The American Samoa quarter is the fourth in the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program. American Samoa—known as the heart of Polynesia—is a group of five islands and two coral atolls in the South Pacific, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 2,700 miles northeast of Australia. Contacts with Europeans began in the early 1700s and intensified with the arrival of English missionaries and traders in the 1830s. Under the Treaty of Berlin in 1899, the United Kingdom and Germany gave the United States rights and claims over the area, and it officially became a United States territory in 1929 when Congress ratified deeds of cession dating back to 1900 and 1904.
The American Samoa quarter reverse design depicts the ava bowl ("tanoa"), whisk and staff in the foreground with a coconut tree on the shore in the background and the inscriptions, AMERICAN SAMOA and SAMOA MUAMUA LE ATUA, the motto of American Samoa, which means "Samoa, God is First." The ava bowl is used to make the special ceremonial drink for island chiefs and guests during important events. The ava ceremony is considered the most significant traditional event in Samoan culture. The whisk and staff symbolize the rank of the Samoan orator delivering speeches during these gatherings. The ava bowl, whisk and staff also appear on the Official Seal of American Samoa.
A review committee established by American Samoa Governor Togiola T.A. Tulafono solicited and reviewed reverse design narratives from the public, narrowing approximately 60 submissions down to three. These included the ava bowl, whisk and staff and coconut tree concept; a man with traditional Samoan tattoo holding an ava bowl; and a traditional Samoan guest house with a head-dress and ava bowl. These narratives were forwarded to the United States Mint for the production of artistic renderings, which were then proposed to the territory. Governor Tulafono recommended the final design for the American Samoa quarter, which the Secretary of the Treasury approved on July 31, 2008.