Settled as early as 1000 B.C., Samoa was "discovered" by European explorers in the 18th century. International rivalries in the latter half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 treaty in which Germany and the US divided the Samoan archipelago. The US formally occupied its portion - a smaller group of eastern islands with the excellent harbor of Pago Pago - the following year.
American Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean that lie about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 100km east of the island country of Samoa, which is part of the same archipelago.
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. The citizens of American Samoa are US "nationals" and not US "citizens," but they are allowed to travel freely between the American Samoa and the US Mainland. They are not required to obtain green cards or visas to stay or work in the United States, and they are allowed to serve in the US armed forces (and often do). There are some ways that American Samoa's special status as an unincorporated territory have interesting legal consequences. The US Constitution is not necessarily the supreme law of the land in American Samoa, and Samoan cultural norms -- in particular, those related to the ownership of property and public displays of religion -- actually trump certain well-settled US constitutional rights in American Samoa.
Read more about American Samoa in our American Samoa travel guide »