AMERICAN SAMOA (Western Colonialism)

Samoa is an archipelago of islands situated in the South Pacific. The western islands of the archipelago, including Upolu and Savai’i, comprise the present-day independent nation of Samoa. The eastern islands comprise the present-day U.S. Territory of American Samoa since the 1899 Treaty of Berlin division of Samoa, at which time Germany and the United States divided Samoa, while giving up interest in Fiji to Great Britain. During World War II, American soldiers in Samoa outnumbered Samoans, and greatly influenced their relations with the outside world. Pago Pago Airport accommodates U.S. military aircraft daily and at its U.S. Army Reserve Base Samoan soldiers are trained for the Middle East and other American military endeavors.

The chiefs of the islands of American Samoa, under influence of the U.S. Navy commandant of the Pacific based in Pago Pago, signed documents of cession as unincorporated territory of the United States in 1900 when Tutuila and Aunu’u Islands were ceded, and in 1904 when the Manu’a group of islands, or Ofu, Olosega, and Ta’u islands, were ceded, including Rose Atoll and Swain’s Island. The U.S. Navy leveraged its takeover of the copra industry, with promises of protection from land speculation, and the support of the Congregationalist Church, against the sustainability and sovereignty interests of local chiefs, especially the Tui Manu’a Elisala, the former sovereign of Manu’a. In the 1950s Chief Tuiasosopo urged the establishment of a legislature, the Fono of American Samoa, and helped stop a U.S. Department of Interior attempt to incorporate the territory. In the 2001 and 2003, the United States attempted to have the U.S. Territory of American Samoa removed from the United Nations’ list of nations to be decolonized, stating that American Samoa is ”not a colony” (Governor Tauese, Samoa News, 2001).

In the distant past, Samoa was ruled by a group of women paramount chiefs, including Nafanua and her niece Salamasina. These women and their talking chiefs helped formalize growing Samoan protocols of governance called the fa’amatai, and courtesies of language and relationships called the fa’asamoa. These protocols govern the way families relate, especially within the fono or council, maintaining localization and decentralization of governance in the Samoa Islands, in times of sovereignty or colonization. Although the United States has claimed that territorialization of American Samoa protects the fa’asamoa, the fa’asamoa is as well maintained or even stronger in independent Samoa, while the practice of fa’asamoa often dissolves colonial borders between Samoans.

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