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Originally inhabited as early as 850 AD, Samoa was not reached by European explorers until the 18th century.

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Early occupation by Polynesian people

The pre-Western history of Eastern Samoa (now American Samoa) is inextricably bound with the history of Western Samoa (now independent Samoa).

The islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u were politically connected to 'Upolu island in what is now independent Samoa. It can be said that all the Samoa islands are politically connected today through the faamatai chiefly system and through family connections that are as strong as ever. This system of the faamatai and the customs of faasamoa originated with two of the most famous early chiefs of Samoa, who were both women and related, Nafanua and Salamasina.

Initial European discovery

Early Western contact included a battle in the 18th century between French explorers and islanders in Tutuila, for which the Samoans were blamed in the West, giving them a reputation for ferocity. Early 19th century Rarotongan missionaries to the Samoa islands were followed by a group of Western missionaries led by John Williams (missionary) of the (Congregationalist) London Missionary Society in the 1830s, officially bringing Christianity to Samoa. Less than a hundred years later, the Samoan Congregationalist Church became the first independent indigenous church of the South Pacific.

Division of the Samoan archipelago

International rivalries in the later half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 Treaty of Berlin in which Germany and the U.S. divided the Samoan archipelago. The U.S. formally occupied its portion—a smaller group of eastern islands with the noted harbor of Pago Pago—the following year. The western islands are now the independent state of Samoa.

Colonization by the United States and conflicts with native Samoans

American Samoa is the result of the Second Samoan Civil War and an agreement made between Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom in 1899. The USA took control of its allotted region on June 7, 1900 with the Deed of Cession.

After the U.S. took possession of American Samoa, the U.S. Navy built a coaling station on Pago Pago Bay for its Pacific Squadron and appointed a local Secretary. The navy secured a Deed of Cession of Tutuila in 1900 and a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa in 1904.

The last sovereign of Manuʻa, the Tui Manuʻa Elisara, was forced to sign a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa following a series of US Naval trials, known as the "Trial of the Ipu", in Pago Pago, Taʻu, and aboard a Pacific Squadron gunboat.

After World War I, during the time of the Mau movement in Western Samoa (then a New Zealand protectorate), there was a corresponding American Samoa Mau movement, led by Samuel Sailele Ripley, who was from Leone village and was a WWI war veteran. After meetings in America, he was prevented from disembarking from the ship that brought him home to American Samoa and was not allowed to return. The American Samoa Mau movement having been suppressed by the US Navy, in 1930 the US Congress sent a committee to investigate the status of American Samoa, led by Americans who had had a part in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

During World War II, U.S. Marines in American Samoa outnumbered the local population, having a huge cultural influence. Young Samoan men from the age of 14 and above were combat trained by US military personnel. As in WWI, American Samoans served in WWII as combatants, medical personnel, code personnel, ship repairs, etc.

Current status of the territory and attempts of incorporation in the United States

After the war, Organic Act 4500, a U.S. Department of Interior-sponsored attempt to incorporate American Samoa, was defeated in Congress, primarily through the efforts of American Samoan chiefs, led by Tuiasosopo Mariota. These chiefs' efforts led to the creation of a local legislature, the American Samoa Fono which meets in the village of Fagatogo, the territory's de facto and de jure capital.

In time, the Navy-appointed governor was replaced by a locally elected one. Although technically considered "unorganized" in that the U.S. Congress has not passed an Organic Act for the territory, American Samoa is self-governing 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, a listing which is disputed by territorial government officials.

The islands have been reluctant to separate from the USA in any manner. The maritime boundaries of American Samoa with New Zealand (Tokelau, the Cook Islands, and Niue) have been determined in a series of treaties. Maritime boundaries with Tonga and Samoa have yet to be agreed upon.

Economy of American Samoa

Employment on the island basically falls into three relatively equally-sized categories of approximately 5,000 workers each: the public sector, the two tuna canneries, and the rest of the private sector. There are only a few federal employees in American Samoa and no active military personnel (there is an Army Reserve unit, however); the overwhelming majority of public sector employees work for the American Samoa Government. The two tuna canneries (StarKist and Samoa Packing) export several hundred million dollars worth of canned tuna to the United States.

See also

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