Manua or the Manua Islands Group (Samoan: Manua tele) consists of three main islands: Tau, Ofu and Olosega. These idylic tropical islands are located some 110 km (70 mi) east of Tutuila and are a part of American Samoa.

Geography and History

All three islands are high islands: volcanic remnants rising out of the sea 14° south of the equator. In contrast to most places in the world, the population of these islands has been decreasing steadily for decades. In the 1930s some 20% of the population of American Samoa lived in the Manua Islands. By the 1980s, only 6% were located there. Emigration is the consequence of a lack of economic opportunities and a desire of young people to participate in the more modern lifestyle offered on Tutuila (Office of Tourism, 2005). However, all the land of Manua is owned communally by Samoan families of Manua, even the National Parks lands are communally owned by Samoan families, and only leased to the US National Parks system.

The traditional capital of Manua is the village of Taū, on the island of Taū. The Manua Group is now a part of the US Territory of American Samoa. It was ceded to the U.S. in a Deed of Cession, signed by the Tui Manua (supreme chief of Manua) on July 14, 1904 at the Crown residence of the Tuimanua called the Faleula in the place called Lalopua (from Official documents of the Tuimanua government, 1893; Office of the Governor, 2004).

Cession followed from the Treaty of Berlin in 1899 that separated the eastern islands of Samoa (including Tutuila and the Manua) from the western islands of Samoa (including Upolu and Savaii).

Language and Culture

The history of Manua is said in Samoan oratory to contain the origins of Samoan and Polynesian culture, and the genealogy of Polynesians east of Samoa is said to have originated in Manua. In traditional belief the sun rises over Samoa at Saua on the island of Taū, where the coral reef is supposed to be always yellow from the sun, and it sets at Falealupo the western-most village on the island of Savaii in Samoa. This journey of the sun is strongly related to traditional beliefs and defines Samoa Sasae and Samoa Sisifo. The term Fa'asamoa describes "The Samoan Way", or traditional Samoan way of life

The people of Manua speak a more traditional version of the Samoan language than is spoken in the rest of Samoa, and utilize the "t", pronouncing it in the traditional manner almost like a "d", sometimes spelling it with a "d", whereas the rest of Samoa commonly pronounces "t" like a "k", an influence that is said to go back to the 19th century influence of Hawaii on Samoan culture.

The sovereign of Manua was called the Tui Manua. The last Tui Manua was Tuimanua Elisara (or Tui Manua Elisala) of the early 20th century. Tuimanua Elisara died on July 2, 1909. The title Tui Manua technically still exists although there is no titleholder; Tuimanua Elisara desired before his death that the title die with him. It was the U.S. government position at the time that his title changed to District Governor upon the hoisting of the U.S. flag at Taū on June 5, 1900 (Office of the Governor. 2004). However, titles and holdings were not obliterated when the islands became a U.S. territory, and the title and estates of Tuimanua remain under the custody of the Anoalo clan (male side of the Tuimanua line).

Today, many families of Manua rely on income from family members working in Tutuila and in the United States. The local diet is generally healthier than in Tutuila, with less reliance on imported American and New Zealand tinned foods, and a greater reliance on local fishing and farming.


The high school on Taū serves all of Manua. Most students seeking higher education go to American Samoa Community College in Tutuila or National University of Samoa on Upolu, or as far away as the University of Hawaii and elsewhere.


  • Barker, Joanne. 2005. "The Passive Resistance of Samoans to US and Other Colonialisms", article in Sovereignty Matters , University of Nebraska Press.
  • Office of the Governor. 2004. Manua ma Amerika. A brief historical documentary. Manua Centennial. 16 July 1904. 16 July 2004. Office of the Governor, American Samoa Government. 20 p.
  • Office of Tourism. 2005. The Manua Islands. Office of Tourism, Dept. of Commerce, Government of American Samoa (pamphlet).

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