Welcome to Day # 218 of our "365 Parks in 365 Days" adventure.
Were it not for my friend Deny Galvin, I might never have learned about the National Park of American Samoa or that it approaches the International Date Line. My interest was piqued yesterday when Deny shared with me that the Director of the Park Service actually manages parks as far away as the International Date Line. Really??? I know our Park System extends from Alaska to Hawaii, from Maine to the Virgin Islands, and that we even have units at Normandy in France.
This performance by Samoan youth is a product of their culture developed over many centuries, and now protected as part of our National Park System in the National Park of American Samoa. NPS Photo.
But I never thought of our treasures expanding to the International Date Line, that invisible and vitally important "line" that separates one day from another.Bottom of FormThe International Date Line sits on the 180º line of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is the imaginary line that separates two consecutive calendar days.
Wow!! Learning that expands my feelings exponentially, and makes me feel so proud of our America. Despite the venality coming out of some sectors of DC, and the vilification being heaped upon Congress, ordinary Americans are acting in quiet, efficient ways to make spectacular things happen. Thank you Deny, former Deputy Director of the National Park Service and one of the most honorable humans I know. Thank you, Director Jon Jarvis, for carrying the weight of your portfolio so lightly. You two and former Director Robert Stanton stand out in my mind for leading the Service so ably.
Are there words to describe this? I can't think of any...and it belongs to the American people for our enjoyment and inspiration, as part of The National Park of American Samoa. National Geographic Photo.
I have many times been outspoken about my dissatisfaction with the slow pace at which we're bringing information about our parks to the general public. But in the face of the inhumane treatment you received at the hands of some in Congress this week, I want to say categorically that I totally support you. Let's get together and make progress should be the mantra for all Americans now in relation to our park treasures. Although cultural tensions remain about how some park lands were acquired from Native tribes, we are fortunate to have them preserved for us. They are the source of lessons we urgently need to learn, such as patience, harmony, (did you know that when wolves were removed from Yellowstone, tree communities almost collapsed? Without the wolves to keep them in check, the elk proliferated and ate all the spruce, willow and aspen trees) and most of all, adaptation to climate change.
"Our National Parks form the largest university campus in the world," Director Stanton often says.
Age old traditions being carried on in the National Park of American Samoa will proceed for many more generations. NPS Photo.
When I visited the National Park of American Samoa's website, (so grateful they're back!), that point was magnified as I read,
"Because the national park lies entirely on lands still owned by several rural Samoan villages, traditional cultures color all aspects of this park's operations and visitor opportunities. "
Yes!!! Wouldn't that be the optimum value of all national parks - to be honored as an integral part of a living culture?
I stitched this tour together with information from several sources including the Park Service website:
"Explore the Islands of Sacred Earth:
"America's 50th National Park and the only one south of the equator, located near the International Date Line. The National Park of American Samoa is one of the most remote national parks in the United States.
What a clam!! Rightly named giant clam, Tridacna squamosa, it's Samoan name is faisua. NPS Photo.
"It was authorized by the US Congress in 1988 and officially established in 1993 when a 50 year lease was signed with villages and the American Samoa Government. The 10,500 acre park is spread over three sectors on three islands - Tutuila, Ta'u, and Ofu.
Almost all the land area of these volcanic islands - from the mountain tops to the coast - is rainforest. About 2,500 acres of the park is underwater, offshore from all three islands.
"The Samoan Archipelago is a typical Pacific Ocean Volcanic Island arc. As the Pacific Ocean plate moves across a stationary hot spot (a place where molten rock from the Earth's mantle pierces the lithosphere plate) it forms a line of volcanoes, some of which reach the ocean surface to form a string of islands. The National Park of American Samoa is really 'three parks' on three separate islands--Ta'u, Ofu, and Tutuila.
"Except for perhaps a few thousand individuals--nearly all inhabitants of American Samoa are indigenous Samoans of Polynesian ancestry. More than any other U.S. or Polynesians people, Samoans are tradition-oriented and closely follow social customs and hierarchies from long before arrival of the first Europeans. This Samoan way--or fa'asamoa--is still deeply ingrained in American Samoa culture.
"The most apparent character is the Samoan matai system of organization and philosophy. In general each village is made up of a group of aiga (extended families) which include as many relatives as can be claimed. Each aiga is headed by a matai (chief) who represents the family on all matters including the village council, orfono. Matai's hold title to all assets of the aigas, or families, they represent and are responsible for law enforcement and punishment of infractions occurring in their villages.
Wearing traditional outfits, the people of Samoan represent Polynesia's oldest culture, the first people on the Samoan islands having come by sea from southeast Asia some 3,000 years ago. NPS Photo
"The fono consists of the matais of all the aiga associated with the village. The highest chief of the matais of all the village aigas is the highest chief or the ali'i and heads the fono. Also, each village has a pulenu'u (somewhat like a police chief or mayor) and one or more talking chiefs, tulafale.
"Because the national park lies entirely on lands still owned by several rural Samoan villages, traditional cultures color all aspects of this park's operations and visitor opportunities. . ."
Wow!! I want to go there!! And since Frank and I plan a sailing life, it's entirely possible that we'll be sailing across the International Date Line into the park....
If you haven't bought a copy of "Our True Nature" yet, please let me know what would persuade you to get your signed copy from my website. It will make great presents for the holidays, birthdays or graduation as it literally opens the door to our treasures in our own backyard. Plus, it helps me continue to produce this great series!