American Samoa – A US Territory
American Samoa is a stunning island with a tropical climate and a traveller’s paradise. Located in the south Pacific Ocean, it is an ‘unincorporated’ and ‘unorganized’ US territory.
It is a group of five beautiful islands and two coral atolls. It is home to the world’s rarest marine species, bluest water, coral reefs, sandy beaches and passive volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions shaped these islands to make them look like they do today.
What is an Unincorporated US Territory?
There are thirteen territories of the United States of America that are neither incorporated nor is there any US state or any nation that has a claim on them. The US constitution does not apply to American Samoa but it is dependent on US military and economic support.
What is Meant by an Unorganized Territory?
An unorganized US territory is one for which no organic act has been passed by the US congress, allowing the territory to self-govern.
History of American Samoa
American Samoa ranks among those rare places on earth which were not discovered until the 18th century. Ancient Polynesian people are considered to have inhabited these islands first around 1000 B.C. They are more commonly known as the Lapita.
Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutchman is considered to be the first European responsible for the exploration of these islands in 1721. In 1898, the US, Germany and the UK locked horns over the control of the entire Samoan island chain. The battle more famously known as the second Samoan civil war resulted in the division of these islands with the US getting the eastern group of the Samoan Islands. Those that fell under German control are now independent and known as the independent state of Samoa.
The Treaty of Cessation of Manu’a was signed between the chiefs of the Tutuila island and the US in 1904; it ceded the islands of Manuʻa to the US. This was ratified by the US in the ratification act of 1929.
After World War II, the organic act 4500 was presented to the US Congress by the interior department but was rejected. This led to the local chiefs creating their own legislature. The United Nations gave an offer to the people of American Samoa in 1966 for uniting with the independent state of Samoa but they chose to remain with the US.
Land, Terrain & Geography
It is the only US Territory located south of the equator; it must not be confused with the independent state of Samoa which lies to its east. American Samoa lies southwest of Hawaii and northeast of Fiji.
Rugged terrain, caverns, mountains, corals and beaches make up the entire terrain of American Samoa. It has five volcanic islands namely Ofu, Olosega, Ta’u, Tutuila, Manu’a and the Aunu’u, Tutuila being the largest. Its two coral atolls are Rose Atoll and Swains Island.
American Samoa enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year; it stays hot and humid, making it perfect for sunbathing. There is no substantial temperature variation throughout the year. The islands witness heavy rains, an average annual rainfall of 120 inches to 200 inches.
As of 2018, the population of American Samoa was just 55,465, with around 48 thousand citizens residing in the Capital Pago Pago. The Samoans are an ancient people and extremely proud of their cultural values. 81% of the population comprise native Samoans and more than 60% of them are below the age of 52. The dominant language in the region is Samoan and second to it is English.
American Samoa is also called the ‘Football Island’ because it produces more American football players than any other place. Tutuila has the largest number of fast-food chains and also happens to be the biggest consumer of fast food in all of the South Pacific.
Samoans still believe in their ancient ways; it’s called “Fa’asamoa” or the Samoan way of life. 90% of the land is still communally owned by the Samoan people.
Trade & Economy
The US dollar is the currency of American Samoa. Samoans grow vegetables, bananas, pineapples and many other tropical fruits. They also rear livestock and are involved in the production of dairy products.
About 80% of the Samoans are employed in Tuna canneries. The American Samoa islands are one of the largest exporters of canned tuna, most of which is consumed by Americans.
American Samoa islands are home to only three types of bats which also happen to be the only mammal on the islands. The scary-looking Samoan flying fox is one of them. It is also home to 250 coral species and 930 fish species. Also, there are 35 species of birds that are native to these islands.
American Samoa requires a valid passport, a return ticket and evidence of sufficient money for supporting your stay. US Citizens and nationals do not require a visa.
The National Park of American Samoa is a popular tourist spot and is considered to be one of the most remote and unique natural reserves in the world. It covers parts of three Samoan islands.
Fagatele Bay is a marine reserve protecting about 168 species of coral reefs and 271 fish species. Famous for snorkelling and underwater photography, it was formed by a collapsed volcanic crater that gives it its awesome look.
Aunu’u Island is a tiny volcanic island and is covered with rainforest. Ofu beach is a beach for the adventurers, connected through a walkable bridge to Olosega and offers hiking as well as snorkelling. Mount Alava’s three and a half mile hiking trail offers a scenic adventure and beautiful views of Pago Pago Harbor. You can enjoy Samoan cuisine and colorful drinks at Tisa’s barefoot bar and marine sanctuary.
Also, if you want to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the beauty of American Samoa, take a car ride on rugged terrain to the A’oloaufou, a village almost a quarter of a mile high.
Interesting Facts About American Samoa
- Samoa Air decides the airfare by weighing passengers along with their luggage.
- These islands have the highest obesity rate in the world.
- From the 60s to the 70s, American Samoa’s waters were used by US astronauts for a splash landing.
- In the Samoan language, Samoa means ‘sacred earth’.
- Theory suggests that if you dive around the reefs even once a week, you can see a new species of fish with every dive for 18 years.
- John Kneubuhl, the famous Hollywood screenwriter for TV series Star Trek, Hawaii Five-O and actor AI Harrington who starred in Hawaii Five-O are both American Samoans.
- The screenwriter of ‘Fast & Furious’ Garry Scott Thompson is also an American Samoan.
- The American Samoans took a very active part in World War I & II and are considered to be brave people.
- The National Football League (NFL) currently has 30 ethnic Samoans.
- All three native bat species of American Samoa are considered to be endangered because of excessive hunting. This is because they are regarded as a delicacy in Guam and other Pacific islands.
- An imaginary demarcation line between calendar dates, the International Date Line (IDL), separates American Samoa from Samoa. So if you fly to Samoa from American Samoa, you will travel 24 hours back in time.
American Samoa is heaven on earth for those who love snorkelling, hiking, camping or just sightseeing. It has beautiful destinations and interesting culture. Click to read more.