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Chapter 04 - Matai Title

Chapter 04 - Matai Title

1.0401 Registration required—Closing of register.


(a) Every matai in American Samoa must prior to 1 January 1969, register his title and designated name with the Territorial Registrar.

(b) The matai title register shall be closed as of 1 January 1969, and any matai title not registered by that date may not be registered.

(c) The matai title register must be kept as a part of the records of the Territorial Registrar.

1.0402 Registering more than one matai title prohibited.


Persons may not register more than one matai title at one time.

1.0403 Qualifications for succession to title- Delegate to the U.S House of Representatives, staff members, dependents.


A person not possessing all of the following qualifications is ineligible to succeed to a matai title:

(a) He must be of at least one-half Samoan blood.

(b) He must have been born on American soil: provided that a person born of parents who were inhabitants of American Samoa, but temporarily residing outside of American Samoa or engaged in foreign travel, at the date of birth of such child, may, for the purposes of this subsection, be considered as having been born on American soil if:

(1) while actually residing in American Samoa and at any time within one year after he attains the age of 18 years, he files with the Territorial Registrar a renunciation, under oath of allegiance to the country of his birth; or

(2) he has resided in American Samoa for a continuous period of not less than 10 years prior to the time of filing his application to be registered as the holder of a matai title.

(c) He must be chosen by his family for the title.

(d) He must live with Samoans as a Samoan.

(e) For purposes of this section, the Territory’s Delegate to the United States House of Representatives while occupying the post of Delegate, and his dependents, or a member of his staff recruited from this Territory while employed by the Delegate’s office, and his dependents, are considered to be continuously residing in American Samoa although physically residing outside of American Samoa.

1.0404 Eligibility to file claim or objection-Record of absent residents-Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and staff members.


(a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), no one is eligible to claim or object to the succession to a matai title unless he is a resident in American Samoa for one calendar year immediately preceding the date of the claim or objection.

(b) The Territorial Registrar shall keep a record of the names of those bona fide residents of American Samoa who are absent from the Territory for any of the following reasons:

(1) attendance at an educational institution;

(2) service in the United States armed forces;

(3) medical treatment and recuperation;

(4) temporary traveling;

(5) missionary work as a minister.

(c) Any person on such record is eligible to claim or object to the succession to a matai title as if he actually resided in American Samoa.

(d) A person’s name shall be recorded upon the petition of 5 adult members of his family. The recording shall be effective for 2 years.

(e) The provisions of subsections (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section do not apply to the Territory’s Delegate to the United States House of Representatives while occupying the post of delegate, and his dependents, or a member of his staff recruited from the Territory while employed by the Delegate’s office, and his dependents. For purposes of this section, the Delegate and his dependents or a member of his staff recruited from the Territory and his dependents are considered to be actually residing in American Samoa although physically located outside of American Samoa.

1.0405 Filing written claim--Supporting documents.


(a) Any person claiming succession to a matai title shall file with the Territorial Registrar a written claim of succession to the title.

(b) A claim must be accompanied by a certificate from the chiefs of the village to which the claimed title is attached to the effect that the matai title is an old and traditional title of the Samoan people, and a petition signed by 25 blood members of the title claimed. The blood members must be at least 18 years of age and residents of American Samoa at the time the petition is filed. The petition must state that a family meeting was called and held for the purpose of selecting a successor to the title in question, according to the traditions of the family. In the event the family does not have a sufficient number of members qualified as herein required to support the claim, the claimant shall so state in a signed affidavit.

(c) The Territorial Registrar, if not satisfied with the validity of information offered in the petition, shall require proof of age, blood relation to the title in question, residence and the insufficiency of blood members if that is claimed.

1.0406 Notice of claim.


If the Territorial Registrar is satisfied that the claim, certificate, and petition are in proper form, he must give notice of the filing of the claim by posting a notice thereof, in both the English and Samoan languages, on the bulletin board at the front of the High Court and in two other public places.

1.0407 Counterclaims and objections—Supporting documents.


(a) For a period of 60 days immediately following the posting of notice required in 1.0406, any interested person may file a counterclaim or objection. If the sixtieth day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the next regular business day for the purpose of the section, is considered as the sixtieth day. The Territorial Registrar may not accept any counterclaims or objections filed after the sixtieth day as defined herein.

(b) A counterclaim or objection must be supported by a petition signed by no less than 25 persons related by blood to the title in question The petitioners must be at least 18 years of age and residents of American Samoa at the time the petition is filed.

(c) The Territorial Registrar, if not satisfied with the validity of information offered in the petition, shall require proof of age, blood relationship to title, and residence of any or all signers of the petition.

(d) In the event the family does not have the number of members qualified as required to support the counterclaim or the objection, the counterclaimant or objector shall so state in a signed affidavit.

1.0408 Certificate of succession to issue if no counterclaim or objection is filed.


If no counterclaim or objection is filed within 60 days immediately following the posting of the notice of a claim, the Territorial Registrar shall register the claimant as the successor to the title claimed, and shall issue to the claimant a certificate stating the date of the registration and that the claimant is entitled to, and is the successor to, the title.

1.0409 Disputed claims-Hearing- Determination-Certificate issued when.


(a) The High Court shall hear and determine any disputed claim and after decision shall certify the successor to the title as determined by law to the Territorial Registrar for registration.

(b) The Territorial Registrar, upon receiving the certification of the court, shall issue to the successful claimant a certificate of registration as in the case of undisputed claims.

(c) In the trial of title cases, the High Court shall be guided by the following considerations, in the priority listed:

(1) the best hereditary right, as to which the male and female descendants are equal in families where this has been customary: otherwise the male descendant prevails over the female:

(2) the wish of the majority or plurality of those clans of the family as customary in that family;

(3) the forcefulness, character and personality of the persons under consideration for the title, and their knowledge of Samoan customs; and

(4) the value of the holder of the title to the family, village, and country.

(d) The court shall issue a written decision that must contain finding of facts and conclu-sions of law on each issue under (c) above.

1.0410 Effective date of succession.


No succession to a title may be recognized until the certificate of succession and registra-tion is issued.

1.0411 Removal of title for cause—Service of petition—Default—Selection of successor.


(a) A matai title may be removed by the High Court upon a petition for removal filed in the High Court by 25 blood members of the matai’s family, over 18 years of age, who at the time of the petition are all serving the matai and family according to Samoan custom.

(b) Service of the petition for removal of the title shall be made in the manner provided in 43.0502 except that the posting of the required notice shall be for 30 days on the bulletin board of the administration building in Utulei and in 2 public places in the village to which the title is attached such notice to be in both the English and Samoan languages.

(c) Proof of service shall be made in accordance with 43.0503.

(d) If no answer is filed and no appearance is made at the hearing of the cause, either in person or by counsel, the court may find the defendant in default and enter judgment for the petitioners without further hearing.

(e) The court shall transmit to the Territorial Registrar a copy of the court’s decision in all removal cases and the Territorial Registrar shall follow the Court’s decision.

(f) Upon removal of a matai title under the procedures set forth in this section, another matai shall be selected by the family in accordance with the traditions of the family.

1.0412 Removal of title after year’s absence—Procedure—Default.


(a) Any matai absent from American Samoa for more than 1 year may be removed of his title upon petition filed in the High Court by any member of the family of the absent matai. Upon presentation of such petition and satisfactory proof of such absence, the Court may, but need not, remove such title. The Court in its discretion may consider the reasons for such absence and the wishes of the family actively serving the matai.

(b) Service shall be made in accordance with subsection (b) of 1.0411

(c) The Court, in its discretion, shall set the time for hearing of the cause so as to allow sufficient and reasonable time for the matai to appear in his defense, either in person or by counsel.

(d) Failure to appear in person or by counsel, after proper service, shall be sufficient for the Court to find the defendant in default.

1.0413 Nonrecognition of titles improperly bestowed.


Any matai title bestowed on any person contrary to the provisions of this chapter may not in any way be recognized. This chapter may not have the effect of divesting any person of a title registered before 1 November 1932.

1.0414 Violation—Penalty.


A person who uses any matai title or permits the use of any matai title in his behalf before the same has been registered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, or continue to use a matai title after he has been removed from his office by proper proceeding shall be

sentenced as for a class B misdemeanor.