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American Samoa

Roughly the size of Washington, DC, American Samoa is located approximately halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and comprises five islands and two atolls. The capital, Pago Pago, is located on the main island of Tutuila. The population of American Samoa is 55,000. Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island (Olosega) in its 2006 draft independence constitution.

American Samoa is the only United States territory south of the equator. It is the eastern part of a 290-mile long island chain, and shares the same heritage, traditions, and culture with Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), an independent nation.

American Samoa is one of five main insular areas (possessions or territories) of the United States. The other four are Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. There are other smaller often more remote insular areas. They are primarily wildlife refuges and are uninhabited, although a few in the Pacific host some military installations.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States and follows the US State model of government, with an elected Governor, Lieutenant-Governor and legislature. Until 1977, when American Samoans began electing their own Executive, the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor were appointed by the US Secretary of the Interior.

Patriotism runs deep in the population of approximately 60,000. American Samoa yields the highest rate of military enlistment of any U.S. state or territory. Government agencies employ more than one-fourth of all workers. In 2014, the Army Recruiting Station in Pago Pago was ranked #1 in recruitment out of the 885 Army recruiting stations and centers under the US Army Recruiting Command. American Samoans proudly serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and have suffered casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan that are seven times the national average. Among American dependencies, Congress today excludes only American Samoa from birthright citizenship.

In 1878 the United States signed a treaty for the establishment of a naval station in Pago Pago Harbor. An 1899 agreement between colonial powers divided Samoa into spheres of influence: Germany gained control of the western islands, and the United States took the eastern islands. Formal cession by the local chiefs came later. By 1904 the eastern islands had all been ceded to the United States, although the U.S. Congress did not formally accept the deeds of cession until Feb. 20, 1929.

The Samoans agitated for control of their countrys affairs, and in 1977 Peter Coleman, a Samoan, became the territorys first elected governor. Since then all members of the territorys Fono have been elected by the citizens. In 1981 American Samoans for the first time elected a nonvoting delegate to serve a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

American Samoa is a very small territory of the United States, situated in the center of the South Pacific about 2,500 miles south of Hawaii. Distances to the nearest neighboring islands are Fiji, 770 miles; Tahiti, 1423 miles; New Zealand, 1795 miles and Tonga, a mere 558 miles. American Samoa is about 7026 miles from Washington, DC.

Geographically, American Samoa is the eastern part of the Samoa archipelago, with the western part of the archipelago being the independent state of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). The main island of American Samoa is Tutuila. A group of three islands; Tau, Ofu and Olosega, collectively known as Manua, are located about 65 miles east of Tutuila. The tiny island of Aunuu sits about a quarter mile off the southeast tip of Tutuila. All these islands are volcanic in nature with high mountains.

Two coral atolls are part of the political group, albeit not exactly part of the geological archipelago. They are Swains Island, presently essentially uninhabited and Rose Atoll, uninhabited. Swains Island is geographically part of the Tokelau group, but was settled by an American, Eli Jennings, in 1856. Jennings flew the American Flag and Swains was claimed for the United States by Jennings and by the United States Guano Company under the Guano Islands Act. Rose Atoll is a wildlife refuge managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the government of American Samoa. In 2009, the US established Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, thereby prohibiting commercial fishing within the 13,451 square miles of the monument.

It is made up of seven islands with a total land area of 76 square miles. Located in the tropics, it is 14 degrees south of the equator and 160-173 degrees west longitude. This group of islands is some 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. Sydney, Australia is about 2,700 miles further to the southwest, while Auckland, New Zealand is only 1,600 miles southwest. The total landmass for the six islands other than Tutuila is about 22 square miles. To help put things in perspective, the total land mass of American Samoa is only about 5 square miles greater than that of Washington, DC.

Tutuila, American Samoa's largest island is the center of government and business. Tutuila has a landmass of about 52.6 square miles. Its famous Pago Pago Harbor is one of the Pacific's deepest and most sheltered harbors. Tutuila has an estimated 90 percent of the 55,519 (2010) total population of American Samoa. The other islands include Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'u in the Manu'a group located 60 miles east of Tutuila. Aunu'u is a small island one-quarter mile off the eastern shore of Tutuila. Rose Atoll is a wildlife refuge 60 miles east of Manu'a. Swain's Island, a member of the Tokelau island group, is 200 miles north of Tutuila.

Tidal changes can cause powerful currents in the many coastal lagoons that surround the islands, and several fatal swimming accidents are recorded each year. Consult local residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and on safe swimming areas. Roads are generally in poor condition. Buses and taxis are available. Stray dogs are a problem. Do not approach or feed them as they can become aggressive.



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