While in my doctorate studies, I came across an obscure supplemental article describing the changing land tenure in American Sāmoa. I felt the author was trying to convince me that communal lands are a significant problem for “progress” to take hold. From that article, my research, classes, and professional work I aligned to pursue the topics of individual land rights, communal land tenure, citizenship, and law. While I taught at the National University of Sāmoa, I conducted archival research on the alienation of land, while paying attention to societal and legal changes over time.
After moving from Sāmoa to American Sāmoa, I was hired to the post of Territorial Planner in the American Sāmoa Government, Department of Commerce. My professional responsibilities included strategic planning of the territory to advocate for safe, enjoyable, and orderly land use. As the first Sāmoan to hold this position in American Sāmoa, I felt the responsibility to ensure that the protections of the remaining communal lands are preserved for future Sāmoans to enjoy and use for the perpetuation of Sāmoan culture. If communal lands are eliminated or significantly reduced, the purpose and importance of the fa’amātai system may permanently fade away.