The tsunami of last September 29th was very hard on the visitor center and offices of the National Park of American Samoa. They were located on the first floor of Pago Plaza in the heart of Pago Pago Harbor, which was heavily impacted by the waves. The walls and displays of the visitor center were filled with artifacts and modern examples of traditional Samoan arts and tools.
The tsunami appeared to have destroyed almost all of these important cultural resources. Luckily, the National Park Service responded quickly, carefully and with much skill. Some items, particularly the bone and wood carvings, were sent to a National Park Service museum conservation team at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu. The items were stored in the National Park Service’s Pearl Harbor collection facility. The siapos and fine mats were given to local artisans to repair and conserve in American Samoa.
The wood and bone artifacts, art and tool examples have now returned to their home in American Samoa. Two curators from the National Park Service offices in Volcano, Hawaii, and Seattle, Washington, arrived on island last Thursday; escorting the shipment. They are now working with National Park of American Samoa employees to ensure the continued preservation of these important examples of Samoan culture.
“These items are an important part of the story we are trying to preserve” said Mike Reynolds, the park’s superintendent. “It is important that we have examples of traditional Samoan art so we can help facilitate teaching the next generation the importance of Samoan culture.”
The National Park of American Samoa was established in 1988 to preserve the coral reefs, tropical forest and archeological and cultural resources of American Samoa, to maintain the habitat of fruit bats, and to provide educational opportunities for visitors and residents. National Park lands and waters are leased from villages and the American Samoa Government through a long term agreement with the National Park Service.