Photos of American Samoa

The tensions of World War II prompted the US Government to begin fortifying American Samoa in 1940. US Marines installed the two 5 inch coast defense guns on the west side of Pago Pago Harbor at Blunts Point, and another two on the east side of the harbor at Breakers Point. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the capture of Guam shortly thereafter, American Samoa became of critical importance as the only major American base in the western Pacific, and it was further fortified in anticipation of attack. Although no attack ever came, American Samoa was a critical supply and training point for American military actions in the Pacific. Photo courtesy of the US National Park Service.

Introduction

Background

Tutuila was settled by 1000 B.C. and the island served as a refuge for exiled chiefs and defeated warriors from the other Samoan islands. The Manu’a Islands developed its own traditional chiefdom that maintained its autonomy by controlling oceanic trade. In 1722, Dutch explorer Jacob ROGGEVEEN was the first European to sail through the Manu’a Islands, and he was followed by French explorer Louis Antoine DE BOUGAINVILLE in 1768. Whalers and missionaries arrived in American Samoa in the 1830s, but American and European traders tended to favor the port in Apia - now in independent Samoa - over the smaller and less-developed Pago Pago on Tutuila. In the mid-1800s, a dispute arose in Samoa over control of the Samoan archipelago, with different chiefs gaining support from Germany, the UK, and the US. In 1872, the high chief of Tutuila offered the US exclusive rights to Pago Pago in return for US protection, but the US rejected this offer. As fighting resumed, the US agreed to the chief’s request in 1878 and set up a coaling station at Pago Pago. In 1899, with continued disputes over succession, Germany and the US agreed to divide the Samoan islands, while the UK withdrew its claims in exchange for parts of the Solomon Islands. Local chiefs on Tutuila formally ceded their land to the US in 1900, followed by the chief of Manu’a in 1904. The territory was officially named “American Samoa” in 1911.

The US administered the territory through the Department of the Navy, and in 1918, the naval governor instituted strict quarantine rules to prevent the spread of the Spanish flu, allowing American Samoa to avoid the deadly infection that ravaged the then-New Zealand administered territory of Samoa. In 1949, there was an attempt to organize the territory, granting it formal self-government, but local chiefs helped defeat the measure in the US Congress. Administration was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1951, and in 1967, American Samoa adopted a constitution that provides significant protections for traditional Samoan land tenure rules, language, and culture. In 1977, after four attempts, voters approved a measure to directly elect their governor. Nevertheless, American Samoa officially remains an unorganized territory and people born in American Samoa are US nationals instead of US citizens, a status many American Samoans prefer.

 

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

14 20 S, 170 00 W

Area

total: 224 sq km

land: 224 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes Rose Atoll and Swains Island

country comparison to the world: 215

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

116 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine, moderated by southeast trade winds; annual rainfall averages about 3 m; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October); little seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

five volcanic islands with rugged peaks and limited coastal plains, two coral atolls (Rose Atoll, Swains Island)

Elevation

highest point: Lata Mountain 964 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

pumice, pumicite

Land use

agricultural land: 24.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 75.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

cyclones common from December to March

volcanism: limited volcanic activity on the Ofu and Olosega Islands; neither has erupted since the 19th century

Geography - note

Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean

People and Society

Nationality

noun: American Samoan(s) (US nationals)

adjective: American Samoan

Ethnic groups

Pacific Islander 92.6% (includes Samoan 88.9%, Tongan 2.9%, other .8%), Asian 3.6% (includes Filipino 2.2%, other 1.4%), mixed 2.7%, other 1.2% (2010 est.)

note: data represent population by ethnic origin or race

Languages

Samoan 88.6% (closely related to Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages), English 3.9%, Tongan 2.7%, other Pacific islander 3%, other 1.8% (2010 est.)

note: most people are bilingual

Religions

Christian 98.3%, other 1%, unaffiliated 0.7% (2010 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 27.76% (male 7,063/female 6,662)

15-24 years: 18.16% (male 4,521/female 4,458)

25-54 years: 37.49% (male 9,164/female 9,370)

55-64 years: 9.69% (male 2,341/female 2,447)

65 years and over: 6.9% (male 1,580/female 1,831) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for American Samoa. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Median age

total: 27.2 years

male: 26.7 years

female: 27.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 149

Birth rate

17.19 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 93

Death rate

6 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Net migration rate

-32.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 231

Urbanization

urban population: 87.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.26% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

49,000 PAGO PAGO (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 10.25 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.39 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 8 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 139

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.06 years

male: 72.55 years

female: 77.72 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 126

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 100% of population NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0% of population NA (2017 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 99% of population

unimproved: total: 1% of population (2017 est.)

Environment

Environment - current issues

limited supply of drinking water; pollution; waste disposal; coastal and stream alteration; soil erosion

Climate

tropical marine, moderated by southeast trade winds; annual rainfall averages about 3 m; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October); little seasonal temperature variation

Land use

agricultural land: 24.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 75.5% (2018 est.)

other: 0% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 87.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.26% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 54

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 18,989 tons (2016 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: American Samoa

conventional short form: American Samoa

abbreviation: AS

etymology: the meaning of Samoa is disputed; some modern explanations are that the "sa" connotes  "sacred" and "moa" indicates "center," so the name can mean "Holy Center"; alternatively, some assertions state that it can mean "place of the sacred moa bird" of Polynesian mythology; the name, however, may go back to Proto-Polynesian (PPn) times (before 1000 B.C.); a plausible PPn reconstruction has the first syllable as "sa'a" meaning "tribe or people" and "moa" meaning "deep sea or ocean" to convey the meaning "people of the deep sea"

Government type

unincorporated, unorganized Territory of the US with local self-government; republican form of government with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches;

Dependency status

unincorporated, unorganized Territory of the US; administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior

Capital

name: Pago Pago

geographic coordinates: 14 16 S, 170 42 W

time difference: UTC-11 (6 hours behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

note: pronounced pahn-go pahn-go

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 districts and 2 islands* at the second order; Eastern, Manu'a, Rose Island*, Swains Island*, Western

Independence

none (territory of the US)

National holiday

Flag Day, 17 April (1900)

Constitution

history: adopted 17 October 1960; revised 1 July 1967

amendments: proposed by either house of the Legislative Assembly; passage requires three-fifths majority vote by the membership of each house, approval in a referendum, approval by the US Secretary of the Interior, and only by an act of  the US Congress; amended several times, last in 2021

Legal system

mixed legal system of US common law and customary law

Citizenship

see United States
Note: in accordance with US Code Title 8, Section 1408, persons born in American Samoa are US nationals but not US citizens

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Joseph R. BIDEN Jr. (since 20 January 2021); Vice President Kamala D. HARRIS (since 20 January 2021)

head of government: Governor Lemanu Peleti MAUGA (since 3 January 2021)

cabinet: Cabinet consists of 12 department directors appointed by the governor with the consent of the Legislature or Fono

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state to serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as American Samoa, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2024)

election results: Lemanu Peleti MAUGA elected governor in first round; percent of vote - Lemanu Peleti MAUGA (independent) 60.3%, Gaoteote Palaie TOFAU (independent) 21.9%, I'aulualo Fa'afetai TALIA (independent) 12.3%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Legislature or Fono consists of:
Senate (18 seats; members indirectly selected by regional governing councils to serve 4-year terms)
House of Representatives (21 seats; 20 members directly elected by simple majority vote and 1 decided by public meeting on Swains Island; members serve 2-year terms)

elections:
Senate - last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2024)
House of Representatives - last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2024)

election results:
Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independent 18; composition - men 17, women 1; percent of women 5.6%
House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - NA

note: American Samoa elects 1 member by simple majority vote to serve a 2-year term as a delegate to the US House of Representatives; the delegate can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of delegate last held on 3 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2022); Amata Coleman RADEWAGEN elected delegate; Amata Coleman RADEWAGEN (Republican Party) 83.5%, Oreta CHRICHTON (Democratic Party) 14.4%, Meleagi SUITONU-CHAPMAN (Democratic Party) 2.1%

Judicial branch

highest courts: High Court of American Samoa (consists of the chief justice, associate chief justice, and 6 Samoan associate judges and organized into trial, family, drug, and appellate divisions); note - American Samoa has no US federal courts

judge selection and term of office: chief justice and associate chief justice appointed by the US Secretary of the Interior to serve for life; Samoan associate judges appointed by the governor to serve for life

subordinate courts: district and village courts

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Party [Fagafaga Daniel LANGKILDE, chairman]
Republican Party [William SWORD, chairman]

International organization participation

AOSIS (observer), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, PIF (observer), SPC

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of the US)

Flag description

blue, with a white triangle edged in red that is based on the fly side and extends to the hoist side; a brown and white American bald eagle flying toward the hoist side is carrying 2 traditional Samoan symbols of authority, a war club known as a "fa'alaufa'i" (upper; left talon), and a coconut-fiber fly whisk known as a "fue" (lower; right talon); the combination of symbols broadly mimics that seen on the US Great Seal and reflects the relationship between the US and American Samoa

National symbol(s)

a fue (coconut fiber fly whisk; representing wisdom) crossed with a to'oto'o (staff; representing authority); national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "Amerika Samoa" (American Samoa)

lyrics/music: Mariota Tiumalu TUIASOSOPO/Napoleon Andrew TUITELELEAPAGA

note: local anthem adopted 1950; as a territory of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)

Economy

Economic overview

American Samoa s a traditional Polynesian economy in which more than 90% of the land is communally owned. Economic activity is strongly linked to the US with which American Samoa conducts most of its commerce. Tuna fishing and processing are the backbone of the private sector with processed fish products as the primary exports. The fish processing business accounted for 15.5% of employment in 2015.

In late September 2009, an earthquake and the resulting tsunami devastated American Samoa and nearby Samoa, disrupting transportation and power generation, and resulting in about 200 deaths. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency oversaw a relief program of nearly $25 million. Transfers from the US Government add substantially to American Samoa's economic well-being.

Attempts by the government to develop a larger and broader economy are restrained by Samoa's remote location, its limited transportation, and its devastating hurricanes. Tourism has some potential as a source of income and jobs.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$658 million (2016 est.)

$674.9 million (2015 est.)

$666.9 billion (2014 est.)

note: data are in 2016 US dollars

country comparison to the world: 212

Real GDP growth rate

-2.5% (2016 est.)

1.2% (2015 est.)

1% (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 207

Real GDP per capita

$11,200 (2016 est.)

$11,300 (2015 est.)

$11,200 (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

GDP (official exchange rate)

$658 million (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 27.4% (2012)

industry: 12.4% (2012)

services: 60.2% (2012)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.4% (2016 est.)

government consumption: 49.7% (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 7.3% (2016 est.)

investment in inventories: 5.1% (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 65% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -93.5% (2016 est.)

Agricultural products

bananas, coconuts, vegetables, taro, breadfruit, yams, copra, pineapples, papayas; dairy products, livestock

Industries

tuna canneries (largely supplied by foreign fishing vessels), handicrafts

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: NA

industry: 15.5%

services: 46.4% (2015 est.)

Budget

revenues: 249 million (2016 est.)

expenditures: 262.5 million (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Exports

$428 million (2016 est.)

$427 million (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 193

Exports - partners

Australia 25%, Ghana 19%, Indonesia 15.6%, Burma 10.4%, Portugal 5.1% (2017)

Imports

$615 million (2016 est.)

$657 million (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 199

Imports - partners

Fiji 10.7%, Singapore 10.4%, NZ 10.4%, South Korea 9.3%, Samoa 8.2%, Kenya 6.4%, Australia 5.2% (2017)

Imports - commodities

raw materials for canneries, food, petroleum products, machinery and parts

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 8,984

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 17.92 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 191

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: good telex, telegraph, facsimile, and cellular telephone services; one of the most complete and modern telecommunications systems in the South Pacific Islands; all inhabited islands have telephone connectivity

domestic: 18 per 100 fixed-line teledensity, domestic satellite system with 1 Comsat earth station (2019)

international: country code - 1-684; landing points for the ASH, Southern Cross NEXT and Hawaiki  providing connectivity to New Zealand, Australia, American Samoa, Hawaii, California, and SAS connecting American Samoa with Samoa; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat-Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

3 TV stations; multi-channel pay TV services are available; about a dozen radio stations, some of which are repeater stations

Internet users

total: 17,000

percent of population: 31.3% (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 210

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 3

over 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 1 (2019)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Pago Pago

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island (Olosega) in its 2006 draft independence constitution