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Pacific Islands American

Pacific Islander American
Oceanian American
Total population
540,013 alone (.2% of US population) (2010 Census);[1] 1,225,195 alone or in combination (.4% of US population) (2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Texas, Nevada, Utah, and Washington
American English, Carolinian, Chamorro, Fijian, Hawaiian, Marshallese, Samoan, Tongan, Polynesian languages, others
Christianity (in particular The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Catholicism, other religions
Related ethnic groups
Pacific Islanders

Pacific Islands Americans, also known as Oceanian Americans, are Americans who have ethnic ancestry of indigenous inhabitants of Oceania. The term Pacific Islander refers to those who have ancestry in Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, which are all the three major sub-regions of Oceania. American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam are insular areas, while Hawaii is a state.

Pacific Islander Americans make up 0.5% of the U.S. population including those with partial Pacific Islander ancestry, enumerating about 1.4 million people. The largest ethnic subgroups of Pacific Islander Americans are Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanian/Chamorros and Tongans. Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, and Chamorros have large communities in Hawaii, California, and Utah and sizable communities in Washington, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, and other states to a lesser extent.


  • Population 1
    • Pacific Islands Americans in the 2000 - 2010 U.S. Census (From over 1,000 people) 1.1
  • Micronesian Americans 2
  • Polynesian Americans 3
  • Military 4
  • Media 5
  • Sports 6
  • Culture 7
  • Politics 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


In the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census the term "'Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander'" refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, the Marshalls or other Pacific Islands. Pacific Islanders are of Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian cultural backgrounds." The US Census counts Indigenous Australians and Māori, the natives of New Zealand, as part of the Pacific Islander race.[2][3]

In the 2010 census 1,225,195 Americans claimed "'Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander'" as their race alone or in combination.

Pacific Islands Americans in the 2000[4] - 2010 U.S. Census[5] (From over 1,000 people)

Ancestry 2000 2000% of Pacific Islands American population 2010 2010% of Pacific Islands American population
Native Hawaiians 401,162 45.9% 527,077 43.0%
Samoan 133,281 15.2% 184,440 15.1%
Chamorro 93,237 ("Guamanian" or "Chamorro": 92,611; "Saipanese": 475; "Mariana Islander": 141) 10.7% 148,220 ("Guamanian" or "Chamorro": 147,798; "Saipanese": 1,031; "Mariana Islander": 391) 12.2%
Tongan 36,840 4.2% 57,183 4.7%
Fijian 13,581 1.6% 32,304 2.6%
Marshallese 6,650 0.8% 22,434 1.8%
Palauan 3,469 0.4% 7,450 0,6%
Tahitian 3,313 0.4% 5,062 0.4%
New Zealand´s Indigenous (Māori, Tokelauan) 2,422 (Māori: 1,994; Tokelauans: 574) 0,3% 925 (Tokelauans) 0.1%
Micronesian (FSM) 1,948 0,2% 8,185 0,7%
"Micronesian" (not specified) 9,940 1.1% 29,112 2.4%
"Polynesian" (not specified) 8,796 1.0% 9,153 0.7%
Others 188,389 % 241,952 %
TOTAL 874,414 100.0% 1,225,195 100.0%

Micronesian Americans

Micronesian Americans are Americans of Micronesian descent.

The Largest Micronesian American subgroups are Chamorro American and Marshallese American which make up the majority of Micronesian American population. Other significant groups include Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean, Chuuk,and Palauan.

Chamorro Americans or Chamorros have been a part of the United States since the U.S. captured Guam during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Chamorro Americans trace their ancestry from either Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or the American territory of Guam.

In the 2010 census 147,798 identified as Guamanian or Chamorro. Because of major economic conditions on Guam and the Northern Marianas in the 1990s to present many Chammorros have migrated in the United States in search of work and better opportunities. There are now more Chamorros in the Continental U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska than there are on the Guam and the Northern Marianas combined.

States with significant Chamorro populations are Hawaii, California, Washington, Texas and Nevada. California is home to the largest Chamorro population with 44,425 residing in the state. The County with the largest number of Chamorro residents is San Diego County, other counties include Los Angeles County, and Orange County.

Marshallese American or Marshallese come from the Marshall Islands. In the 2010 census 22,434 Americans identified as being of Marshallese descent.

Because of the Marshall Islands entering the Compact of Free Association in 1986, Marshallese have been allowed to migrate and work in the United States. There are many reasons why Marshallese came to the United States. Some Marshallese came for educational opportunities, particularly for their children. Others sought work or better health care than what’s available in the islands. Massive layoffs by the Marshallese government in 2000 led to a second big wave of immigration.

Arkansas has the largest Mashallese population with over 6,000 residents. Many live in Springdale and comprise over 5% of the city's population. Other significant Marshallese populations include Spokane and Costa Mesa.

Polynesian Americans

Polynesian Americans are Americans of Polynesian descent.

Large subcategories of Polynesian Americans include Native Hawaiians and Samoan Americans. In addition there are smaller communities of Tongan Americans (link: Culture and diaspora of Tonga) and Māori Americans.

A Samoan American is an American who is of ethnic Samoan descent and may be from either the independent nation Samoa or the American territory of American Samoa. Samoan American is a subcategory of Polynesian American. About 65,000 people live on American Samoa, while the US census in 2000 and 2008 has found 4 times the number of Samoan Americans live in the mainland USA.

California has the most Samoans; concentrations live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. San Francisco has approximately 2,000 people of Samoan ancestry, and other Bay Area cities such as East Palo Alto and Daly City have Samoan communities. In Los Angeles County, Long Beach and Carson have abundant Samoan communities, as well as in Oceanside in San Diego County.[6][7][8] Other West Coast metropolitan areas such as Seattle have strong Samoan communities, mainly in King County and in Tacoma. Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu, Hawaii both have thousands of Samoan Americans residing in each city.

Elsewhere in the United States, Samoan Americans are plentiful throughout the state of Utah, as well as in Killeen, Texas and Independence, Missouri.

Since the end of World War II, persons born in American Samoa are United States nationals, but not United States citizens. (This is the only circumstance under which an individual would be one and not the other.) For this reason, Samoans can move to Hawaii or the mainland United States and obtain citizenship comparatively easily. Like Hawaiian Americans, the Samoans arrived in the mainland in the 20th century as agricultural laborers and factory workers.


Pacific Islander Americans are over represented in the military. Based on 2003 recruiting data, Pacific Islander Americans were 249% over represented in the military.[9]

American Samoans are distinguished among the wider Pacific Islander group for enthusiasm for enlistment. In 2007, a Chicago Tribune reporter covering the island's military service noted, "American Samoa is one of the few places in the nation where military recruiters not only meet their enlistment quotas but soundly exceed them."[10] As of 23 March 2009 there have been 10 American Samoans who have died in Iraq, and 2 who have died in Afghanistan.[11]

Pacific Islander Americans are also well represented in the Navy SEALS, making up .6% of the enlisted and .1% of the officers.[12]


Pacific Islander Americans have media portrayal mostly as athletes, but are also portrayed as regular people. Dwayne Johnson, also known as "The Rock", with a Samoan mother and a Black Canadian father, has been the most notable Pacific Islander American professional wrestler, branching out into movies like the The Scorpion King. Other Pacific Islander American professional wrestlers include Samoa Joe; Solofa Fatu, best known as "Rikishi"; and the late Rodney Anoa'i, better known as "Yokozuna". The Anoa'i family has a legacy dating back to Johnson's grandfather Peter Maivia.

Lilo Pelekai and Nani Pelekai are Native Hawaiian Americans in the Disney show called Lilo & Stitch. Pacific Islander Americans portrayed two major supporting characters on the CBS television series Hawaii Five-O—Native Hawaiian Zulu as Kono Kalakaua and Samoan American Al Harrington as Det. Ben Kokua. In the series' 2011 revival, Hawaii Five-0, Teila Tuli has a recurring role. Also, Hawaiian-American Jason Momoa played Ronon Dex on the popular science-fiction TV show Stargate Atlantis and briefly he played Khal Drogo on the popular Medieval fantasy TV show Game of Thrones.

Zina Pistor was the first Samoan American in the Miss USA Pageant, as Miss California 1985. The LA Times praised her business sense for owning a frozen yogurt store at 21, which she built into a franchise after graduating with honors from USC's Entrepreneur Program, where her business plan won 1st place. As Director of Creative Affairs for Morgan Freeman's production company, Zina produced charity events for children such as "An Evening of Holiday Stories with Morgan Freeman and Friends" to benefit Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw's Children's Action Network. As an actress, Zina has worked with Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter and many others. She currently dedicates her time to her children's schools and she and her husband, Peter, are actively involved in an NGO called Seacology, which provides eco-exchanges for Pacific islanders (i.e., For protecting a local reef, Seacology will build a preschool.)

Vili Fualaau is a Samoan American who made headlines with his controversial relationship with Mary Kay Letourneau.

Taylor Vaifanua (from Hurricane, Utah) is a Samoan American high school student/singer who made to the Top 36 of the reality TV show American Idol.

The most famous stage character is Bloody Mary of the South Pacific musical and movie. She is a souvenir trader to US sailors stationed in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Though originally cast as Juanita Hall, an African American, she is often also cast as an Asian or Pacific Islander American in newer local productions.


The three major sub-regions of Oceania

Pacific Islander Americans are well represented in American football: Peter Tuipulotu, Reno Mahe, Vai Sikahema, Nuu Faaola, Jesse Sapolu, Troy Polamalu, Pisa Tinoisamoa, brothers Ma'ake and Chris Kemoeatu, Mosi Tatupu and his son Lofa, Manu Tuiasosopo and his sons Marques and Zach, Junior Seau, Rey Maualuga, and Mike Iupati are current or former professional football players. Ken Niumatalolo, a Samoan American who was named after the 2007 regular season as the new head coach of Navy, is believed to be the first Pacific Islander American to head a major college program.

Naomi Mulitauaopele is the first full-blooded Samoan female athlete to play for both American women's professional basketball leagues, the ABL and the WNBA. In college, she competed for Stanford University and appeared in 3 NCAA Championship Tournaments. As a freshman, she was named to the All-Pac-10 team and was named to the West Regional team as a sophomore. Professionally, she was selected by the Seattle "Reign" for the 1998-99 ABL season and then selected as a 1st-Round draft pick for the Utah "Starzz" for the WNBA's 2000 season. During her off-seasons, she competed in professional leagues located in Istanbul, Turkey and Puchon, Korea. She is the co-founder of a non profit organization, The Education with Purpose Foundation for Pacific Islanders, which focuses on helping Pacific Islanders achieve their own educational and professional goals. She is married to Solomona Tagaleo'o Sr. and they have a son, Solomona Tagaleo'o Jr.

Many Pacific Islander Americans also play the most popular sport of their homeland, rugby union and rugby league, and have a strong influence in US rugby- see Rugby league in the United States or Rugby union in the United States, with many going on to represent the USA, including David Niu (rugby league and rugby union), Andrew Suniula (rugby league and rugby union), Siose Muliumu (rugby league), Salesi Sika (rugby union), Vahafolau Esikia (rugby union), Fifita Mounga (rugby union), Vaka Manupuna (rugby league), Thretton Palamo (the youngest player ever in the Rugby Union World Cup), Albert Tuipulotu (rugby union), and Vaea Anitoni (the all-time leader in tries for the USA national team).

Pacific Islanders are also represented in sumo wrestling. Akebono Taro is a famous sumo-wrestling Yokozuna of Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Diving great Greg Louganis, although often identified with his adoptive Greek-American heritage, is of Samoan and Swedish ancestry.


As a result of the rise of Samoan communities in highly concentrated hip hop areas such as Los Angeles and Oakland, California; American Samoans like African American have built up a reputation as highly skilled dancers and athletes. While women were mostly restrained from their expression of hip hop dance, many Samoan men became professional dancers and entered the American music industry. Suga Pop, and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. are examples of this.[13] The involvement of Samoans in street dance and hip hop music in America has impacted the Samoan cultural production in other places where Samoans have settled. A transmission of culture between the American Samoan community and its Pacific origin (i.e. New Zealand, Hawaii) took place. This resulted in a mimicking of not only music and dance styles but of the fashion of American hip hop as well. Samoan dance crews copied the popping and locking dance forms while wearing Adidas track suits- a style very commonly associated with Queens based hip hop group Run DMC. As a result of the American Samoan community's rising recognition, performers such as Snoop Dogg and Lord Tariq have collaborated with various American-based Samoan and Pacific artists.[13]


Mufi Hannemann was mayor of Honolulu from January 2, 2005 to July 20, 2010. Mufi Hanneman is a German and Samoan American who was originally a history teacher.

See also


  1. ^ "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010". US Census Bureau. 
  2. ^ University of Virginia. Geospatial and Statistical Data Center. "1990 PUMS Ancestry Codes." 2003. August 30, 2007.[1]
  3. ^ University of Michigan. Census 1990: Ancestry Codes. August 27, 2007
  4. ^ The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population, Census 2000
  5. ^ The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2010 Census, 2010 Census Briefs, United States Bureau of the Census, May 2012
  6. ^ Knight, Heather (March 1, 2006). "A YEAR AT MALCOLM X: Second Chance at Success Samoan families learn American culture". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  7. ^ Sahagun, Louis (October 1, 2009). "Samoans in Carson hold church services for tsunami, earthquake victims". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  8. ^ Garrison, Jessica. "Samoan Americans at a Crossroads", Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2000. Retrieved 2010-10-3.
  9. ^ "Who Bears the Burden?". Heritage Foundation. 
  10. ^ Scharnberg, Kirsten (March 21, 2007). "Young Samoans have little choice but to enlist". Chicago Tribune. 
  11. ^  
  12. ^ "Navy SEALS to Diversify". Time. March 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Henderson, April K. "Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora." In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Pluto Press, 200

External links

  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2010 Census
  • Infoplease: Native Hawaiian and Other U.S. Pacific Islander Population, Census 2000 - 2010
  • Pacific Islander Populations, Census 2000
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