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Chapter 02 - Alienation of Land

Chapter 02 - Alienation of Land

37.0201 Definitions.


As used in this chapter:

(a) "Alienation" means the sale, gift, exchange, or any other method of disposal of property.

(b) “Freehold lands”, means all those lands included in court grants prior to 1900 which have not at the request of the owner, been returned to the status of other land in American Samoa surrendering their freehold characteristics.

(c) "Native" means a full-blooded Samoan person of Tutuila, Manu’a, Aunu’u, or Swains Island.

(d) “Native land” means communal land.

(e) “Nonnative” means any person who is not a native under subsection (c) above.

37.0202 Creation and membership of Land Commission.


There is created a Land Commission, which shall consist of 5 members who shall serve ex officio as follows: a man qualified and experienced in real estate transactions, who shall serve as chairman and shall be appointed by the Governor; the Territorial Registrar, who shall serve as secretary; and the 3 district governors of the government.

37.0203 Instruments affecting title to land-Duties of Commission.


(a) All instruments affecting the title to land which require the approval of the Governor before becoming effective shall be filed with the secretary of the Land Commission for study and recommendations thereon by the Commission.

(b) The Commission shall meet from time to time upon call of the chairman and make recommendations to the Governor respecting the approval or disapproval of instruments affecting the title, ownership or possession of land so submitted for consideration and approval.

(c) It shall be the duty of the Commission to endeavor to prevent the monopolistic ownership of land and improvident alienations of communal lands by those charged with the management and control thereof.

(d) The Commission shall also conduct studies and make recommendations to the Governor for the improvement of the registration, recording and indexing of instruments affecting land and property rights and surveys and plotting of land.

(e) The Commission shall also make such general recommendations to the Governor as may be considered appropriate for the maintenance of orderly and permanent records respecting the ownership of land and other property.

(f) The Commission shall make such rules governing its procedure, as it shall deem proper.

37.0204 Restrictions on alienation of land.


(a) It is prohibited for any matai of a Samoan family who is, as such, in control of the communal family lands or any part thereof, to alienate such family lands or any part thereof to any person without the written approval of the Governor of American Samoa.

(b) It is prohibited to alienate any lands except freehold lands to any person who has less than one-half native blood, and if a person has any nonnative blood whatever, it is prohibited to alienate any native lands to such person unless he was born in American Samoa, is a descendant of a Samoan family, lives with Samoans as a Samoan, lived in American Samoa for more than 5 years and has officially declared his intention of making American Samoa his home for life.

(c) If a person who has any nonnative blood marries another person who has any nonnative blood, the children of such marriage cannot inherit land unless they are of at least one-half native blood.

(d) This section does not prohibit the conveyance and transfer of native land for governmental purposes to the United States Government or to the Government of American Samoa or to a lawful agent or trustee thereof, or the conveyance and transfer, in the discretion and upon the approval of the Governor, to an authorized, recognized religious society, of sufficient land for erection thereon of a church, or dwelling house for the pastor, or both; provided, that the reconveyance and retransfer of such land shall be to native Samoans only and in the discretion and upon the approval of the Governor.

(e) The true children of the present record titleholder of Swains Island, which became a part of American Samoa some 25 years subsequent to the original enactment of this section and is not under the matai system, and their lineal descendants born in American Samoa, shall, notwithstanding any other provision of this section, be deemed to have heritable blood with respect to said island or any part thereof, and an otherwise valid devise of said island or any part thereof to any such true child of such descendant shall not be construed to be alienation in violation of this section.

37.0205 Transfer in trust for use of child or issue of child married to nonnative.


This regulation shall not apply to any native proprietor of land other than communal family land, who desires to make provision for his son or daughter, in view of legal marriage with a nonnative, or for his son or daughter already married to a nonnative, or for any of the issue of any such marriage, by deed or will in favor of a trustee to hold in trust for the use of such son or daughter or such issue.

37.0210 Registration required-Notice of contents.


(a) No instrument shall be effectual to pass the title to any land or any interest therein, or to render such land liable as security for the payment of any debt or obligation until such instrument has been duly registered with the Territorial Registrar.

(b) Due registration of an instrument relating to land or an interest therein shall be notice of the contents of such instrument to all persons thereafter dealing with such land or interest therein.

37.0211 Contract for sale of real property.


No agreement for the sale of real property or of any interest therein is valid unless the same, or some note or memorandum thereof, be in writing and subscribed by the party to be charged or his agent thereunto authorized in writing but this does not abridge the power of any court to compel the specific performance of any agreement for the sale of real property in case of part performance thereof.

37.0221 Leasing of native land.


(a) Native land may, with the approval of the Governor, be leased to any person for any term not exceeding 55 years for any purpose, except for the working of minerals and cutting of timber.

(b) Provisional agreements for the leasing of native land as provided in subsection (a) may be entered into with the native proprietor or proprietors. Every such provisional agreement, stating in full its terms and conditions, shall be submitted with a plan showing the situation of the land to the Governor for approval, and it shall have no validity until such approval has been signified in writing.

(c) All leases of native land approved under this section shall be conditioned on the occupation or cultivation of at least 1/10 of the area of the land leased, by the lessee within a period of 2 years from the date of approval. Upon failure of this condition or failing the continuous occupation or cultivation of the land for any period of 5 years after the date of approval the Governor may, if he deems it necessary and expedient, cancel the lease, and the land shall revert immediately to the native lessor. Land leased pursuant to this section shall be deemed occupied by the leasee if the leases is a party to a mortgage of such land granted in connection with the acquisition or erection of improvements situated thereon.

(d) The lessee must, within 2 calendar months after any provisional agreement to lease has been approved by the Governor, deposit in the Office of the Governor a properly drawn and legally attested lease for confirmation under the hand and seal of the Governor, and such lease shall be registered in a book to be styled registrar of titles.

(e) If a lessee enters into a mortgage of land lease pursuant to this section to finance the acquisition or construction of housing or other improvements of any type situated thereon, the lease of such land shall not be subject to cancellation or revert under subsection (c) of this section during the original stated term of such mortgage or any renewal or extension thereof.

37.0222 Lease of native land for schools.


(a) Any person, corporation, organization, society, or association may lease, for school purposes, so much native land as is actually necessary for such purposes for a period of not more than 30 years, with a right to provide in the lease for any number of renewals thereof for a like period; provided, that such lease, and the renewals thereof, shall be approved by the Governor of American Samoa, that the school conducted on such leased premises shall be subject to governmental supervision, and that such instruction in the English language as the Governor may direct shall be given regularly in such school.

(b) Unless a school is conducted upon such leased premises within one year from the approval of such lease, or if, for any period of 2 years after the date of its approval no school is conducted thereon, the Governor may cancel such lease and the land shall immediately revert to the native lessor.

37.0230 Violation—Penalty.


Any alienation in violation of this chapter shall be void; and any person committing, or attempting to commit, a breach of a provision of this chapter, except 37.0210 and 37.0211, shall be liable to a fine not to exceed $200, and any nonnative failing to conform to this chapter, except 37.0210 and 37.0211, shall be liable to the forfeiture to the owner of the land, of all improvements he may have erected or made on the land and no action shall lie for the recovery of any payment he may have made or other ex-penditure he may have incurred in respect thereof.