Northern Mariana Islands facts

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas
Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas
Flag Seal
Anthem: Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi  (Chamorro)
Satil Matawal Pacifiko  (Carolinian)
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
Status Commonwealth
Capital Saipan
Official languages
Ethnic groups (2010)
  • 50% Asian
    (Including Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Bangladeshi)
  • 34.9% Pacific Islander
    (Including Chamorro and Carolinian)
  • 12.7% Multiracial
  • 2.5% others
Demonym Northern Mariana Islander (formal)
Chamorro (colloquial)
Country  United States
Government Territorial presidential constitutional republic
 -  President Donald Trump (R)
 -  Governor Ralph Torres (R)
 -  Lt. Governor Victor Hocog (R)
 -  Delegate Gregorio Sablan (I)
Legislature Commonwealth Legislature
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
Commonwealth within the United States
 -  Covenant 1975 
 -  Commonwealth 1978 
 -  End of trusteeship 1986 
Area
 -  Total 464 km2 (n/a)
179 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  2016 estimate 53,467 (n/a)
 -  2010 census 53,833 (n/a)
 -  Density 115/km2 (n/a)
299/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $682 million (n/a)
 -  Per capita $13,300 (n/a)
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Time zone ChST (UTC+10)
Date format MM/DD/YYYY
Drives on the right
Calling code +1 670
Internet TLD .mp
Website
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
a. "The Star-Spangled Banner" serves as the national anthem for the United States of America and its territories.

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; Chamorro: Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; Carolinian: Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 15 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes all islands in the Mariana Archipelago except Guam which is the southernmost island of the chain and a separate U.S. territory.

The United States Department of the Interior cites a landmass of 183.5 square miles (475.26 km2). According to the 2010 United States Census, 53,883 people were living in the CNMI at that time. The vast majority of the population resides on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The other islands of the Northern Marianas are sparsely inhabited; the most notable among these is Pagan, which for various reasons over the centuries has experienced major population flux, but formerly had residents numbering in the thousands.

The administrative center is Capitol Hill, a village in northwestern Saipan. However, most publications consider Saipan to be the capital because the island is governed as a single municipality.

History

Arrival of humans

The first people of the Mariana Islands immigrated at some point between 4000 BC and 2000 BC from Southeast Asia. After first contact with Spaniards, they eventually became known as the Chamorros, a Spanish word similar to Chamori, the name of the indigenous caste system's higher division.

The ancient people of the Marianas raised colonnades of megalithic capped pillars called latte stones upon which they built their homes. The Spanish reported that by the time of their arrival, the largest of these were already in ruins, and that the Chamorros believed the ancestors who had erected the pillars lived in an era when people possessed supernatural abilities.

Archeologists in 2013 posited that the first people to settle in the Marianas may have made what was at that point the longest uninterrupted ocean-crossing voyage in human history, and that archeological evidence indicates Tinian may have been the first Pacific island outside of Asia to have been settled.

Spanish possession

Old Spanish Church Tower
Colonial tower, a vestige of the former Spanish colony

The first European explorer of the area, the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, arrived in 1521. He landed on Guam, the southernmost island of the Marianas, and claimed the archipelago for Spain. The Spanish ships were met offshore by the native Chamorros, who delivered refreshments and then helped themselves to a small boat belonging to Magellan's fleet. This led to a cultural clash: in Chamorro tradition, little property was private and taking something one needed, such as a boat for fishing, did not count as stealing. The Spanish did not understand this custom, and fought the Chamorros until the boat was recovered. Three days after he had been welcomed on his arrival, Magellan fled the archipelago. Spain regarded the islands as annexed and later made them part of the Spanish East Indies (1565). In 1734, the Spanish built a royal palace in Guam for the governor of the islands. Its remains are visible even in the 21st century; see the Plaza de España (Hagåtña) article.

Guam operated as an important stopover between Manila and Mexico for galleons carrying gold between the Philippines and Spain. Some galleons sunk in Guam remain.

In 1668, Father Diego Luis de San Vitores renamed the islands Las Marianas in honor of his patroness the Spanish regent Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), widow of Felipe IV (reigned 1621–1655).

Most of the islands' native population (90–95%) died from Spanish diseases or married non-Chamorro settlers under Spanish rule. New settlers, primarily from the Philippines and the Caroline Islands, were broughtTemplate:By whom? to repopulate the islands. The Chamorro population gradually recovered, and Chamorro, Filipino, and Carolinian languages and other ethnic differences remain in the Marianas.

During the 17th century, Spanish colonists forcibly moved the Chamorros to Guam, to encourage assimilation and conversion to Roman Catholicism. By the time they were allowed to return to the Northern Marianas, many Carolinians from present-day eastern Yap State and western Chuuk State had settled in the Marianas. Both languages, as well as English, are now official in the Commonwealth.

Carolinian immigration

The Northern Marianas experienced an influx of immigration from the Carolines during the 19th century. Both this Carolinian subethnicity and Carolinians in the Carolines archipelago refer to themselves as the Refaluwasch. The indigenous Chamoru word for the same group of people is gu'palao. They are usually referred to simply as "Carolinians", though unlike the other two monikers, this can also mean those who actually live in the Carolines and who may have no affiliation with the Marianas.

The conquering Spanish did not focus attempts at cultural suppression against Carolinian immigrants, whose immigration they allowed during a period when the indigenous Chamoru majority was being subjugated with land alienation, forced relocations and internment. Carolinians in the Marianas continue to be fluent in the languageTemplate:Which?, and have maintained many of the cultural distinctions and traditions of their ethnicity's land of ancestral origin.

German and Japanese possession

Korean Cafe in Saipan
Saipan under the administration of Japan

Following its loss during the Spanish–American War of 1898, Spain ceded Guam to the United States and sold the remainder of the Marianas (i.e., the Northern Marianas), along with the Caroline Islands, to Germany under the German–Spanish Treaty of 1899. Germany administered the islands as part of its colony of German New Guinea and did little in terms of development.

Early in World War I, Japan declared war on Germany and invaded the Northern Marianas. In 1919, the League of Nations awarded all of Germany's islands in the Pacific Ocean located north of the Equator, including the Northern Marianas, under mandate to Japan. Under this arrangement, the Japanese thus administered the Northern Marianas as part of the South Pacific Mandate. During the Japanese period, sugar cane became the main industry of the islands. Garapan on Saipan was developed as a regional capital, and numerous Japanese (including ethnic Koreans, Okinawan, and Taiwanese) migrated to the islands. In the December 1939 census, the total population of the South Pacific Mandate was 129,104, of whom 77,257 were Japanese (including ethnic Taiwanese and Koreans). On Saipan the pre-war population comprised 29,348 Japanese settlers and 3,926 Chamorro and Caroline Islanders; Tinian had 15,700 Japanese settlers (including 2,700 ethnic Koreans and 22 ethnic Chamorro).

World War II

On December 8, 1941, hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces from the Marianas launched an invasion of Guam. Chamorros from the Northern Marianas, which had been under Japanese rule for more than 20 years, were brought to Guam to assist the Japanese administration. This, combined with the harsh treatment of Guamanian Chamorros during the 31-month occupation, created a rift that would become the main reason Guamanians rejected the reunification referendum approved by the Northern Marianas in the 1960s.

Marine infantrymen on Saipan
Marine infantrymen in Garapan, Saipan

On June 15, 1944, near the end of World War II, the United States military invaded the Mariana Islands, starting the Battle of Saipan, which ended on July 9. Of the 30,000 Japanese troops defending Saipan, fewer than 1,000 remained alive at the battle's end. Over 20,000 Japanese civilians were also killed, or committed suicide rather than be captured. U.S. forces then recaptured Guam on July 21, and invaded Tinian on July 24; a year later Tinian was the takeoff point for the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Rota was left untouched (and isolated) until the Japanese surrender in August 1945, owing to its military insignificance.

The war did not end for everyone with the signing of the armistice. The last group of Japanese holdouts surrendered on Saipan on December 1, 1945. On Guam, Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi, unaware that the war had ended, hid in a jungle cave in the Talofofo area until 1972.

Japanese nationals were eventually repatriated to the Japanese home islands.

United States Commonwealth

See also: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Saipan
The island of Saipan.

After Japan's defeat in World War II, the Northern Marianas were administered by the United States pursuant to Security Council Resolution 21 as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which gave responsibility for defense and foreign affairs to the United States. Four referenda offering integration with Guam or changes to the islands' status were held in 1958, 1961, 1963 and 1969. On each occasion, a majority voted in favor of integration with Guam, but this did not happen: Guam rejected integration in a 1969 referendum. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence, but instead to forge closer links with the United States. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972 and a covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the United States was approved in a 1975 referendum. A new government and constitution came into effect in 1978 after being approved in a 1977 referendum. The United Nations approved this arrangement pursuant to Security Council Resolution 683. Like other U.S. territories, the islands do not have representation in the U.S. Senate, but, since 2009, are represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by a delegate who may vote in committee but not on the House floor.

Geography

Anatahan aerial
Anatahan Island.
Northern Mariana Islands map
Map of the Northern Mariana Islands.
See also: Extreme points of the Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands, together with Guam to the south, compose the Mariana Islands archipelago. The southern islands are limestone, with level terraces and fringing coral reefs. The northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on several islands, including Anatahan, Pagan, and Agrihan. The volcano on Agrihan has the highest elevation at 3,166 feet (965 m).

Anatahan Volcano is a small volcanic island 80 miles (130 km) north of Saipan. It is about 6 miles (10 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide. Anatahan began erupting from its east crater on May 10, 2003. It has since alternated between eruptive and calm periods. On April 6, 2005, an estimated 50,000,000 cubic feet (1,416,000 m3) of ash and rock were ejected, causing a large, black cloud to drift south over Saipan and Tinian.

Climate

The Northern Mariana Islands have a tropical marine climate moderated by seasonal northeast trade winds, with little seasonal temperature variation. The dry season runs from December to June; the rainy season runs from July to November and can include typhoons. The Guinness Book of World Records has cited Saipan as having the most equable temperature in the world.

Demographics

See also: List of U.S. states and territories by population
Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1960 6,000 —    
1970 9,436 +57.3%
1980 16,780 +77.8%
1990 43,345 +158.3%
2000 69,221 +59.7%
2010 53,883 −22.2%
2016 53,467 −0.8%

According to the 2010 census, the population of the CNMI as of April 1, 2010, was 53,883, down from 69,221 in 2000, a decrease of 22.2%. The decrease was reportedly due to a combination of factors including the demise of the garment industry (the vast majority of whose employees were females from China), economic crises, and a decline in tourism, one of the CNMI's primary sources of revenue.

  • Asian (including Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Bangladeshi and other Asian) 49.9%
  • Chamorro, Carolinian, Palauan and Other Pacific Islander 34.9%
  • Multiracial 12.7%
  • Others 2.5%

Except for the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands are the least populous area in the United States (with fewer people than any of the other 55 areas, namely the 50 states, 4 inhabited territories and federal district).

Education

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System operates public schools in the commonwealth and there are numerous private schools. Northern Marianas College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and offers a range of programs similar to other small U.S. community colleges.

Culture

Chamorro performers
Chamorro people

Much of the Chamorro culture in the Mariana Islands was heavily influenced by the Spanish during the Spanish era, as well as by the Germans and Japanese. In Chamorro culture, respect is the biggest thing taught, and one common display is the tradition of "manngingi'". This tradition has been around for centuries and involves an elder and a young Chamorro child. The child takes the hand of the elder, places it on their nose and says ñot to the men and ñora to the women with the elders responding diosti ayudi, meaning "God help you".

The Carolinian culture is very similar to the Chamorro culture with respect being very important. The Carolinian culture can be traced back to Yap and Chuuk, where the Carolinians originated.

Cuisine

Much of Chamorro cuisine is influenced by various cultures. Examples of popular foods of foreign origin include various types of sweet or savory empanada, originally introduced from Spain, and pancit, a noodle dish from the Philippines.

Archeological evidence reveals that rice has been cultivated in the Marianas since prehistoric times. Red rice made with achoti is a distinct staple food that strongly distinguishes Chamorro cuisine from that of other Pacific islands. It is commonly served for special events, such as parties (gupot or "fiestas"), novenas, and high school or college graduations. Fruits such as lemmai, mangga, niyok, and bilimbines are included in various local recipes. Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and American cuisine are also commonly available.

Local specialities include kelaguen, a dish in which meat is cooked in whole or in part by the action of citric acid rather than heat; tinaktak, a meat dish made with coconut milk; and kå'du fanihi (flying fox/fruit bat soup). Fruit bats and local birds have become scarce in modern times, primarily due to the World War II-era introduction of the brown tree snake, which decimated the populations of local birds and threatens the fanihi population as well; hunting them is now illegal.

The Marianas and the Hawaiian islands are the world's foremost consumers, per capita, of Spam, with Guam at the top of the list, and Hawaii second (details regarding the rest of the Marianas are often absent from statistics). Spam was introduced to the islands by the American military as war rations during the World War II era.

Religion

Owing to the Spanish missionaries in the Marianas, a large majority of Chamorros and Carolinians practice Roman Catholicism, including the use of rosaries and novenas. The Japanese occupation had the effect of creating a sizable Buddhist community which remained even after their departure.

Sports

Team sports popular in the United States were introduced to the Northern Mariana Islands by American soldiers during World War II. Baseball is the islands' most popular sport. CNMI teams have made appearances in the Little League World Series (in the Little, Junior, Senior and Big league divisions) as well as winning gold medals in the Micronesian Games and South Pacific Games.

Basketball and mixed martial arts are also popular in the islands. Trench Wars is the CNMI's Mixed Martial Arts brand. Fighters from the CNMI have competed in the Pacific Xtreme Combat.

Other sports in the CNMI include volleyball, tennis, soccer, outrigger sailing, softball, beach volleyball, rugby, golf, boxing, kickboxing, tae kwon do, track and field, Swimming, Triathlon, and American football.

Images


Northern Mariana Islands Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.