American samoa

Imagine a group of twelve islands formed by volcanic eruptions and surrounded by coral reefs. The picture that comes to mind is that of an island inhabited with only flora and fauna, isn’t it? There is much more to a place like that. These islands were once called ‘Navigator Islands’ by the European explorer, and which are now known as Samoan Islands. Germany and the United States shared their dominance over these islands where Germany owned the west Samoan territory and the United States owned the east. Hence, we can say that the American Samoa is the eastern part of the greater Samoan archipelago. It is an unincorporated territory of the United States in the South Pacific Ocean. The Europeans first sighted these islands in 1722 and the English traders were followed by the Dutch and the French explorers. There were some vibrant confrontations with the natives but in 1899, a tripartite convention was signed and the eastern group of islands became American Samoa. The American Navy formally took the possession in 1911. The territory celebrates its independence on January 1 every year. Despite no written constitution, American Samoa is governed by a House of Representatives, Members of Parliament, and the Governor-General.

Where is American Samoa located?

Located in the Oceania, which is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, American Samoa is about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand. It is about 100 km to the east of Samoa and lies between the geographic coordinates 14°20’S latitude and 170°00’W longitude. American Samoa covers a total area of about 199 sq. km and is slightly larger than Washington, DC ranking 216th in the world. Stretching a coastline of about 116 km, American Samoa forms a part of Oceania consisting of five volcanoes namely Tutuila, Aunu’ u, Ofu, Olosega and Tau, and two coral atolls namely Swains and Rose atoll. 

How is its topography and its climatic conditions?

As mentioned earlier, the land of American Samoa consists of five volcanic islands with rugged peaks and limited coastal plains and two coral atolls. There is a common occurrence of typhoons from December to March and has a limited volcanic activity on the Ofu and Olosega islands. The territory enjoys a tropical maritime climate moderated by southeast trade winds. Hence, there are regular cyclones between November and April. The average annual rainfall is about 3m. The seasons vary due to little seasonal-temperature variations with rainy season from November to April, and the dry season from May to October. It is said that the relevant time to visit this island is during its dry season. 

How is the flora and fauna at American Samoa?

The flora and fauna of American Samoa is very unique as about 90% of the islands are covered in untouched tropical rainforest. The only US Park in the Pacific is the National Park of American Samoa, which offers challenging and hiking trails to historical sites, secluded beaches and villages. There are many different kinds of trees in the thick forests of Samoa which include 16 types of coconut palm trees and 20 different kinds of breadfruit trees. Oranges, limes, mangoes and alligator pears are raised in American Samoa. It also produces agricultural products like vegetables, taro, yams, pineapples, papayas, dairy products breadfruit. Fauna of American Samoa are only rats, snakes and a few birds.

What is their overall culture like?

The culture and tradition of these islands is influenced by the culture of the Western Samoans. Samoans will usually as a sign of respect offer a formal greeting before starting any conversation. They would say ‘Susu mai’ means ‘listen’, or ‘Afio mai’ meaning ‘come’. Men were responsible for heavy agricultural work, fishing, and house construction whereas women’s activities included sewing, weaving floor and sleeping mats, laundry and child care before the transition to cash economy. Traditionally, men were responsible to cook daily as well as for special events. Now, both men and women work in tuna canneries, banks stores, tourist-related businesses, and school system. Marriage partners are chosen by young people themselves but the alliance is between two families. Dating or marrying a blood relative is an offence. Samoans are very meticulous about courtesy. Cricket and rugby are two famous sports that the Samoans are involved with. They have two sport bodies – Rugby Union and Samoan Cricket. Their sport skills are not limited to these islands instead they participate in International competitions like The Rugby World Cup, Pacific Nations Cup and the Tri-nations cup. An important point to note is that the American National Football League players had around 30% ethnic Samoans. 

What are the food habits of American Samoans?

Almost all the food here consists of coconut. The most common food eaten is crayfish, fruits with seaweed and breadfruit leaves. Their staple diet includes taro, breadfruit, bananas, coconuts, papayas, mangoes, some chicken, pork, canned corned beef and seafood. Occasionally, onions, potatoes, lettuce, cabbages, carrots, beans, and tomatoes are also eaten. On ceremonial occasions, whole pigs, potato salad, chop suey, puddings, cakes, and ice cream are served. A treat for special occasion is the Palusami, a coconut cream bundled in young taro leaves. During such special events, the guests are served with a great quantity of food and are expected to eat a portion and take the rest home to share with their households. 

Which are the religions followed in American Samoa and which are the languages spoken?

Tagaloa was considered as the creator of the islands and their people and matai served as religious leaders before the arrival of missionaries in 1830. However, a recent survey states that the religious affiliations of American Samoa are largely Christian with about 50% Christian Congregationalist, 20% Roman Catholic, about 30% Protestants and other faiths. People communicate with Samoan language at home but English is spoken by most residents. Part of the Austronesian linguistic family, the Samoan group includes Samoan and the languages of Tokelau and Tuvalu. English as a language is taught early in schools. 

What are the economic features of American Samoa?

More than 90% of the land is communally owned and hence, has a traditional Polynesian economy. Most of the territory’s economic activity is linked strongly to the United States with which American Samoa conducts most of its commerce. They are also involved in modern occupation such as Tuna production, a culture that is very prominent and conducted largely here. It is obvious that fishing is a means of income for traditional people as they are surrounded by sea. Tuna is immensely found in these waters. It exports about 93% canned tuna and imports raw materials for canneries, food, petroleum products, machinery and its parts. 

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