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Individual Land Tenure in American Samoa

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Title: Individual Land Tenure in American Samoa
Authors: Stover, Merrily
Keywords: American Samoa
land tenure
New Zealand
show 2 moresocial change

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LC Subject Headings: Oceania -- Periodicals.
Issue Date: 1999
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation: Stover, M. 1999. Individual Land Tenure in American Samoa. The Contemporary Pacific 11 (1): 69-104.
Abstract: This essay analyzes land tenure in the United States Territory of American Sâmoa.
It reports the development of a new type of private land that withdraws lands
from traditional descent groups and gives ownership rights to individuals. Although
most American Samoans practice the indigenous kinship-based system of
land tenure, the new system is legally recognized and upheld through court decisions.
The essay reviews the geographic and political background of American
Sâmoa as well as customary Samoan social organization and land tenure. The
legal history of American Sâmoa’s individual land tenure is recounted, and characteristics
of the new system are detailed. A brief comparison with individual
land in Sâmoa (formerly Western Sâmoa) is made, and three case studies of land
tenure in other Polynesia countries are discussed. The findings show that American
Sâmoa’s land tenure systems are successful in supporting the needs of its
people. Together, the traditional and the new systems of land tenure enable
American Samoans to make their living in the economic system as it exists in the
territory. While the traditional system sustains Samoan culture and identity, the
individual land system supports alternative living arrangements and reintroduces
returning Samoans to their native land. A prescription for continued success
encourages both land systems and requires active membership in the landholding
group as a condition for land use rights.
ISSN: 1043-898X
Appears in Collections:TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1999 - Volume 11, Number 1

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