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American Samoa

American Samoa, located within the geographical region of Oceania, is one of only two possessions of the United States in the Southern Hemisphere. Its total land area is 76.8 square miles consisting of five rugged, volcanic islands and two coral atolls.

Due to its positioning in the South Pacific Ocean, it is frequently hit by typhoons between December and March. The population of American Samoa is about 65,000 people, 95% of whom live on the largest island, Tutuila. 92 percent of the population are native Samoans

American Samoa, according to archaeological research, was settled by Polynesians migrating from Fiji about 3,000 years ago. Until the arrival of the colonising powers, the main island of the territory - Tutuila - was under the jurisdiction of the chiefs of Upolu (now in Samoa) while the Manu'a group of islands had their own chief, the Tui Manu'a.

The Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to sight the islands of American Samoa in 1722. By the eighteenth century, Samoa supported a complex society with fortified villages, intensively cultivated fields, and extensive trade among the islands. Several other expeditions visited over the next century; European influence was minimal, however, until the 1830s, when the first English missionaries arrived. Thereafter, whalers, traders, and missionaries came in steadily increasing numbers.

In 1899, the three rival powers in the region - Germany, Britain and the United States - signed a treaty under which the US took possession of the seven islands which form American Samoa today. Germany annexed the western part of Samoa while Britain created a protectorate in Tonga.

For more than 50 years, the territory was used as a naval station and placed under the jurisdiction of the US Navy. It was transferred to the US Department of the Interior in 1951.

As an 'unincorporated and unorganised' territory of the United States, American Samoa has a unique status amongst American possessions in the Pacific. Its inhabitants are American 'nationals' but not American 'citizens'. They can travel freely to the United States and work there but can't vote in Federal elections. The US dollar is the nation’s currency.

American Samoa is represented in Washington by a non-voting representative and a senator.

For nearly 50% of its budget, the Territory depends on Federal grants. American Samoa today is the main processing site for the American tuna fishing fleet in the Pacific. The nation’s cannery supplied a third of the USA’s tuna supply.