Last Updated: Thursday, 08 October 2015, 08:45 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - American Samoa : Overview

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - American Samoa : Overview, 2007, available at: [accessed 9 October 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


American Samoa is composed of two main high islands of volcanic origin Tutuila and Tau and four much smaller islands, in western Polynesia.


Main languages: Samoan, English

Main religions: Christianity (Christian Congregational Church 50%, Roman Catholic 20%, CIA WorldFactbook, 2007)

Because of the relatively high wage levels there has been substantial immigration, especially from the neighbouring independent nation of Samoa (but also Tonga), to the extent that locally born American Samoans make up less than 60 per cent of the population. There are also some Asian migrants. American Samoa is something of transit station between various countries and the United States.


The islands of American Samoa were ceded to the USA in 1900; it was administered by the US Navy until 1951 when it was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The economy is heavily dependent on American finance. Other than in the tuna canneries there is little private-sector employment other than in services.


American Samoa is an external territory of the USA and is represented in the US House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate. American Samoans are 'US nationals' with unrestricted entry into the mainland USA – where most live – but they are not US citizens.

American Samoa has a bicameral legislative system. The American Samoan legislature has sought greater control over administration and finance, while retaining US protection, subsidies and immigration.

Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples

Almost all the population live on the main island of Tutuila. Only locally born Samoans are able to obtain government employment, while almost all employment in the canneries is of migrant workers. In 2004 the South Korean owner of a local textile factory was convicted of human trafficking, the largest such case in United States history. The mainly Vietnamese and Chinese workers had received very low wages in bad working conditions. There are no unions. Other than in access to employment there is no discrimination against minority groups.

American Samoa has its own laws covering immigration (unlike the US territory of Guam) which place some restrictions on migrants' rights (e.g. children born of foreign nationals in American Samoa take on the nationality of their parents rather than US nationality).

American Samoa also is one of two US territories to be exempted from US minimum wage laws, which affects the livelihoods of overseas workers employed in the tuna canning industry.

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