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American Samoa, History

Jacob Roggeveen, Dutch navigator, National Park of American Samoa, Samoa Islands, Polynesian islands

According to native tradition, the Samoa Islands were the original home of the Polynesian race, from which colonists peopled the other Polynesian islands of the Pacific. Ethnologists, however, now believe that two separate waves of immigrants populated the islands, the first group probably originating in southeastern Asia. The later migration displaced the original Samoans, who then began to colonize the more easterly islands of Polynesia. The first European to visit the islands in 1722 was Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch navigator. In 1768 Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French explorer, named the group the Navigators Islands. During the 19th century Germany, Britain, and the United States established commercial posts on the islands. In 1878 the United States annexed Pago Pago for use as a naval coaling station. In 1888 native disturbances resulting from the selection of a king created a crisis among the three powers. The matter was settled by the Act of Berlin in 1889, which proclaimed the independence and neutrality of the islands and guaranteed the natives full liberty in the election of their king. In 1899, during the course of a native civil war, the United States and Britain formed an alliance against Germany, and Apia, the site of the German station, was shelled by British and U.S. ships. Agreement, however, was reached in the same year. By the treaty then concluded, Germany received the islands west of longitude 171 west, which eventually became the independent nation of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). U.S. sovereignty was recognized over the islands east of the meridian, and Britain received the Solomon Islands and Tonga as compensation. The chiefs of Tutuila and Aunuu ceded these islands to the United States in 1900, and the Manua group was ceded in 1904. Swains Island was annexed by the United States in 1925 and added to American Samoa.

The islands were administered by the U.S. Navy until 1951, when they came under the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Samoans approved a territorial constitution in 1960, and adopted a revised constitution in 1967. In 1988 the National Park of American Samoa was established here on 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of land donated by Samoan families. In December 1991, typhoon Val caused $80 million in damage in American Samoa.

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