Johns Hopkins University Press

In responding to the central question of this forum, “On what terms might the intersections of (currents between) American studies and Native Pacific studies be most productively engaged?,”1 I turn to a discussion of my syllabus for a course I teach undergraduates at Wesleyan University, “The United States in the Pacific Islands.” I begin with the course description:

The relationship between the United States and the nations and territories that comprise the Pacific Islands is complex and has historical and continuing significance in international and global affairs. American involvement in the Pacific was and continues to be primarily structured by strategic interests in the region. … How did the US come to dominate the Pacific basin? Using an expanded definition of the Western frontier, we will examine the Pacific as a region that was subject to imperialist development that was an extension of the continental expansion. The course will focus on the history of American influence in Hawai‘i that culminated in the unilateral annexation in 1898 and statehood in 1959, as well as the historical and contemporary colonial status of Guam and American Samoa, where questions of self-determination persist. We will also examine the Pacific as a nuclear playground for atomic bomb testing by the US military, and the US administration of the Trust Territory of the Pacific after World War II.

I use this sketch merely as a grounding point as I take up just a few examples from my teaching experience to illustrate some of the ways that the currents between American studies and Native Pacific studies can be productively engaged—not simply to offer better “coverage” within the field of the former but to show that taking up the Pacific is instructive for understanding multidimensions of US domination. Analyses of different island situations can function as a civics lesson while providing insights into often-ignored principles at work in American studies itself, whereas Native Pacific studies resists the terms—or finds itself in complex relations to them. Introducing Native Pacific studies into American studies, the course I teach (which addresses students who usually come to the course with little prior knowledge of the Pacific region) illustrates central issues in the distinctions and overlapping historical and legal conditions of imperialism, settler colonialism, franchise colonialism, occupation, [End Page 625] and decolonization. I offer an overview of my course as device for thinking about pedagogical approaches to a subject all too often obscured because of World War II, which has left Oceania cast as “the Pacific theater,” along with the tourist-industrial complex, which perpetuates the myth of the Pacific as “island paradise.”

One of the first exercises I do in the class is to hand out a map of the Pacific Islands in which the region is at the center of the frame. This is immediately striking for students, as they realize that if they have ever seen any of Oceania, it is most likely from a map in which the Pacific is literally split down the middle and relegated to the left and right margins. This typical consignment distorts the vastness of Oceania as well as the islands in relation to each other. As we remap together, we read various essays on the construction of “the American Pacific” and “Asia Pacific” to examine how these regional designations have been constructed by geopolitical interests of dominant nations in the Americas and Asia—and to understand what forms of representational violence continue to haunt the Pacific Islands and peoples. Next, we engage Epeli Hau‘ofa’s influential essay “Our Sea of Islands,” in which he addressed a pervasive problem in the dominant ways people have configured the Pacific to the detriment of Island peoples. He summarized the persistent image of the Pacific as “islands in a far sea,” where small island states and territories are considered “too small, too poor, and too isolated to develop any meaningful degree of autonomy.”2 This is largely due to the imperial overlay, whereby independent states that once held, or continue to hold, island nations as colonies regard them as burdensome while casting them as insignificant as world players. Hau‘ofa argued that this belittling view is both economically and geographically deterministic and, moreover, overlooks historical processes and forms of “world enlargement” carried out by island peoples who transgress the national and economic boundaries that mark colonial legacies and postcolonial relationships. In a decolonial move, he reconceptualized an expansive Oceania by describing this “world enlargement” as a vision in which Pacific peoples see more than just the evergrowing surface of the land as home; they also look to the surrounding ocean, its underworld, and the heavens above. This reframing early on in the course not only allows us to confront the prevailing representations that emphasize structural limitations at the expense of Pacific peoples but also enables us to center indigenous worldviews and agency in relation to hegemonic control by both Western and Eastern powers.

Since there is currently a stepped-up US involvement in the region, one aim of the course is to provide a teleology of the present. We examine the long [End Page 626] history of the American advent in Oceania through the historical foundation provided by Yankees in Paradise: The Pacific Basin Frontier, by Arrell Morgan Gibson and John S. Whitehead. Although the text has a somewhat old-school feel, it is essential reading for its documentation of America’s expansion in the region from 1784 to 1861 as part of the nation’s frontier experience, arguing that the same agents were at work on this maritime frontier as on the frontier on land. As precursors to the “nationalizing current,” explorers, whalers, hunters and fur traders, scavengers, merchants, miners, farmers, missionaries, military men, and writers added to American knowledge of the Pacific Islands, which in turn established and enlarged the American presence and drew US government attention to the region.3

In the case of Hawai‘i, students learn about indigenous resistance to US colonialism through the pathbreaking work of Noenoe Silva’s Aloha Betrayed, which relies on Hawaiian-language print media and other indigenous sources to counter the enduring myth in colonial historiography that Native Hawaiians passively accepted American cultural and national domination. Her stunning work traces the history of American encroachment that culminated in the 1893 US-backed overthrow and the subsequent unilateral US annexation in 1898, despite the mass political organizing she uncovers, which caused the annexation treaty to fail in the US Senate the previous year. In this segment, which includes Tom Coffman’s Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawai‘i and a 1993 video produced by Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina, Act of War: Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, students learn about colonial forms that take hold, largely influenced by the Calvinist missionary project emerging from New England in 1820 and the tipping point of American settler dominance leading up to the 1893 overthrow, followed by the imperialist force by which the United States annexed the islands, effectively masking its occupation of an independent state. Through other sources later in the course, class members examine the hybrid political problem of this case, since the United States also held Hawai‘i as a colonial territory from 1898 to 1959, and confront what fiftieth statehood looks like for an indigenous people demographically overwhelmed by the structure of settler colonialism. Students further learn about the thriving contemporary independence movement calling for US military de-occupation and political divisions between those working to restore the Kingdom and those seeking federal recognition akin to the status of tribal nations.4 Students are always struck by just how little they are taught in the American educational system about Hawai‘i, and have to continuously confront the myths and stereotypes about the islands and the Hawaiian people. [End Page 627]

Bringing American studies and Native Pacific studies together also provides a window into US constitutional law, insular case law, federal Indian law, and international law. The US Virgin Islands, Guam, and American S moa are all non-self-governing territories under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, which means the inhabitants of these island nations are entitled to a plebiscite on their respective political statuses in order to exercise their self-determination.5 Meanwhile, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are still subject to US plenary power—a colonial status that the US government uses to deny both entities mutual consent decrees. As Elfrén Rivera Ramos points out, the federal government’s legal designation of each one of these island nations is as an “unincorporated territory,” which denotes an area where fundamental rights may apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are denied. As such, Ramos argues that this is a category of domination,6 since Congress governs them pursuant to its interpretation of unilateral power under the territorial clause of the US Constitution.

Examining these unincorporated territories in comparative perspective also opens up productive ways to grapple with concepts of legal occupation and American imperialism. For example, US rule in American Sāmoa can be said to be an example of imperialism, but not settler colonialism; while the United States holds those islands as an unincorporated territory (a colony) and has a policy of extending its jurisdiction through military and judicial force, the federal government has not sought to replace the Sāmoan people with settlers by inundating them demographically to expropriate their land. American Sāmoans there constitute over 90 percent of the population and hold title to the majority of their land.7 In my course, I teach two essays that get at this incongruity that American Sāmoa has, which makes it distinct from other unincorporated territories, since it is the only deemed “unorganized,” which is to say it does not have a “normative” system of government. The Office of Insular Affairs in the US Department of the Interior administers it, while the governor exercises executive power and legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the legislature. There is also the traditional system of governance intact at the village level—the fa‘amatai (chiefly system) and the fono (council), whereby the matai (chiefs) are elected by consensus within the fono of the extended family to the village. A look at these persistent polities based on kinship offer a way to discuss the politics of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution—and how neither apply in American Sāmoa in the same way they do in the fifty states. This is a provocative way to [End Page 628] show that “equality” under the law can mean something qualitatively different in a context in which application of those parts of the constitution would be destructive to traditional governance and land tenure.

This course section on American Sāmoa also enables students to think through critical questions of colonial status, political decolonization, and meaningful autonomy. The federal appeals court in Washington, DC, heard oral arguments in Tuaua v. United States in February 2015, a case challenging current US federal law that classifies persons born in American Sāmoa as “non-citizen nationals” birthright. While those people are fighting for full citizenship guaranteed by the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, some are resisting full citizenship because of the changes to land laws it would open up, while not necessarily pushing for the UN referendum on political status (e.g., a vote for political decolonization from the United States would affect fiscal resources and opportunities for social and geographical mobility).8 Related to this is an ongoing hotly contested debate over the territory’s political status, especially since the former US House representative Eni F. H. Faleomavaega (while the nonvoting delegate to the US House representing the territory) repeatedly asserted that American Sāmoa is not a colony and therefore should be removed from the UN list of the non-self-governing territories.9 I teach an article by Faleomavaega, “American Sāmoa: An Anomaly for an Unincorporated and Unorganized US Territory,” alongside another piece that is more critical, “The Passive Resistance of Samoans to US and Other Colonialisms,” by Dan Taulapapa McMullin, who calls for political decolonization.10 One recent addition to the curriculum is a short video segment I screen in class, which highlights the vast American ignorance about the territory, which the TV political commentator Rachel Maddow featured. The piece is called “Call Him What You Like, but Don’t Mess with American Samoa”; in it, she showcases Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan (then speaker pro tempore for the US House) who—as he attempted to introduce then congressman Faleomavaega—not only severely mispronounced his name as both “Mr. Fing” and “Mr. Faloomabinga,” and said he was representing “American Samolia.” As Maddow humorously points out, even if people are not clear on the relationship between the US government and the island territory, at least the name circulates in American culture by virtue of the Girl Scout cookie called “Samoas.”11

My course then examines another US territory, Guam. Here, too, we look at the absurdity in the political contradictions of the “unincorporated territory,” through more television comedy: The Colbert Report. Said to be prompted by Barack Obama’s precedent-setting move of opening a presidential campaign [End Page 629] office in Guam, on April 26, 2007, host Stephen Colbert interviewed Guam congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo in a segment called “Better Know a Protectorate,” which focused on Guam’s ambiguous political status as to whether the island is actually part of the United States.12 In this section of the course, we examine land expropriation and the ongoing military expansion on the island. In 2007 the US Congress authorized $193 million in military construction funds for Guam, a $31 million increase over the 2006 funding. This was the outcome of an agreement between the United States and Japan to shift eight thousand US Marines from bases in Japan to Guam by 2014, a plan that has since been deferred indefinitely because of structural problems about this project overwhelming the 209-square-mile island. The US government can access and use Guam in this way because it is a US colony. It remains on the list of non-self-governing territories at the UN, and the people of Guam are entitled to a plebiscite to freely determine their own political status, but the US government has prevented this process from taking place. And it is no wonder why, since, as Defense Industry Daily reports, any upcoming military transfer will accelerate “the return to prominence of Guam in the US defense posture and fostering a higher level of cooperation among the US armed forces in the Pacific region.” This latest development is also extremely profit driven; as noted by Rep. Bordallo, “Guam is likely to see between $400 million and $1 billion in military construction in military construction each year for a period of six to 10 years.” Furthermore, the contracts will provide $500 million to six small business qualifiers for military construction on Guam including construction of an RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV complex for the Pacific Rim and extensive base “improvements” expansion for Guam’s airfield, harbor, and more.13 To get at these complex social formations, I teach “Uncomfortable Fatigues: Chamorro Soldiers, Gendered Identities, and the Question of Decolonization in Guam,” by Keith Camacho and Laurel Monnig; “The Real Story Behind the Guam Military Buildup,” Koohan Paik; “Guam Residents Organize against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island,” Julian Aguon’s interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, an independent radio and television program; “Resisting the Proposed Military Buildup on Guam,” by Leevin Camacho; Bill Moyers’s video segment The Marines Are Landing NOW; and “‘Sweetening’ the Pentagon’s Deal in the Marianas: From Guam to Pagan,” by Leevin Camacho and Daniel Broudy. Clearly all of these developments illustrate the US military’s strategic interest in Guam as a crucial outpost.

We focus next on related issues affecting the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (or CNMI), another one of the five inhabited US [End Page 630] island territories. The islands were administered by the United States as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Rather than pursue independence, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in favor of closer links with the United States. A covenant to establish a “commonwealth” was approved in 1975, with a new government and constitution coming into effect in 1978 after being approved in another referendum in 1977. The outcome has proved challenging given the US government’s assertions of plenary power. Along with teaching Keith Camacho’s essay “After 9/11: Militarized Borders and Social Movements in the Mariana Islands,” I screen the video The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas (2010). This PBS documentary follows four indigenous island leaders, to ascertain what it means to belong to America’s “insular empire” in the Pacific. Its central question is, “What does it mean to be a colonial subject of the greatest democracy on earth?”

We then turn to another site that used to be administered by the US government as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the now freely associated state, the Republic of the Marshall Islands.14 On October 21, 1986, the United States ended its administration of the Marshall Islands district. Under Article IV of the Section 177 agreement between the government of the United States and the government of the Marshall Islands, also known as the Compact of Free Association, the governments of the United States and the Marshall Islands agreed to the establishment of a claims tribunal, which would have jurisdiction “to render final determinations of all claims past, present and future, of the Government, citizens and nationals of the Marshall Islands which are based on, arise out of, or are in any way related to the Nuclear Testing Program, and disputes arising from distributions made under Article II and III of this agreement.” As detailed by the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal, “From June 30, 1946, to August 18, 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, all of which were considered atmospheric.” The most powerful of those tests was the “Bravo” test that entailed a fifteen-megaton device (equivalent to one thousand Hiroshima bombs) detonated on March 1, 1954, at Bikini Atoll. This resource site also notes, “While the Bravo test is well known, it should be acknowledged that 17 other tests in the Marshall Islands were in the megaton range and the total yield of the 67 tests was 108 megatons, the equivalent of more than 7,000 Hiroshima bombs.” The reason the US military had this access to the Marshall Islands in the first place was because it was charged with administering the islands after Japan was defeated in World War II. To say that the US government violated its trust obligation is a cruel understatement. This history remains largely unknown [End Page 631] to the general public, who know bikini merely as a swimsuit, without knowing that a French fashion designer invented it in 1946 to celebrate the Operations Crossroads nuclear weapon testing at Bikini Atoll.15 A useful visual representation of this atrocity can be found in the 1988 documentary Radio Bikini, which focuses on the nuclear tests performed around Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads in 1946, and their effects on the indigenous people there, as well as the American servicemen involved in the testing. For this section of the course, I also teach Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World, by the applied anthropologist Holly M. Barker. This case study examines the ongoing legacy of the US nuclear weapons testing program, drawing on documents declassified by the Clinton administration. The author also privileges Marshallese perspectives on their health and their environment, including cancers and other illnesses, radiation, premature deaths, and exile from their homelands.

One of the most compelling parts of this segment is when students grapple with the question of US governmental culpability regarding what amounted to human experimentation. Inevitably, the question of genocide surfaces, and the class is challenged with the possibility that even in a post-Holocaust world, the US government may have committed such crimes. To debate this issue, we have limited resources, but one source I offer is normative international law, so students can engage in a critical assessment based on what we know from the Barker book. We turn to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines genocide “as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Article 3 states, “The following acts shall be punishable: (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide.”16 The class members usually split down the middle because of contested interpretations of the concept of intent in this context. Although not resolvable in the context of the course, as a group we then pursue the question as to what the US government may be responsible for now, regardless of intent.

In 2006 the Bikini and Enewetak (both groups of the Marshall Islands) filed a lawsuit against the US government in the US Court of Federal Claims [End Page 632] seeking compensation for the taking of their property and for damage claims resulting from the US government’s failure and refusal to adequately fund the orders of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal. By 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against them, saying an agreement between the governments of the United States and Marshall Islands in 1986 is a settlement that is beyond judicial review. It was not until 2012 that the UN Human Rights Council considered for the first time the environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the radioactive and toxic substances in nuclear fallout, when Marshall Islands citizens stood for the first time before the United Nations Council to offer survivor testimony on US nuclear weapons fallout on the environment, health, and life.17 Here, students see the present effects of the nuclear legacy and the ongoing struggle of the people most seriously affected to try to secure the most basic medical treatment and redress.

Although this is a very brief and partial overview of the course, what I hope to convey is the common theme of what it means to bring Native Pacific studies and American studies together in terms of curriculum and pedagogical approaches—that students get exposed to something rarely, if ever, taught in US higher education.18 One of the major assignments in the course is for the students to engage in research for a final paper, which can be on any topic related to the United States in the Pacific Islands. This gives class members an opportunity to select a subject of interest related to their own issues. English majors, for example, often find themselves looking into US Pacific Islander fiction writing to find themes of family, tradition, displacement; environmental studies majors tend to focus on the issues of global warming specific to Oceania; and so forth.

In conclusion, reflecting on the broader theme of this special issue of AQ, “Pacific Currents,” I should note that an ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of seawater generated by the forces acting on what physicists call a “mean flow,” such as breaking waves, wind, and temperature, with tides caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. Of course, shoreline conditions and other currents can influence the ocean current’s course and power. Ocean currents can flow for great distances, and together they create the great flow of the global conveyor belt, part of the large-scale ocean circulation that plays a dominant part in determining the climate of many of the Earth’s regions. Thus “Pacific currents” seems an appropriate metaphor in that the Pacific is too often a forgotten zone, but one of the most capacious.

For those who do not recognize the importance or vastness of the Pacific, we can remember what Ron Crocombe calls “extremes of scale” to describe the [End Page 633] vast asymmetries in the relationship between the United States and the Pacific Islands, where what happens in the islands is too often seen as minor, in part because the dominant understanding of the United States in the Pacific Islands is that the interaction is mainly “incidental,” as a secondary by-product of bigger interests. But the region’s importance cannot be overstated. A look at the US Pacific Command’s “Area of Responsibility” makes that point well in that it encompasses about half the Earth’s surface, including thirty-six nations that are collectively home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population and three thousand different languages.19 And then there is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty including (thus far) twelve countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region that have participated in negotiations on the TPP: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. The governments of these nations have promoted the TPP as an opportunity for economic growth and development. The US government, for example, has advanced it as a plan for “unlocking opportunity for Americans through trade with the Asia Pacific.”20 But critics have called the TPP the “NAFTA of the Pacific,”21 as activists, environmentalists, organized labor, human rights advocacy groups, and elected officials have protested the negotiations given the contentious issues related to indigenous peoples, agriculture, intellectual property, and services and investments. Certainly for these reasons alone, it is high time that scholars in American studies productively engage Native Pacific studies for a productive lens to view indigeneity, US imperialism and different forms of colonialism, international law, geopolitics, historiography, cultural studies, and critical geography.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, where she teaches on settler colonialism, indigenous politics, critical race studies, and anarchism. She is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2008). She is completing her second book, “Thy Kingdom Come? The Paradox of Hawaiian Sovereignty,” which is a critical study on gender and sexual politics (under contract with Duke). Kauanui is one of six cofounders of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. She currently serves as an elected member the national council of the American Studies Association.


I would like to express my thanks to Paul Lyons and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan, the guest editors of this special issue, as well as Jason Villani, for their critical feedback on an earlier draft of this essay. Mahalo nui loa.

1. With regard to the construction of “Native Pacific studies,” Vicente Diaz and I developed a field we call “Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge” to triangulate the arenas of “Native studies,” “Pacific studies,” and “cultural studies.” We wanted to “explore notions of Pacific indigeneity as they circulate through geographical, cultural, political and historical flows of people(s), things, knowledge, power—between islands and continents.” Our aim was to seek alternative grounds on which to stake Native Pacific cultural studies for the twenty-first century. We launched this rubric in a two-day international symposium at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The event was held February 11–12, 2000, and included James Clifford, David Gegeo, Teresia Teaiwa, Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, Geoffrey White, Ty Kāwika Tengan, Margaret Jolly, Christopher Connery, April Henderson, Adria Lyn Imada, [End Page 634] Glen Masato Mimura, Michael Perez, Joakim Peter, John Chock Rosa, and Dana Takagi. The gathering also featured an art installation by Angelina Naidu and Teaiwa, and a featured exhibit by Jewel Castro. As we explained to invited presenters, “Our guiding question was: What happens when the grounds of indigeneity (of Pacific Islanderness) get too fixed or move too far? What we wanted to feature most of all was what we wish to call native productions of indigeneity. We wanted to feature the edges of what is normally taken to be traditional native territory; in the face of diaspora and globalization, but without relinquishing the groundedness of indigenous identity, politics, theory, method, and aesthetics.” See J. Kēhaulani Kauanui and Vicente M. Diaz, “Introduction: Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge,” in “Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge,” coedited by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui and Vicente M. Diaz, special issue, The Contemporary Pacific 13.2: 315–42.

2. Epeli Hau‘ofa, “Our Sea of Islands,” in Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production, ed. Rob Wilson and Arif Dirlik (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 89–90. Two other useful essays I additionally include on the syllabus for this week include “Introduction: The American Pacific, An Errand Into Oceania,” by John R. Eperjesi, in The Imperialist Imaginary: Visions of Asia and the Pacific in American Culture (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2005); and Ronald Crocombe, “Overview: Parameters of US/Pacific Islands Interaction,” in The Pacific Islands and the USA (Suva: University of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies Press, 1995).

3. As explained in the foreword, when Gibson died in 1987, Whitehead completed the book’s final two chapters from Gibson’s outline.

4. Two excellent teaching tools in visual form include Act of War: Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, produced by Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina (1993), and the documentary film Hawaii: A Voice for Sovereignty, by Catherine Bauknight (2009). See also J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, “Precarious Positions: Native Hawaiians and US Federal Recognition,” in Sovereignty Struggles and Native Rights in the United States, ed. Amy DenOuden and Jean M. O’Brien (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 311–36; and J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, “Hawaiian Nationhood, Self-Determination, and International Law,” in Transforming the Tools of the Colonizer: Collaboration, Knowledge, and Language in Native Narratives, ed. Florencia E. Mallon (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011): 27–53.

5. There are currently seventeen non-self-governing territories (NSGTs) slated for decolonization, which necessarily entails negotiation and dialogue among the administering Powers, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, and the peoples of the territories, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions on decolonization. See

6. Elfrén Rivera Ramos, “Deconstructing Colonialism: The ‘Unincorporated Territory’ as a Category of Domination,” in Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution, ed. Christina Duffy Burnett and Burke Marshall (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

7. See “American Samoa Demographics Profile 2014,” CIA World Factbook,

8. See Pema Levy, “Obama Administration Using Century-Old Racist Case Law to Block Citizenship,” Mother Jones, February 23, 2015,; and Steve Limtiaco, “Court Hears Arguments in American Samoans’ Citizenship Case,” Washington Times, February 1, 2015,; Limtiaco, “U.S. Citizenship For Am. Samoans Could Jeopardize Traditional Way of Life,” Pacific Islands Report, September 9, 2014, pidp.

9. The current congressional delegate representing American Sāmoa is Amata Coleman Radewagen. See However, at the time the then governor of American Sāmoa at the Pacific regional seminar held in Quito 2012 said that there was a need for a more structured approach to determine the will of the people with a detailed work plan on how best to gauge the will of the people on political status. See

10. Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, “American Sāmoa: An Anomaly for an Unincorporated and Unorganized US Territory,” in Navigating the Future: A Samoan Perspective on U.S.-Pacific Relations (Suva: University of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies, 1995); Dan Taulapapa McMullin, “The Passive Resistance of Samoans to US and Other Colonialisms,” in Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-Determination, ed. Joanne Barker (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005). [End Page 635]

11. Rachel Maddow, “Call Him What You Like, but Don’t Mess with American Samoa,” June 19, 2013,

14. On October 21, 1986, the US government ended its administration of the Marshall Islands district. The termination of US administration of the Chuuk, Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and the Mariana Islands districts of the TTPI soon followed on November 3, 1986. The UN formally ended the trusteeship for the Chuuk, Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Mariana Islands, and Marshall Islands districts only on December 22, 1990. On May 25, 1994, the UN ended the trusteeship for the Palau district, after which the United States and Palau agreed to establish the latter’s independence on October 1.

15. See Teresia Teaiwa, “bikinis and other s/pacific n/oceans,” The Contemporary Pacific 6.1 (1994): 87–109.

16. Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948,

17. See Barbara Rose Johnston, “Marshall Islanders Stand before UN Council,” Truthout, September 21, 2012,

18. While the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Portland each once had some version of Pacific studies institutionalized on their campuses in a different era, there is no Pacific studies program or department to speak of on the continental United States at this time.

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