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American Samoa Travel Guide


The Americanization of Samoa

Outside the war years, little happened to alter the centuries-old lifestyle of the Samoans until the early 1960s, when a United Nations mission visiting the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in Micronesia, north of the equator, leveled criticism at Washington for its "benign neglect."

In 1961, with neighboring Western Samoa on the verge of independence and U.S. "colonialism" in Samoa becoming an issue, President Kennedy appointed Governor H. Rex Lee, a Mormon, to dispense a giant infusion of federal funds. A massive public works program financed construction of roads, schools, housing, port facilities, electrification, a new hospital, a tuna cannery, a modern hotel, and an international airport.

Lee's most publicized innovation was educational television, introduced in 1964; by the mid-1970s, however, the emphasis of the broadcasts had shifted to the usual commercial programming.

This excessive government spending created an artificial American standard of living. The Samoans became so dependent that three times they voted down proposals to increase home rule for fear it would mean fewer subsidies from Uncle Sam. Only in 1976, after a short tenure by unpopular Gov. Earl B. Ruth, did they finally agree in a referendum to elect their own governor.

Even today, American Samoans receive millions of dollars a year in food stamps, and lobbying for more money from Washington is the favorite pastime of local politicians. Meanwhile the territorial government is said to be riddled with corruption, fraud, and waste. FBI agents stationed on Tutuila have conducted raids on government offices and arrested senior officials.

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