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This book is a researched study of land issues in American Sāmoa that analyzes the impact of U.S. colonialism and empire building in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Carefully tracing changes in land laws up to the present, this volume also draws on a careful examination of legal traditions, administrative decisions, court cases and rising tensions between indigenous customary land tenure practices in American Sāmoa and Western notions of individual private ownership. It also highlights how unusual the status of American Sāmoa is in its relationship with the U.S., namely as the only “unincorporated” and “unorganized” overseas territory, and aims to expand the U.S. empire-building scholarship to include and recognize American Sāmoa into the vernacular of Americanization projects.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Kruse sets the stage by identifying the 1900 General Order by which the US Naval Department placed the Sāmoan Group under the control of the US Navy. The chapter addresses the Naval Administration’s introduction of American foreign property law concepts and values that apportion Sāmoan traditional lands thereby negatively impacting the fa’amātai and fa’asāmoa, twin keystones of the Sāmoan culture. Concentrating specifically on adverse land possession and individually owned land classifications that she asserts are incongruent with Sāmoan customary land tenure and culture. Kruse concludes these foreign property rights have split communal land holdings and the fa’asāmoa culture.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 2. Sāmoa and Traditional Land Tenure

Ia uluulu a mata-folau
Abstract
Kruse describes the symbiosis between the Sāmoan land tenure system, fa’amātai, and fa’asāmoa, keystones of Sāmoan culture. Kruse describes Sāmoan society prior to the coming of the papālagi, elucidates the centrality of communal land tenure under the traditional political structure to support the chiefly system and its distribution of resources and communal lands. Kruse conducts original quantitative collection of archival data to examine the mātai registration system in comparison to the land tenure holdings in American Sāmoa. The chapter studies the legal and political history of American Sāmoa, situating the economic and geopolitical significance of Pago Pago’s harbor.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 3. American International Expansion

Abstract
Kruse examines the acquisition of lands from the late eighteenth century, situating “The Northwest” Territory as the blueprint of acquiring land possessions by annexation. The Northwest Territory became the common property of the United States. Kruse outlines how the early land acquisition experiments in power, control, hegemony, and conquest in the interest to fulfilling the American ideal of democracy and freedom became the blueprint for spreading American ideology and its expansionist propaganda. Kruse argues the military brass pursued Tutuila for its strategic location and sheltered harbor in the Pacific. The chapter details the Tripartite Convention of 1899 and the Treaty of Berlin where European and American countries balkanized the Sāmoan archipelago.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 4. US Naval Administration of American Sāmoa

Abstract
In 1900, President McKinley issued Presidential Executive Order No. 125-A, which delegated control of the American Sāmoan Islands to the Secretary of the Navy. Kruse examines the succession of Tutuila Naval Station Commandants who exercised full authority and powers over the Naval fleet as well as the civil administrators who governed American Sāmoa. Focusing on the Navy’s power over government and adjudication of introduced western law, particularly principles of adverse land possession that required corroboration of testimony, Kruse details how this perfectly supports the discourse of empire building. The chapter examines adverse land possession principles as the building blocks of nationalistic empire building, cloaked as an instrument to civilize and standardize Sāmoan society. Kruse reveals how the Navy favored the individual’s right to title, corroding communal lands available for Sāmoan communal usage that threatens the faˊamātai system.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 5. Ex Proprio Vigore and the Insular Cases

Abstract
Kruse probes the historical and constitutional foray of America’s sphere of influence at the turn of the twentieth century as the national debate seethed over what was or was not desirable possessions. The chapter’s trajectory begins with the 1900 presidential election that was turned into a referendum on colonialism while the expansionists expounded on the duty and moral obligation of America to civilize and govern alien “backward races.” Kruse examines the 1890s US Supreme Court justices’ articles in the Harvard Law Review that provided the terminology appropriated by the US Congress to create the framework for two separate legal classifications of US territories: incorporated and unincorporated. Kruse unfolds how the unincorporated and incorporated status shields American Sāmoa to operate customary practices of nobility and alienation of lands to non-American Sāmoans. The US Supreme Court concocted a matrix of individualized laws, termed the “Insular Cases,” had no discernible consistent legal foundation.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 6. American Sāmoan Legal History: 1900–1941

Abstract
Kruse examines German Sāmoa’s Supreme Court and Land Commission decisions that found land claim cases were difficult to adjudicate without written land deeds or surveys. The Supreme Court created land classifications that segmented and converted customary lands; Kruse contends the Supreme Court interpreted custom to create a legal status of “rightful owner” by extending social and political parameters of mātai pule. The chapter details how by the 1890s, the diminishing rights of the mātai over the conveyance or transfer of lands, coupled with the new system of land classifications, led to the splitting of communal lands. Kruse argues that the German Sāmoa court decisions were readily accepted by American Sāmoa’s Naval court, legitimizing individual land rights. Detailing the intention of the Naval Court to legitimize adverse land possession that they believed would civilize and stabilize land titles and that also included laws to force plantation cultivation to pay copra taxes.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 7. Individually Owned Lands and Communal Land Tenure

Abstract
Kruse conducts an original qualitative examination of early land cases under the Naval Administration from 1900 to 1980s that established the legal pathway to alienate land via the court-established classification of individually owned land. The chapter shows that while the US Congress and the Department of Interior successfully maintained their commitment to protections against alienation of communal lands to foreigners, individual Sāmoans have been participants in the splitting and apportioning of communal lands in American Sāmoan vis-à-vis individually owned rights and ownership. Kruse traces the Naval Court’s evolving court decisions from 1901 to 1980s, detailing that adverse land possession rights were only accepted from evidence of exclusive possession and control to exclusive possession and cultivation, then first occupancy and claim of right, resulting in the laws of convenience. These rights, Kruse argues, apportions communal lands and disempower the fa’amātai system.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 8. Retention of Communal Lands

Abstract
Kruse maintains despite all the customary land preservation mechanisms, there is still opportunity for mischief under the current registration statutes. Kruse explains that not only has the High Court allowed individualized land holding, but the Fono has also made the individualization process relatively easy by passage of the Land Registration Act. The chapter points out that any individual can register a claim to any land not previously registered, which comprises majority of land in the territory. If no one objects within a proscribed period then the land may be individualized. Kruse scrutinizes the High Court’s application of British influences, Henry Maine and William Blackstone’s property concepts of the individual right that converted communal lands to individual ownership. Individual rights were applied and accepted by the High Court to evidence individual ownership over bush lands by applying European principles and concepts of old English law through adverse possession and individual rights.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 9. Legal and Political Futures for American Sāmoa

Se’i fono le pa’a ma ona vae
Abstract
This chapter will identify the political and legal relationships with other territories, affiliated, and compact states to analyze political routes that could expand American Sāmoa’s self-autonomy and preserve communal land tenure while upholding Sāmoan culture. Kruse analyzes alternative political arrangements due to the fear of American Sāmoans that if automatic citizenship is applied in American Sāmoa the federal courts will mandate that the full Constitution be applied in the territory and would invalidate the local Constitution’s express protections of nobility and alienation of land to non-American Sāmoans.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Chapter 10. Conclusion

I’a ulu’ulu Mata-Folau
Abstract
Kruse concludes that without an Organic Act or legal instrument to guide the Navy in governing this unincorporated and unorganized territory, ceded to the United States through two Deeds of Cession, the Navy became the executive, legislative, and judicial overseer. This form of governance was undemocratic and unchecked; there was too much power vested in the Commandant-Governor. Kruse asserts the Navy introduced adverse land possession as a method for determining land rights and ownership according to western standards without examining the effects to culture, custom, communal lands, or mātai system. Kruse claims through the Navy’s adjudication of land disputes conceptions of property were grounded on the ideologies of social justice expressed in English common law. This chapter contends this is the time to legislate the land tenure classification system by protecting virgin and customary lands from any further splitting or individualization.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse

Backmatter

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