Home Volume 3 Aspects of Western Sāmoa Migration to American Sāmoa

Aspects of Western Sāmoa Migration to American Sāmoa


Unasa L. F. Va’a


The study looks at both the historical and current trends affecting population movements between American Samoa and what was formerly called Western Samoa (now Samoa). In pre-Christian times, Tutuila, the major island of American Samoa was a colony of Samoa, and was ruled directly from Samoa, firstly under the Malietoa chiefs, and then under the Tui Atua, or ruler of the Atua District in Samoa. Its main function then, was to provide Samoa with both food and auxiliary forces in times of war. Also, it was a kind of penal colony for political dissidents from Samoa. Thus, it was a place largely avoided by Western Samoans.

However, with the colonial division of the Samoan group in 1899 by Britain, Germany and the United States, and with the improved economic conditions in the American territory, more and more Western Samoans migrated to the territory to exploit the economic opportunities available there. This trend became marked during the Second World War, intensified in the 1960s and into the present period for several reasons.

Firstly, American Samoans migrating to the United States sought to have their relatives join them in American Samoa both as domicile caretakers and as domestic help. Secondly, Samoans were able to find employment there, especially in the fish canneries of Van Camp and Start Kist. The study thus shows the reasons why and the extent of Samoan migration to the American territory, a trend which continues strongly today.

Download this article (.pdf)