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The Commission cannot recommend Commonwealth status at this time. The losses to Samoan culture and the social structure would be too great. The Commission, however, does recommend that Commonwealth be seriously considered by the proposed (see Final Recommendations) Joint Commission on Samca's political future.


From time to time, certain politicians, both in Washington and in Pago Pago, have suggested that American Samoa become a county within the State of Hawaii. Americans who concern themselves with American Samoa often consider Hawaii a tree into which a small twig called American Samoa is attached.

According to the Samoan legend, people from Manu's sailed north one day and eventually reached a group of islands they called "Sa vaii”. (In time, this was corrupted into “Hawaii”). After discovery, cultural exchange between Samoa and Hawaii was limited and later become non-existent. Today, after centuries of cultural divergence (particularly within the past 100 years) there are few similarities between the two people. Advantages

1. If American Samoa became a county within the State of Hawaii, it would be fully integrated into the United States of America. Samoans would be citizens of the United States and have the same privileges, protections, and responsibilities as other United States citizens. They could vote in national elections and would be eligible for positions where citizenship is a prequisite.

2. As a county of Hawaii, Samoa would share equally with Hawaii in the vast resources of that state. The economic, employment, health, education and myriad other problems of Samoa would become problems of the State of Hawaii as well. Samoa would be laying its burdens on broader shoulders.

3. As citizens of Hawaii, Samoans could have a voice in the selection of Hawaii's Governor and representatives to Congress. Samoa would not have its own Legislature, but would have a seat or two in the state legislature. As a county, Samoa would have a county council or assembly which would be concerned with local needs in much the same manner as the present legislature. But problems beyond the capacity of the county government would be referred to the state legislature.

4. Hawaii today has many doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators and other skilled professionals. The services of these people would become available to Samoans if Samoa were a county of Hawaii. Today American Samoa cannot afford much of this expensive, but valuable, talent. Disadvantages

1. If Samoa joins Hawaii, Samoans will lose their identity. They will no longer be Samoans, but just plain Americans. Samoans will be a small minority in a state of minorities. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Portuguese, Samoans, and palagis are all residents of Hawaii. Each minority tries very hard to maintain its own identity. Samoans will be able to maintain their identity for a while because of geography. But money is no respecter of geography and culture. Samoans will soon be living in the high-rises of Honolulu, working in the pineapple fields of Maui and driving tourists up the canyons of Kauai. There will be more inter-racial marriages, and Samoans may cease to exist as a separate ethnic group.

2. Politically, American Samoa will be overwhelmed by Hawaii. While Samoans will have a direct line to Congress through their elected representatives, they will no longer be able to go there as Samoans. Most of our problems will be referred to Honolulu where they will be considered no more important than the other pressing needs of Hawaii. Samoa has less than 8,000 qualified voters. What politician of statewide or national stature would be interested in such a small constituency? It would take years to develop political leaders who could achieve statewide acceptance and once in office pay heed to Samoa.

3. Samoan customs and traditions would soon be practiced only for the tourists' cameras. The land-tenure system would be undercut by the removal of legal protection and the pressure of entrepreneurs, both of which would follow in the wake of union with Hawaii.

4. Merger with Hawaii will create serious problems of adjustment. Many Samoans are not completely ready to compete. Samoan businesses may be

engulfed by large-scale Hawaii enterprise. Hawaii's faster-paced way of life will be a jolt to the traditional Samoan outlook. Recommendation

After reviewing this alternative, the Commission cannot recommend it for American Samoa.


At present, American Samoa is an unincorporated insular possession of the United States (see Appendix). Although this basic status has remained constant since cession, Samoans have progressively exercised more authority over their own affairs. Under the Revised Constitution of American Samoa, the elected Legislature of American Samoa may "pass legislation with respect to subjects of local application" (Art. II, Sec. 1) not inconsistent with applicable United States law and treaties. Neither the Legislature nor the people, however, have any say in the appointment of the Governor and Secretary of American Samoa or in the selection of the Judiciary. Likewise, the Governor, and not the Legislature, is the final arbiter of the all-important budget requests for Federal funds which are presented annually to Congress.

While in recent years the Legislature has become a respected source of authority recognized by both the people and the Governor, the same period has seen the inexorable pressures of the modern world chipping away at the scope and depth of tradition among the Samoan people. While social ceremonies and functions of traditional origin continue, the real meaning is often-times absent and the crucial role of tradition in the present political system is diminishing.

Today, Samoans are better educated than ever before, and a new degree to sophistication is obvious. Samoan political opinion has shifted from passive acceptance of an appointed government to a strong desire for self-government within the American framework. A glance at recent legislative activity will make this new awareness apparent.

With these general comments as background, the advantages and disadvantages of the status quo can be articulated. Advantages

1. The present system has the great advantage of familiarity. While not perfect, it is tried and true. In a developing country, like American Samoa, this is of tremendous importance. Radical changes in Samoa's traditionally oriented society may have serious consequences.

2. The present system honors and protects the traditional social structure. Thus, Samoans have been able to retain control over their communal lands and the “Matai" system has been preserved. If the political status of American Samoa became such that the United States Constitution had full force and effect, these two bases of traditional Samoan society might well be undercut. Such a decision would create a major rift in Samoan society and might eventuate the loss of Samoan ownership of Samoan land. In many ways, the Samoan of today is still the master of his own way of life, although not of his own house.

3. The present system allows Samoans to incorporate their traditional method of government into the framework of democratic institutions. Members of the Senate are chosen by "Samoan custom by the County Councils" (Art. II, Sec. 4, Revised Constitution of American Samoa) and many local officials are appointed with an eye towards Samoan custom.

4. While not U.S. citizens by birth. American Samoans are still entitled to a number of privileges as members of the American family-for example, they are protected against foreign attack or exploitation, allowed free entry into the United States, and are included in financial and economic assistance programs made available by the federal government. Disadvantages

1. On the other hand, it may be argued that a major disadvantage of the present system is that it is not truly democratic. The Senate is chosen from the ranks of registered Matais, and a number of other officials, from the Governor and Chief Justice on down, are appointed by persons not responsible to the Samoan electorate. This is perhaps the major disadvantage of the status quo. While the method of selecting Senators is sanctioned by traditional Samoan custom, and the matais who elect Senators are acting as representatives of their families, there is no excuse for an appointed Governor. When the chief executive is chosen by fiat and imposed upon, rather than elected by the people, democracy is necessarily sacrificed. While an appointed Governor may have the noblest of intentions, his appointment without the consent of the governed, is antithetical to the very principles upon which America was founded.

2. At this time, "all civil, judicial, and limitary" power in American Samoa is vested in the Secretary of the Interior. It is he, not the President or Congress, who "approved” the present Constitution of American Samoa, and presumably he could alter the present form of government by decree. Although such action would raise serious legal and moral questions, the possibility remains a threat to the present political status of American Samoa.

3. Since, in the last analysis, it is the Congress of the United States which is responsible for American Samoa's destiny, the people of American Samoa should have some means whereby they may present their desires directly to Congress. The status quo provides no direct channel comparable to that provided by the delegates other territories have sent to Congress. Perhaps as a result of this lack of a full-time Congressional delegate, the people of Samoa have not been able to adequately expose their real needs to Congress.

4. The present system is essentially "colonial”. The Governor is appointed by the Secretary of the Interior and the number of instances in which these two men are of differing political persuasions is not great. Thus, Samoans now know that if the national administration should change hands, they can expect that a new Governor (with all the “breaking-in” problems any novice experiences) will soon be arriving.

5. Another weakness of the present system was illustrated recently when the Chief Justice was replaced by the Secretary of the Interior, despite the strong protests of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. Under the present system neither the Governor nor the judges are truly independent. The Secretary of the Interior may hire and fire without consulting the very people whose daily lives are affected by his decision.

6. The present practice of appointing top officials gives rise to many potential abuses of the principle that power should be separated, checked and balanced. Not only do all the department heads owe their appointment to the Governor, who need not consult the Legislature before exercising his discretion, but the Governor could, because of his relationship with the Secretary of the Interior, cow much of the opposition to a controversial proposal, which might arise if the Governor's powers were more circumscribed. Final recommendations

1. After carefully reviewing, comparing, and contrasting the advantages and disadvantages of the political alternatives consideredalways with conditions in present day American Samoa in mindthe Commission believes that the most suitable political status for American Samoa at this time, is to continue as an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States. The Commission feels that continuation of the present political status is the most desirable alternative if certain changes are made in the current methods of selecting the Governor and Legislature of American Samoa.

What American Samoa needs most at this moment is to maintain its traditional culture, which is embodied in its communal-land and matai systems. Major change in the political and social order would abruptly deprive Samoa of its strong traditional foundation and thrust it into a position it is not yet ready to occupy. It is inevitable, however, that the old ways must make room for the new, and the Commission fully recognizes the need and importance of aiming for more complete democracy. Only with the time can people move from one social order to another. American Samoa has taken long strides along the road to full democracy in the recent past and an orderly and painless transition is far more desirable than the arbitrary imposition of a new political and social order. The modern world has found, much to its sorrow, that the sudden imposition of new forms of government upon people who are not socially and mentally prepared for such changes, can lead only to chaos or dictatorship. The Territorial Motto is : "Proceed With Caution”—

-our forefathers, when stuck on the vast Pacific, confused and without force to push their canoes, would say: "Wait for the wind"..

The Commission is fully aware that the world cannot be kept away from American Samoa. Neither can American Samoa continue to stand apart forever from the rest of the world. New ideas can not and must not be suppressed. Today,

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many young Samoans are well educated, and their lives have become such that traditional Samoan culture may mean little or nothing to them. Some consider this new attitude a threat to the Samoan way of life. Commission makes no pretense that these recommendations represent the feelings of all the people of American Samoa, the Commission believes that it has fairly reflected the view of most American Samoans.

The great majority of American Samoans are devoted and devout in their feeling for America. However, facts may arise which would make independence or union with Western Samoa the wisest course of political development. The Commission feels that while these alternatives are not practical at this time, they should not be summarily dismissed. American Samoa must continue to search its soul in the light of future developments.

The Commission makes these recommendations with one goal in mind : to give American Samoa a framework of political institutions most suitable for both present conditions and likely changes in the near future.

2. The Commission recommends that the people of American Samoa elect their oron Governor.

The people of American Samoa must elect their own Governor. The question is not whether the people are “ready" to elect their own governor, but rather whether they desire to elect their own Governor. If the people desire to elect a man Governor, that is sufficient justification for his holding the post. In most instances, the right man will be elected. To continue to impose a governor on the people of American Samoa is to perpetuate an unnecessary and outdated policy, known in other areas of the world as "colonialism".

An elected governor will be a man who is a resident of the territory, rather than an outsider. A resident of the territory is familiar with its problems, and need not waste time or money trying to understand them. Time and time again, Samoans have witnessed their governors tackle the some problems without ever achieving a solution. Other times, a man is not even in the job long enough to become aware of Samoa's problems, before he is replaced-usually for political considerations.

The stop and start nature of city traffic is a close approximation of American Samoa's development. One Governor is a mover, another may be famous for slowing down. There is no sustained forward progress-again because the new man lacks knowledge of what took place before he assumed office. A locallyelected Governor would have the great advantage of familiarity with Samoa and Samoan culture as a basis upon which to make decisions.

Who decides whether or not the Governor of American Samoa is performing well? Under the present system, he is responsible to one man only, and that man is 8,000 miles away. The Governor need only be concerned with that one man's desires. What about the 30,000 or more people that he is supposed to govern? They should be the judges of his performance because they are in the best position to judge him.

In the transition of American Samoa to a truly democratic society, a local person as Governor will be able to ease the inevitable jolts and shocks. He is in a position to understand local customs and traditions and can provide his own people with the type of guidance that carries with it sympathy and understanding.

It has been argued that no Samoans are ready to be Governor—even if this were true (and we do not believe it is) the most important consideration is the desire of the people to elect their own Governor, not the number of college degrees their Governor might hold. It might be pointed out that not all Governors of American Samoa have been college educated, and that there is a large and growing pool of American Samoans who hold college degrees. It should also be remembered that a Samoan, Peter Tali Coleman, has already been Governor.

One of the arguments against local election of a Governor is that he will play favorites and place all his relatives in jobs. This is a natural tendency which will never be eliminated altogether. But there is better chance of controlling nepotism if the governor were elected locally, for the local people can percieve and respond to such actions at the next election. Under the present system there is no Constitutional or legal restriction on the Governor's power to appoint his own men to key positions.

There is also a school of thought that American Samoa must learn to crawl before she can walk. These people suggest that Samoa must follow the pattern established by other territories whereby a Governor is appointed from the local population rather than from the U.S. mainland, before the governor is elected locally. Why waste time crawling if you can walk already? If a local person is going to be Governor, it is far better to have him elected than to have him appointed.

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Even if the idea of an elected governor is accepted immediately, the earliest it can possibly be put into effort is 1974 or 1976. If the territory continues to change at the present rate, it will be a different place by then. Samoans will be increasingly well educated and politically sophisticated.

Finally, the objection that a territorial governor must be responsible to Congress, since Congress controls the pursestrings, is not valid. Would an elected governor do anything so irresponsible as to insure the end of federal support for his people? If Congress does not approve of an elected Governor's actions, it need only withdraw the support without which American Samoa would not be able to effectively function.

3. The Commission recommends that both Houses of the Samoan Legislature be popularly elected. The Commission recommends that the Legislature be a full-time body, with commensurate salaries and staff.

If Samoa is going to elect its own Governor, it should also choose both houses of its Legislature by popular vote. This would necessitate amending the Constitution of American Samoa to provide for the election of Senators by all those voters eligible to vote for members of the House of Representatives.

Many of the objections which have been raised to an appointed Governor apply (with lesser force because of the sanction of Samoan custom) to the "appointment” of Senators by the County Councils. By democratically choosing both its Legislature and its Governor, American Samoa would be well on its way to complete self-government.

The development of American Samoa requires that the Legislature be a fulltime body. The problems of Samoa are such that members of the Legislature should devote their entire energy to their solution. Such devotion is not consistent with simultaneous employment of legislators by the Government of American Samoa. One can never serve two masters well, and legislators should not be allowed to also work for the Government of American Samoa.

If the Legislature is to attract the best talent the Territory has to offer, it must pay its members a compe tive salary. A fairly compensated, full-time legislator, is apt to be a better lawmaker than an underpaid, part-time legislator.

The Legislature must have additional staff. If it is to adequately cope with the many pressing needs of American Samoa, the Legislature must have more than one overworked attorney to serve as its legislative counsel.

The Commission feels that implementation of these suggested changes would result in a Legislature more satisfactory to both the people of American Samoa and to the United States Congress.

4. The Commission recommends that the local Governor be given exclusive veto power over all legislation dealing with local matters. Decisions affecting both the United States and American Samoa should be referred to Congress for final disposition

If the Governor of American Samoa is going to be popularly elected, he should have the exclusive right to veto bills proposed by the Legislature and having only local import. An elected Governor is responsible to the people who make up his constituency, and as their representative he should be the final arbiter of the fate of local legislation. (Of course, the Legislature would retain its right to over-ride the Governor's veto). If the Governor is popularly elected, rather than appointed from Washington, there is no reason to retain the right of the Legislature to appeal to higher authority in Washington.

Of course, American Samoa realizes that as an American Territory, Congress must resolve all questions relating to change in the citizenship or nationality of its people. Likewise, American Samoa realizes that Congress must have the final word on all other issues which are of vital import to both the United States and American Samoa.

5. The Commission recommends that the educational system of American Samoa be reexamined. If American Samoa is to become self-governing, Samoans must receive sufficient training to enable them to do the job well.

American Samoans cannot assume complete responsibility for their own affairs if they are not trained to cope with those responsibilities. Hence, the educational level of Samoans must be considered in the choice of Samoa's political status.

Thus far, there has been no master plan evolved to train Samoans in the specitic skill areas necessary for the orderly running of their government. Under the present, haphazard system, there are no Samoans studying law at an accredited law school, although there is a great need for trained Samoan lawyers to assume

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