American Samoa History

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History[edit | edit source]

The history of American Samoa begins long before the first European contact, a Dutchman named Jacob Roggeveen (1659-1729). The first European explorer was Louis-Antone de Bougainville (1729-1811) from France, and he named the islands the "Navigator Islands" in 1768. It was not until the 1830's that English missionaries and traders began arriving. The Samoans ferociously battled the explorers and visitors, culminating in a battle at Massacre Bay that left them with the reputation of being savage and warlike.

Although the French and British were soon pushed out by the Germans and Americans, these international visitors shared the resources found in the Islands until 1889, when a German naval force invaded a village and in process destroyed some American property. This led to declarations of war, which was averted by a typhone that wrecked both countries' ships. The rivalry was settled in 1899 by the Tripartite Convention, which divided the islands into two parts: the eastern islands now known as American Samoa became a territory of America, and the Germans took the western islands.

The area was officially renamed American Samoa in 1911. The Swain Island was annexed in 1925. The US Department of Interior attempted to incorporate American Samoa in 1949, but this was defeated by the efforts of Samoan chiefs led by Tuiasosopo Mariota. These chiefs created a local legislature in Fagatogo, which is now considered the territory's captial, though the US lists Pago Pago as the capital because that is where they had the naval base. American Samoa's own constution, confirming the status as self-governing, became effective in 1967. However, the UN lists American Samoa as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, to which the local leaders protest and dispute.

People born in American Samoa are American nationals, but not American citizens unless a parent is a citizen. This means they have unrestricted entry into the United States, but cannot vote in presidential elections. They do have one non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1659 - 1729 Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutchman who was the first to discover the Islands
1787 - Louis-Antone de Bougainville from France, named the islands the Navigator Islands
1830 - English missionaries and traders began arriving
1889 - French and British were pushed out by the Germans and Americans
1899 - Tripartite Convention when Germany and the United States partitioned the Samoan Islands into two parts
1911 - The US Naval Station Tutuila, composed of Tutuila, Aunu'u and Manu'a, was officially renamed American Samoa
1925 - Swains Island, which had been included in the list of guano islands appertaining to the United States and bonded under the Guano Islands Act, was annexed
1949 - Organic Act was a U.S. Department of Interior-sponsored attempt to incorporate American Samoa, was introduced in Congress and was defeated
1967 - American Samoa is self-governing under a constitution