People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Samoan Americans

About the Samoan Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Samoan-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: The Samoan group consists of over a dozen tropical Pacific islands, volcanic in origin, surrounded by numerous coral atolls, located midway between Honolulu and Sydney.

Why They Left: The earliest Samoans to leave their islands were Mormon converts, who began traveling to Laie, Hawaii, for church work in 1917. The Samoans were not pushed into the 20th century until W.W. II. Then thousands of GIs were stationed there, and one, perhaps as many as two thousand Samoans served with the Allied forces against Japan.

In 1952, when the navy pulled out of American Samoa and abandoned its base at Pago Pago on the island of Tutuila, the Allied forces transferred to Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu. Thousands of Samoan military and civilian personnel and their dependents followed their jobs to Hawaii. That same year, GI benefits ended for many veterans. A dry spell ruined many Hawaiian farmers, and a U.S. shipping strike damaged the islands' fragile economy. Many Samoans began to leave for California to take jobs as farm migrants.

Where They Settled: Two thirds of Samoan Americans live in Los Angeles County, Calif. Other Samoan communities are located in San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; Honolulu and Laie, Hawaii; and Salt Lake City, U.

Numbers: In 1974 there were 68,000 Samoans in the U.S.; 41,000 live in Los Angeles County (9,000 in Carson). Nearly 70% came from Western Samoa and 22% from American Samoa. The remaining 8--10% are mainland-born Samoan Americans. Almost 75% of the Samoan-American population is Mormon.

Their Story in America: Samoan Americans have remained a tightly knit cultural group. The nuclear family, religious faith, and a strong sense of cultural heritage are of key importance. About 90% of Samoan Americans work in the trades as laborers, merchants, and farm workers. Very few have extended into professional fields, although there is a strong emphasis within the community on encouraging education for highly skilled positions. Their affiliation with the Mormon Church plays an important role in this respect; in many communities, the church offers college scholarships at Mormon universities in exchange for labor in Mormon-owned businesses and church organizations. It is also a key factor in the continuing immigration of young Samoans and other Pacific islanders. With an ever increasing difficulty in emigrating to the U.S., young Samoans are able to secure otherwise unobtainable student visas at Mormon universities.

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