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History of U.S.-Samoa Relations

Mission Statement

U.S. Embassy Apia.

The United States has maintained a presence in Samoa since 1991. Today, Apia is the seat of government and the largest population center. The U.S. Embassy in Apia represents U.S. interests throughout the Samoan islands.

The mission of the United States Embassy is to advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect U.S. citizens in Samoa.

The Ambassador, based in Wellington, is the personal representative of the President of the United States. As the chief advocate of U.S. policy, he is supported by personnel from the Department of State and other U.S. agencies.  The daily management of the U.S. Embassy in Apia is carried out by a Chargé d’Affaires.

The Embassy reports and analyzes developments in Samoa of concern to the United States, and advances a broad range of U.S. policy initiatives.

The Embassy engages the government and a range of organizations and individuals in Samoa to promote shared values. Among others, these include individual freedom, human rights and democracy and the rule of law.

Find out more about U.S. – Samoa relations here.

Samoan History

Migrants from Southeast Asia arrived in the Samoan islands more than 2,000 years ago and from there settled the rest of Polynesia further to the east. Contact with Europeans began in the early 1700s but did not intensify until the arrival of English missionaries and traders in the 1830s. At the turn of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were split into two sections. The eastern islands became territories of the United States in 1904 and today are known as American Samoa. The western islands became known as Western Samoa (now just Samoa), passing from German control to New Zealand in 1914. New Zealand administered Western Samoa under the auspices of the League of Nations and then as a UN trusteeship until independence in 1962. Western Samoa was the first Pacific Island country to gain its independence.

In July 1997 the Constitution was amended to change the country’s name from Western Samoa to Samoa. Samoa had been known simply as Samoa in the United Nations since joining the organization in 1976. The neighboring U.S. territory of American Samoa protested the move, feeling that the change diminished its own Samoan identity. American Samoans still use the terms Western Samoa and Western Samoans.

Click here for more general information about Samoa.

U.S. Engagement in Samoa


The United States began to interact with what is now Samoa during the first half of the 19th century, when U.S. merchants stopped at the islands on their trips across the Pacific Ocean. Formal relations did not begin until after Samoan independence in the early 1960s.


U.S. Recognition of Western Samoa, 1962.The United States recognized the independence of the State of Western Samoa on January 1, 1962, when Senator Oren Long delivered a congratulatory message from President John F. Kennedy to Their Excellencies, Tupua Tamesese Mea’ole and Malietoa Tanumafili II, Head of State of Western Samoa. Western Samoa previously had been a Trust Territory administered by New Zealand. Western Samoa changed its official name to the Independent State of Samoa in 1997.

Consular Presence

Establishment of Consular Relations, 1856.The United States established its first consulate in what is now Samoa at Apia when Jonathan S. Jenkins took up the post of Consul there on May 17, 1856. He had been appointed on December 31, 1855. Prior to this, the United States had a Commercial Agent at Apia as early as 1844. This office closed on September 23, 1927.

Establishment of Consular Posts.The United States also sent a Commercial Agent to Pago Pago in 1878, and a Consular Agent to Leone in 1879.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1971.The United States and Samoa established diplomatic relations when Ambassador Kenneth Franzheim IIpresented his credentials to the Government of Samoa at Apia on July 14, 1971. Since that time the U.S. Ambassador to Samoa has also been accredited to New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga, and has remained resident at Wellington, New Zealand.

Establishment of U.S. Embassy in Apia, 1988.The United States established an Embassy in Apia on November 15, 1988. However, the Ambassador has always remained resident at Wellington, and the Embassy has been under the leadership of a Chargé d’Affaires.

A guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations in Samoa.