Samoa Land and Property

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About 90 percent of the land is communally owned by aiga. The existing tenure law on communal lands prohibits alienation of any real property except freehold land to any person whose blood is less that one-half Samoan. Unless the Governor approves the transfer in writing, it is unlawful for any matai of a Samoan family to alienate any family lands to any person or lease it for any term more than 55 years. ASG estimates that 1.5625 square miles of American Samoa's total area of 76.1 square miles are freehold land.

Most American Samoa land is still held communally. Family chiefs, or "matais" have the final say in land distribution. This has aided in keeping valuable land in the hands of idigenous people and in preserving ancient Samoan customs and traditions.

Inquiries about Matai Title and Land Claims, plantation ownership and records, and general land records should be directed to:

High Court of American Samoa
Tutuila, AS 96799.

The Marines and other U.S. military branches used the islands as a base of operation during World War II. War damage claims for the years 1946 through 1953 and other military records may be found at:

NARA Pacific Region (San Francisco)
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, California 94066-2350

The Family History Library has the following sources:

  • Plantation records, 1942. Records provide the name of the plantation, the owner and who depended upon the plantation for support including the name, age, sex and relationship to the plantation owner). San Francisco Federal Records Center, San Bruno, California (FHL International film 1084654 Item 2).
  • Land claims, 1901-1965. High Court, Pago Pago, American Samoa (FHL International film Index 1084050 Item 3, 1901-1965 International films 1083316 - 1083330, and Land and title court index 1966-1973 International film 1083333).
  • Matai title court files, 1902-1973. High Court, Pago Pago, American Samoa (FHL 1902-1973 International Vault films 1083334 - 1083350, 1083374, 1083383 - 1083393).
  • War damage claims, 1946-1953. Includes applications for settlements of claims against the United States government for damages caused by the U.S. Marines, 1942-1944, on the Island of Tutuila, American Samoa with affidavits and other supporting documents. San Francisco Federal Records Center, San Bruno, California (FHL International films 1084793 - 1084800).
  • Land records, 1900-1959. Includes land appraisals, description and location of property. Office of Registrar of Titles. Federal Records Center, San Bruno, California (FHL International film 1084786).
  • Registers of Matai names and titles, 1895-1972. Includes claims of succession to Matai title with supporting affidavits and certificates permitting the usage of the title. The Matai name was the name taken taken by the head of the clan after election and entitled the clan chief to act in behalf of the clan to control and administer the communally owned property. Lands & Titles Division of the High Court, Pago Pago, Americam Samoa. Federal Records Center, San Francisco, California (FHL International film 1083950 and International Vault films 1083951 - 1083952, 1084046 - 1084048, 1084652 - 1084654 Item 1, and 1084049).