she was a student of Professor Franz Boas. Her work Coming of Age in Samoa was published in 1928 and became the most widely read book in the subject of anthropology. The book has sparked years of ongoing and intense debate and controversy. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute listed Coming of Age in Samoa as #1 on the The Fifty Worst Books of the Century list.
On January 11, 1942, at 2:26 a.m., a Japanese submarine surfaced off Tutuila between Southworth Point and Fagasa Bay. For 10 minutes, it fired about 15 shells from its 5.5-inch deck gun at the U.S. Naval Station Tutuila. The first shell struck the rear of Frank Shimasaki's store, ironically owned by one of Tutuila's few Japanese residents. The next shell caused slight damage to the naval dispensary (the naval hospital), the third landed on the lawn behind the naval quarters known as "Centipede Row," and the fourth struck the stone seawall outside the customs house. The other rounds fell harmlessly into the harbor. As one writer described it, "The fire was not returned, notwithstanding the eagerness of the Samoan Marines to test their skill against the enemy... No American or Samoan Marines were wounded." Commander Edwin B. Robinson was bicycling behind Centipede Row and was wounded in the knee by a piece of shrapnel, and "a member of the colorful native Fita Fita Guard" received minor injuries. This was the only time the Japanese attacked Tutuila during World War II, although "Japanese submarines had patrolled the waters around Samoa before the war, and continued to be active there throughout the war."
On August 24, 1943, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited American Samoa and inspected the Fita Fita Guard and Band and the First Samoan Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at the U.S. Naval Station American Samoa.
On October 18, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson visited American Samoa. Mrs. Johnson dedicated the "Manulele Tausala" ("Lady Bird") Elementary School in Nu'uuli, which was named after her. Johnson is the only U.S. President to have visited American Samoa, while Mrs. Johnson was the second First Lady, preceded by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943. The territory's only hospital was renamed in honor of President Johnson.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, American Samoa played a crucial role in five of the Apollo Program missions. The astronauts landed several hundred miles from Pago and were brought to the islands on their way back to the mainland. President Richard Nixon gave three moon rocks to the American Samoan government, and these are on display in the Jean P. Haydon Museum, along with a flag carried to the moon on one of the missions.
In November 1970, Pope Paul VI visited American Samoa in a short but lavish greeting.
On January 30, 1974, Pan Am Flight 806 from Auckland, New Zealand, crashed at Pago Pago International Airport at 10:41 p.m., with 91 passengers aboard. 86 people were killed, including Captain Leroy A. Petersen and the entire flight crew. Four of the five surviving passengers were seriously injured, with the other only slightly injured. The aircraft was completely destroyed by the crash and the fire. The crash is thought to have been caused by poor visibility, pilot error, or wind shear since a violent storm was raging at the time. In January 2014, filmmaker Paul Crompton visited the territory to interview the people who lived there for a documentary film about the 1974 crash.
On April 17, 1980, a U.S. Navy patrol plane had its vertical stabilizer (the fin-like metal piece that sticks up in the back of the plane) shaved off by the Solo Ridge-Mount Alava aerial tramway cable that ran across Pago Pago Harbor. During the Flag Day celebrations, the plane was carrying six skydivers from the U.S. Army's Hawaii-based Tropic Lightning Parachute Club. After the skydivers had made their jump the plane crashed. The skydivers were reported to be in good condition, but the crash destroyed a section of the Rainmaker Hotel and killed all six crew members and one civilian. A memorial monument is built on Mt. Mauga O Ali'i to honor their memory.
On July 22, 2010, Det. Lt. Lusila Brown was shot and killed outside the temporary High Court building in Fagatogo. It was the first time in more than 15 years that a police officer was killed in the line of duty. The last was Sa Fuimaono, who drowned after saving a teenager from rough seas.
On November 7, 2010, United States Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton made a refueling stopover at the Pago Pago International Airport. She was greeted by government dignitaries and presented with gifts and a traditional 'ava ceremony (a ceremony in which a special beverage is shared to mark important occasions).
September 2009 Earthquake and Tsunami
On September 29, 2009, at 17:48:11 UTC, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck 120 miles (190 km) off the coast of American Samoa, followed by smaller aftershocks. It was the largest earthquake of 2009. The quake occurred on the outer rise of the Kermadec-Tonga Subduction Zone. This is part of what is called the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates in the Earth's lithosphere meet and earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. The quake struck 11.2 miles (18.0 km) below the ocean floor and started a tsunami that killed more than 170 people in the Samoa Islands and Tonga. Four waves with heights from 15 feet (4.6 m) to 20 feet (6.1 m) high were reported to have traveled up to one mile (1.6 km) inland on the island of Tutuila.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide 16 ft. × 16 ft. humanitarian (helpful) tents to the ruined areas of American Samoa.
American Samoa, located within the geographical region of Oceania, is one of only two possessions of the United States in the Southern Hemisphere. The other is Jarvis Island. Its total land area is 76.1 square miles (197.1 km2) – slightly larger than Washington, D.C. – consisting of five rugged, volcanic islands and two coral atolls. The five volcanic islands are Tutuila, Aunu'u, Ofu, Olosega, and Tau. The coral atolls are Swains Island and Rose Atoll. Of the seven islands, Rose Atoll is the only uninhabited one; it is a Marine National Monument.
Due to its location in the South Pacific Ocean, it is often hit by tropical cyclones between November and April. Rose Atoll is the easternmost point of the territory. American Samoa is the southernmost part of the United States. American Samoa is home to the National Park of American Samoa.
The Vailulu'u Seamount, an active underwater volcano, lies 28 miles (45 km) east of Ta'u in American Samoa. It was discovered in 1975 and has since been studied by an international team of scientists. These studies have helped scientists understand the Earth's basic processes. Growing inside the summit crater of Va'ilulu'u is an active underwater volcanic cone, named after Samoa's goddess of war, Nafanua.
American Samoa has a tropical climate all year round with the average daily temperature around 81˚- 83˚ Fahrenheit (around 28° Celsius). It has two distinct seasons, the wet and dry seasons. The wet season is usually between December and March, and the dry season is from April through September.
American Samoa has 150 miles of highways (estimated in 2008). The maximum speed limit is 30 miles per hour. Ports and harbors include Aunu‘u, Auasi, Faleāsao, Ofu and Pago Pago. American Samoa has no railways. The territory has three airports, all of which have paved runways. The main airport is Pago Pago International Airport. According to a 1999 estimate, the country has no merchant marine.
The population of American Samoa stands at about 54,194 people (as of 2016), 95% of whom live on the largest island, Tutuila.
Ethnicity and Language
91.6% of the people who live in American Samoa are native Samoans, 2.8% are Asian, 1% are Caucasian, 4.2% are mixed, and 0.3% are of another origin. Most people are bilingual. Samoan, a language closely related to Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages, is spoken natively by 91% of the people. It is the co-official language of the territory along with English. 80% of the people speak English, 2.4% speak Tongan, 2% speak Japanese and other Asian languages, and 2% speak other Pacific Islander languages. At least some of the deaf population uses Samoan Sign Language. Tokelauan is also spoken in Swains Island.
Major Christian denominations on the island include the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Methodist Church of Samoa. Altogether, these churches are attended by the vast majority of the population.
J. Gordon Elton, in his book, says that the Methodists, Congregationalists with the London Missionary Society, and Roman Catholics led the first Christian missions to the islands. Other denominations arrived later, beginning in 1895 with the Seventh-day Adventists, several Pentecostals (including the Assemblies of God), Church of the Nazarene, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons.
The CIA World Factbook 2010 estimate shows the religious affiliations (connections) of American Samoa as 98.3% Christian, other 1%, unaffiliated 0.7%. The World Christian Database 2010 estimate shows the religious affiliations of American Samoa as 98.3% Christian, 0.7% agnostic, 0.4% Chinese Universalist, 0.3% Buddhist and 0.3% Bahá'í. According to Pew Research Center, 98.3% of the total population is Christian. Among Christians, 59.5% are Protestant, 19.7% are Roman Catholic and 19.2% are other Christians.
A major Protestant church on the island, gathering a large part of the local Protestant population, is the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa, a Reformed denomination in the Congregationalist tradition. As of February 2014[update], The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website reports a membership of 16,149 or one-quarter of the whole population, with 41 congregations, and 4 family history centers in American Samoa. It accounts for most of the other Christians.
The island contains 23 primary schools and 10 secondary schools. 5 are operated by the American Samoa Department of Education, and the other 5 are administered by either religious denominations or are privately owned. American Samoa Community College, founded in 1970, provides post-secondary education (after secondary education) on the islands.
- See also: Culture of Samoa
The ethnic culture of American Samoa is almost the same as the ethnic culture of Western Samoa (Upolu and Savaii). The U.S. sovereignty separates the civilization of American Samoa from the sovereign Samoa.
- See also: Sports in American Samoa
About 30 ethnic Samoans, all from American Samoa, currently play in the National Football League, and more than 200 play NCAA Division I college football. In recent years, it has been estimated that a Samoan male (either an American Samoan or a Samoan living in the mainland United States) is anywhere from 40 to 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than a non-Samoan American. Six-time All-Pro Junior Seau was one of the most famous Americans of Samoan heritage ever to play in the NFL. He was elected to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, though born and raised in the mainland U.S., is another famous American of Samoan heritage to have played in the NFL. While playing in the NFL until 2015, he did not cut his hair (because a USC coach told him he had to) and wore it down during games in honor of his heritage. The football culture was featured on 60 Minutes, airing on January 17, 2010.
Association Football (Soccer)
American Samoa national association football team is one of the newest teams in the world, and is also noted for being the world's weakest team. They lost to Australia 31–0 in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match on April 11, 2001, but on November 22, 2011, they finally won their first game, beating Tonga 2–1 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Maselino Masoe, who represented American Samoa in three consecutive Olympics from 1988 to 1996, was WBA middleweight champion from 2004 to 2006.
A number of American Samoan athletes have been very visible in professional wrestling (see especially Anoa'i family). WWE has employed many members from the Anoa'i family.
The American Samoa national rugby league team represents the country in international rugby league. The team competed in the 1988, 1992, 1998, and 2004 Pacific Cup competitions. The team has also competed in the 2003 and 2004 world sevens qualifiers in the 2005 World Sevens. America Samoa's first match in the international Rugby League was in the 1988 Pacific Cup against Tonga. Tonga won the match 38–14, which is still the biggest loss by an American Samoan side. American Samoa's biggest win was in 2004 against New Caledonia with the score ending at 62–6.
American Samoa gets broadcasts of the National Rugby League in Australia on free-to-air television.
There is also a new movement that aims to set up a four-team competition in only American Samoa.
Rugby union is a growing sport in American Samoa. The first rugby game recorded in American Samoa was in 1924. The highest ruling body of rugby in American Samoa is the American Samoa Rugby Union which was founded in 1990 and was not connected with World Rugby (formerly the IRB) until 2012. Internationally, two American Samoans have played for the New Zealand national rugby union team, known as the All Blacks. Frank Solomon (born in Pago Pago) became the first American national of Samoan descent to play for a New Zealand team. Solomon scored a try against Australia in the first Bledisloe Cup match in 1932, which New Zealand won 21–13. The second American Samoan to play for the All Blacks is Jerome Kaino (born in Faga'alu). Kaino was a native of Leone and moved to New Zealand when he was 4 years old. Kaino played in multiple games and tournaments. He is one of twenty New Zealand rugby players to have won the Rugby World Cup twice, back to back in 2011 and 2015.
Some Samoan Sumo wrestlers, most famously Musashimaru and Konishiki, have reached the highest ranks of ōzeki and yokozuna.
Track and Field
Hammer thrower Lisa Misipeka won a bronze medal in the 1999 World Championships in Athletics.
Interesting Facts about American Samoa
- The National Park of American Samoa receives about 5,000 visitors a year.
- The largest concentration of fast-food restaurants is found on the American Samoa island of Tutuila.
- About three-fourths of American Samoans are considered obese.
- American Samoans are 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than men from the United States.
- About 80% of American Samoans are employed at tuna canneries.
- Canned tuna accounts for 93% of American Samoa's exports.
- Sea turtles have been given the name "l'asa," which means "sacred fish." They are said to have helped lost fishermen by swimming with them to shore.
- There is such a variety of fish in American Samoa that if a person were to swim around the reefs once every week, they could see a new fish species each time for eighteen years.
- A coral that is over fifteen feet tall and believed to be hundreds of years old lives off the coast of Ta'u island.
- The flying fox is one of only three mammal species in American Samoa.
- Research shows that it rains an average of 300 days a year in American Samoa.
- It is a tradition to bury the afterbirth (placenta) of a child near the family home in order to connect the child to the community.
Images for kids
Former First Lady Mary Tulafono and former Governor Togiola Tulafono
American Samoa Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.