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Special recognition for preservation of heritage

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, April 2, 2010) - Governor Togiola Tulafono on Thursday announced United States First Lady Michelle Obama has designated American Samoa as a Preserve America Community -- the first U.S. territory designated in its entirety.

Governor Togiola said Preserve America is a national initiative developed in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and other agencies, which highlights the efforts of the President and First Lady to preserve America’s national heritage. One of the components of the initiative is the designation of Preserve America Communities.

Governor Togiola said the Territory submitted its application in April 2009 for review by Preserve America that American Samoa aggressively protects its native culture, and at the same time, embraces its "American" heritage. Included in the submission are 21 sites on the National Register of Historic Places that range from ancient rock quarries to US Naval sites. The designation of American Samoa brings to 814 the total number of designations since the program’s inception in 2003.

In a letter dated February 2, 2010 from Preserve America Honorary Chair - Mrs. Michelle Obama, the First Lady congratulated the citizens of American Samoa for being designated as a Preserve America Community and expressed her thanks for all that the Territory does to enhance the Nation’s heritage.

"Your community holds a treasured place in the American story, and it is through your vision and dedication that our history will be upheld and our future will be renewed," wrote Mrs. Obama. "President and I are proud of your community and we applaud your achievement. The Americans who came before us built this country on the strength of their hopes, hard work, and perseverance. Now you are using those same qualities to help share our history with today’s Americans and those of tomorrow. By strengthening your community, you are strengthening our country. You are showing that each of us has a role to play in shaping a better future, and we can do it by honoring our past."

"Thank you again for all that you do, for your continuing commitment to our Nation’s heritage, and for your enthusiastic participation in the preserve America program. I wish you all the best, and I have high hopes for your continued success," wrote Mrs. Obama.

Governor Togiola expressed his sincere gratitude for the designation of American Samoa as a Preserve America Community.

"On behalf of the people of American Samoa I wish to say thank you to the President and Mrs. Obama for this great honor for our people and our island community. We are proud and thankful for being blessed with this recognition of distinction, and as we continue our post disaster recovery efforts, this great news is a wonderful way to boost our morale and lift the spirits of our people," said Governor Togiola. "And while we continue to rebuild our lives here in our island home, we are mindful that as we live and promote the importance of our Samoan culture and our Samoan heritage, we are also very proud to accept and support our American heritage through our 110-year affiliation with America, and to be the first U.S. territory to be designated in its entirety makes it even more special."

The communities of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted and Frederiksted in the U.S. Virgin Islands have been designated Preserve America Communities, whereas the islands of the Territory of American Samoa received its designation as a whole community.

Governor Togiola said American Samoa was selected because it met the criteria of promoting historic or cultural preservation efforts, adoption of a resolution to commit to the preservation of its heritage, promotion of heritage and heritage assets through historic places, and the protection of historic resources.

Joining American Samoa as the newest Preserve America Communities are: Arizona – Peoria, Arkansas – Camden, Georgia – Douglasville, Idaho – Hailey, Indiana – La Porte, Iowa – Adams County, Kansas – Lawrence, Maine – Biddeford, Michigan – Boyne County, Montana – Big Horn County, North Carolina – Boone, Oklahoma – Muskogee, Oregon – Oregon City, and Pennsylvania – Pottsdown, South Carolina – Greenville County/McCormick, South Dakota – Pierre, Texas – Walker County.

The following is the information that was included in American Samoa’s application to preserve America.

American Samoa is an unorganized, unincorporated Territory of the United States, and is the only U.S. possession in the southern hemisphere. It consists of the islands of Tutuila, Aunu`u, Manu'a (Ta'u, Ofu and Olosega), Swains Island and Rose Atoll. Its total area is 76.2 square miles. Tutuila contains about two thirds of the total area and is home to 95 percent of the 68,000 islanders. American Samoa is located 14 degrees south of the equator, and 172 degrees west making the climate hot and humid, though trades in the winter --between May and October--moderate the temperature somewhat.

The first inhabitants arrived around 600 BC and came from the west, probably island hopping from Indonesia through the western Pacific. They remained in Samoa for almost a thousand years, effectively becoming "Polynesian", before beginning the great ocean migrations that populated much of the South Pacific. Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen "discovered" Samoa in 1722 although it was over 100 years before western contact had any impact with the arrival of John Williams, a missionary, in 1837. Samoans embraced Christianity with enthusiasm, so much so that even today they characterize their islands as ‘110 percent Christian’.

Samoan culture remains robustly alive today, changing and evolving as any living culture, adapting to 21st century living. Traditional Samoan society, known as the "Samoan Way" or fa’asamoa, is established around an explicitly place-based chieftain (matai) system that ties families to their land. Despite the inroads of western civilization, fa’asamoa remains the strongest single influence in American Samoa.

American Samoa has been a territory of the United States since the signing of the April 17, 1900 Deed of Cession when the easternmost islands of the archipelago chose to become part of America. Originally administered under the Navy, the territory was transferred in 1951 to the Department of the Interior. The government is divided into three branches, similar to the United States. The Executive Branch is led by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The Legislative Branch, or Fono, consists of the House of Representatives, who are elected by popular vote, and the Senate, who are selected by and among the matai. The judicial branch is part of the U.S. judicial system, and American Samoa has a non-voting representative elected to the U.S. Congress.

American Samoa aggressively protects their native culture, and at the same time, embraces their "American" heritage. Presently there are 21 sites on the National Register of Historic Places that range from ancient rock quarries to US Naval sites.

Storied in novels, movies and imagination, Pago Pago is the largest village in American Samoa. Sitting at the end of Pago Pago Harbor, the village drapes itself along the sides of a road that bisects the island from south to north over a mountainous ridge. Along that ridge and hugging the north shore is the National Park of American Samoa, which also has units on Ta’u, Ofu and Olosega islands. The park covers both land and coastal waters, and leases the land from the traditional landowners.

The smallest (and most remote) of the 14 sites in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Fagatele Bay protects a pristine coral reef area on the south side of Tutuila. It is the only paleo-tropical reef system in the US. Fagatele Bay was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Located 60 miles east of Tutuila, the three Manu’a Islands are steeped in legend. Ta’u, the easternmost island in the archipelago (Swains and Rose Atolls are outliers), is where the god Tagaloa formed man and the islands, and where the souls of newborns arrive before birth. Manu’a was the home of the Tui Manu’a, the highest ranking chief in all of the Samoas ("Tui" probably being more equivalent to "king"). The last Tui Manu’a died in the early 20th century. Manu’a did not join the US at the same time as Tutuila did, in 1900 -- but the Manu’a Cession was in 1904.

Question: why is American Samoa a US Territory? Answer: it has the only deep-water port in this part of the world. Pago Pago Harbor nearly cuts Tutuila in half with a two-mile-long drowned river valley on the side of a 10-mile wide extinct volcanic caldera. Its spectacular scenery is tempered by the developed shoreline, the economic heart of the island. The Navy used the harbor as a coaling station in the early part of the 20th century. During World War II, American Samoa had the largest Marine Corps installation in the Pacific. After the war, the harbor returned to commercial use, and is both a fishing port for two tuna canneries, and a major transshipping point -- the South Pacific gateway to the US.

Located on the west side of Tutuila, Leone was the ancient capital of Tutuila. In 1832, Samoa’s first missionary, John Williams, along with 8 Tahitian Christians, landed in Leone. A monument to Williams sits in front of Zion Church (1900). Tataga-Matau, a basalt quarry site centuries old sits high above Leone Bay; adzes have been uncovered on the islands of Manu`a, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands from this quarry underscoring the widely ranging oceanic trade conducted for centuries in the South Pacific.

A’asu, on the north shore of Tutuila, is the site where 12 French sailors from the ships Astrolabe and Boussole of the ill-fated La Pérouse expedition, were killed in an encounter with the Samoans in 1787. A’asu is now an abandoned village, but a monument to the French sailors is maintained by the French government through local volunteers and the Historic Preservation Office. The monument is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Uninhabited Rose Atoll has been a US Fish and Wildlife Reserve for decades. This year Rose Atoll was named a Marine National Monument to be administered by the Department of Interior, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Territory. The only square atoll in the world, this remote area, marked by two small islets, is home to a wide range of coral reef species.

During World War II, American Samoa was home to thousands of Navy and Marine service men and women. Although the island saw limited combat (early in the war, a Japanese submarine approached Tutuila and lobbed two torpedoes into Pago Pago Harbor -- one fell into a taro plantation, the other landed on the only Japanese-owned store on the island. This was the only "action" the island experienced), fortifications were built including an airstrip in Leone, numerous shoreline bunkers, and gun emplacements at strategic points. Two emplacements were on either side of the entrance to Pago Pago Harbor: Blunts Point and Breakers Point, and both are on the National Register of Historic Places. The emplacements were never removed, and the guns have been a popular tourist destination for many years. However, maintenance on the emplacements and the paths to them had not been well kept, and in the tropical environment, it takes little time for deterioration, and for the jungle to reclaim any clearing.

In 2008, the National Park Service joined with community volunteers to restore the sites and make them more accessible to the public. The emplacements were cleaned and drained of stagnant water, and given a fresh coat of paint. Steps were made to the Breakers Pt. guns, and trails were improved to both sites. A new sign point visitors to the path taking them to the Blunts Pt. guns, the first time there has been any signage for these historic sites. This work has made these historic sites more accessible and attractive to the public, and adds to the Territory’s heritage tourism portfolio.

The American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO), in cooperation with Federal and State agencies, local governments, and private organizations, is responsible for directing and conducting a comprehensive statewide survey of historic properties and maintaining an inventory of such properties. ASHPO maintains a computerized database and hard copy site forms of known archaeological and historic sites in the Territory. Site numbers for all archaeological and historic sites are assigned by the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office. There are currently 586 known historic and archaeological sites in American Samoa.

The Jean P. Haydon Museum was established by Governor Haydon in 1970 and was the original home of the Historic Preservation Office. The Museum has displays of various aspects of Samoa’s history, culture, and natural history and is the official repository for collections of artifacts for the territory. The Museum is housed in a National Register of Historic Places building, part of the U.S. Naval Station Tutuila Historic District in the village of Fagatogo on the island of Tutuila. The Museum is funded in whole by the American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture and the Humanities and is the venue for many of the cultural resource activities in the Territory.

Active citizen volunteer involvement, such as a docent or guide program for interpretation of local history and culture, or volunteer participation in improving the condition of heritage assets within the community.

The American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture and the Humanities’ (the Arts Council) dual mission is the maintenance of Samoan arts and culture and the presentation of art forms from the broader world beyond the archipelago. The Arts Council promotes the practice and preservation of both Samoan material culture and performance traditions. The Arts Council also serves special communities, such as the outlying islands, through an Underserved Areas grant, and the schools through its Arts in Education Program.

Opportunities for children to learn about local heritage in the schools, through either established curriculum or special outreach activities.

Recognizing the importance of their Samoan heritage, the Department of Education includes Samoan Language and Culture as a curriculum area for K-12. One annual activity sponsored island-wide is History Day, open to all students in the Territory. Students compete in history-themed categories such as exhibits, documentaries, performances or papers. Winners participate in the national competition.

Each school in the territory—public or private—commemorates their Samoan heritage by hosting a Samoa Day. Weeks of preparation culminate in daylong celebrations marked by traditional singing, dancing, speeches, and food preparation. Grade levels sport their own "uniform" of traditional dress and compete with each other for best dance, singing, etc. Even the youngest children participate, and relatives and friends enjoy the entertainment.

Each summer, the museum offers classes to the island’s children who come to learn heritage crafts such as weaving, tapa [bark cloth] making and printing, and traditional song and dance. Elders from surrounding villages come to teach their skills to the next generation.

Protecting Historic Resources: A local governmental body, such as a board or a commission, charged with leading historic preservation activities within the community.

The American Samoa Historical Commission was created by law for the purpose of advising the Governor on matters of cultural and historical preservation. The Governor appoints the members to the Commission. The six-member Commission acts as the community oversight board for the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office and meets quarterly to review the activities of the Office and report to the Governor on matters requiring his office's attention. The Commission also acts as the Historical Records Advisory Board, overseeing the activities of the American Samoa Archives. In recent years the Commission has been especially active in its oversight duties and has initiated public meetings in the outlying villages of the Territory.

The American Samoa Historic Preservation Office is responsible for writing a five-year comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan. The current five-year plan is available upon request. An overview of the plan can be found at the National Park Service's web site at, http://www2.cr.nps.gov/pad/stateplans/samoa.htm.

A historic preservation review ordinance and volunteer or professional staff to implement it

Promoting Historic Assets: A local heritage tourism program or active participation in a regional program, with such promotional material as a walking/driving trail or tour itinerary, map of historic resources, etc.

The Historic Preservation Office offers a walking tour of the U.S. Naval Station Historic District in the villages of Fagatogo and Utulei. This can be seen as http://www.ashpo.org/walk.html. This website offers an excellent virtual tour of the historic and cultural resources of the Pago Pago Harbor area.

April 17 each year marks the anniversary of American Samoa becoming a U.S. Territory and heralds the biggest event on the territory’s calendar. It was on this date in 1900 that Captain B. F. Tilley of the U.S. Navy raised the American Flag on Samoan soil and American Samoa as a U.S. Territory was born. The entire population of American Samoa commemorates Flag Day, over two days, with traditional dancing and singing, colorful parades and fautasi --50-man oared longboat-- racing. One of the highlights of the 2-day celebration is the Flag Day Performing Arts Festival sponsored by the American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture, and Humanities. Besides traditional singing and dancing, there are contests for poetry (solo, in Samoan) and legends/storytelling (fagogo).

The Samoan archipelago was first inhabited over 2,000 years ago. These migrants from the western Pacific Rim evolved culturally into Polynesians over the first 1,000 years before being "discovered" by western civilization in 1722. Originally claimed by Germany and Great Britain, in 1900, Tutuila in the eastern part of the archipelago, chose to join the US as a Territory, followed in 1904 by the three Manu`a islands. In all there are 7 islands, 5 of them inhabited, in American Samoa (or Amerika Samoa, as it is known in Samoan). It is the only piece of the US south of the equator. Most of the 68,000 inhabitants are of Samoan ancestry, and most live on the main island of Tutuila, where the capital, Pago Pago is located. The largest employers are the local government and two tuna canneries. The Samoan social basis is the land, and 95 percent of the land is communally owned by families that are led by family selected chiefs. Religion is also an important social feature, and much of village life center around the church. For many years the Navy administered the Territory, but in the 1950s all military left. In 1977, governance was returned to the local electorate.

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