Pacific Islands Americans

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 among the indigenous peoples of Oceania (viz. Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians). For its purposes, the US Census also counts Indigenous Australians as part of this group.[2][3]

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, with sizable communities in Washington, Texas, Nevada, and Oregon.

American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam are insular areas, while Hawaii is a state.


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.

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)

Ancestry20002000 % of Pacific Islands American population 20102010 % 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%
French Polynesian 3,313 0.4% 5,062 0.4%
Polynesians with New Zealand citizenship (Māori, Tokelauans, Niueans, Cook Islanders) 2,422 (Māori: 1,994; Tokelauans: 574) 0.3% 925 (Tokelauans only) 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%


State/territory Pacific Islands Americans alone (2010 US Census)[6] Percentage[note 1]
 Alabama 5,208 0.1%
 Alaska 7,662 1.0%
 Arizona 16,112 0.2%
 Arkansas 6,685 0.2%
 California 181,431 0.8%
 Colorado 8,420 0.1%
 Connecticut 3,491 0.0%
 Delaware 690 0.0%
 District of Columbia 770 -
 Florida 18,790 -
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 10,454 0.1%
 Hawaii 138,292 10.0%
 Idaho 2,786 0.1%
 Illinois 7,436 -
 Indiana 3,532 0.1%
 Iowa 2,419 0.1%
 Kansas 2,864 0.1%
 Kentucky 3,199 0.1%
 Louisiana 2,588 -
 Maine 377 -
 Maryland 5,391 -
 Massachusetts 5,971 -
 Michigan 3,442 <0.1%
 Minnesota 2,958 0.0%
 Mississippi 1,700 -
 Missouri 7,178 0.1%
 Montana 734 0.1%
 Nebraska 2,061 0.1%
 Nevada 19,307 0.6%
 New Hampshire 532 -
 New Jersey 7,731 -
 New Mexico 3,132 0.1%
 New York 24,000 0.1%
 North Carolina 10,309 0.1%
  North Dakota 334 0.1%
 Ohio 5,336 0.03%
 Oklahoma 5,354 0.1%
 Oregon 14,649 0.4%
 Pennsylvania 7,115 -
 Rhode Island 1,602 0.1%
 South Carolina 3,957 0.1%
 South Dakota 517 0.1%
 Tennessee 5,426 0.1%
 Texas 31,242 0.1%
 Utah 26,049 1.3%
 Vermont 175 -
 Virginia 8,201 0.1%
 Washington 43,505 0.6%
 West Virginia 485 -
 Wisconsin 2,505 -
 Wyoming 521 0.1%
 American Samoa 51,403[7] 91%
 Guam 78,582 [8] 49%
 Northern Mariana Islands 18,800 [9] 34.9%
USA 674,625 0.2%
State/territory Pacific Islands Americans alone or in combination (2010 US Census)[10]
 Alabama 7,984
 Alaska 11,360
 Arizona 28,431
 Arkansas 8,597
 California 320,036
 Colorado 16,823
 Connecticut 6,864
 Delaware 1,423
 District of Columbia 1,514
 Florida 43,416
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 18,587
 Hawaii 358,951
 Idaho 5,508
 Illinois 15,873
 Indiana 7,392
 Iowa 4,173
 Kansas 5,445
 Kentucky 5,698
 Louisiana 5,333
 Maine 1,008
 Maryland 11,553
 Massachusetts 12,369
 Michigan 10,010
 Minnesota 6,819
 Mississippi 3,228
 Missouri 12,136
 Montana 1,794
 Nebraska 3,551
 Nevada 35,435
 New Hampshire 1,236
 New Jersey 15,777
 New Mexico 5,750
 New York 45,801
 North Carolina 17,891
  North Dakota 801
 Ohio 11,380
 Oklahoma 9,052
 Oregon 26,936
 Pennsylvania 14,662
 Rhode Island 2,803
 South Carolina 6,988
 South Dakota 1,040
 Tennessee 9,359
 Texas 54,801
 Utah 37,994
 Vermont 476
 Virginia 17,233
 Washington 73,213
 West Virginia 1,295
 Wisconsin 5,558
 Wyoming 1,137
 American Samoa 52,790[11]
 Guam 90,238 [12]
 Northern Mariana Islands 24,891 [13]
USA 1,332,494

Micronesian Americans

Micronesian Americans are Americans of Micronesian descent.

The largest Micronesian American subgroups are Marshallese and Chamoru Americans. Other significant groups include Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean, Chuuk,and Palauan.

Chamorro Americans, or the Chamoru, are the indigenous inhabitants of the Marianas, which are politically divided between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Chamoru have been subject to the jurisdiction of the United States since the U.S. captured Guam during the Spanish–American War in 1898. The rest of the archipelago did not become affiliated with the U.S. until it invaded in 1944. In the 2010 census, 147,798 identified as "Guamanian or Chamorro". Because of economic conditions in the Marianas, particularly from the 1990s onward, many emigrated to the States in search of work and better opportunities. There are now more Chamorros in the 50 states than there are in the Marianas.

According to the 2010 census, the largest Chamoru populations were located in California, Washington and Texas, but their combined number from these three states totaled less than half the number living throughout the U.S. It also revealed that the Chamoru people are the most geographically dispersed Oceanic ethnicity in the country.[14]

Marshallese Americans 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 the Marshallese 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 (see Culture and diaspora of Tonga), French Polynesian Americans, and Māori Americans.

A Samoan American is an American who is of ethnic Samoan descent either from 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.[15][16][17] 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.

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.

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

A Tongan American is an American who is of ethnic Tongan descent. Utah has the largest Tongan American population and Hawaii has the second largest. Many of the first Tongan Americans came to the United States in connection to the LDS Church.


Based on 2003 recruiting data, Pacific Islander Americans were 249% over-represented in the military.[18]

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."[19] As of 23 March 2009 there have been 10 American Samoans who have died in Iraq, and 2 who have died in Afghanistan.[20]

Pacific Islander Americans are also well represented in the Navy SEALS, making up .6% of the enlisted and .1% of the officers.[21]


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 film, Lilo & Stitch, and its subsequent franchise. 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, (Miss California USA 1985). The Los Angeles Times praised her[22] business sense for owning a frozen yogurt store while a student in USC's Entrepreneur Program, where her business plan won first place. As Director of Creative Affairs for Revelations Entertainment, Morgan Freeman's film and TV production company, Zina produced charity events such as "An Evening of Holiday Stories with Morgan Freeman and Friends" to benefit Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw's (CAN) Children's Action Network. Zina has worked with Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter and many others. She divides her time between Los Angeles and Berlin, where she lives with her family and supports educational and ecological causes (i.e., Seacology which provides eco-exchanges[23] for Pacific islanders).

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.

Bloody Mary, a chatacter in the South Pacific musical and movie, 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, Manti Te'o, Reno Mahe, Shaun Nua, 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.

Basketball is quickly gaining popularity among Islanders, and NBA players such as Peyton Siva, Jabari Parker, James Johnson, Wally Rank, and Steven Adams are of Polynesian descent. 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.

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 Americans, 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.[24] 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.[24]

Dinah Jane Hansen of multiplatinum selling girl group Fifth Harmony created on The X Factor USA is also of Polynesian descent.


Mufi Hannemann was mayor of Honolulu from January 2, 2005 to July 20, 2010.

See also


  1. Percentage of the state population that identifies itself as Pacific Islands relative to the state/territory population as a whole.


  1. "Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010" (PDF). US Census Bureau.
  2. University of Virginia. Geospatial and Statistical Data Center. "1990 PUMS Ancestry Codes." 2003. August 30, 2007.
  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. US Census Bureau: " Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States, States, and Counties: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015" retrieved September 05, 2016 - select state from drop-down menu
  7. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 American Samoa Summary File
  8. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 Guam Summary File
  9. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 Northern Mariana Islands Summary File
  10. US Census Bureau: " Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States, States, and Counties: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015" retrieved September 05, 2016 - select state from drop-down menu
  11. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE ALONE OR IN COMBINATION Universe: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 American Samoa Summary File
  12. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE ALONE OR IN COMBINATION Universe: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 Guam Summary File
  13. ETHNIC ORIGIN OR RACE ALONE OR IN COMBINATION Universe: Total ethnic origin and race groups tallied more information 2010 Northern Mariana Islands Summary File
  14. "2010 Census Shows More than Half of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders Report Multiple Races". United States Census 2010. United States government. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  15. 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.
  16. Sahagun, Louis (October 1, 2009). "Samoans in Carson hold church services for tsunami, earthquake victims". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  17. Garrison, Jessica. "Samoan Americans at a Crossroads", Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2000. Retrieved 2010-10-3.
  18. "Who Bears the Burden?". Heritage Foundation.
  19. Scharnberg, Kirsten (March 21, 2007). "Young Samoans have little choice but to enlist". Chicago Tribune.
  20. Congressman Faleomavaega (23 March 2009). "WASHINGTON, D.C.—AMERICAN SAMOA DEATH RATE IN THE IRAQ WAR IS HIGHEST AMONG ALL STATES AND U.S. TERRITORIES". Press Release. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  21. "Navy SEALS to Diversify". Time. March 12, 2012.
  22. BAILEY, ERIC (1985-05-02). "Beauty Queen Excels as Scholar, Entrepreneur". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  23. "Berlin the Beautiful - Seacology Island Environment Blog". Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  24. 1 2 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

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