Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; Chamorro: Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; Refaluwasch or Carolinian: Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago except the southernmost island of the chain, Guam, which is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost point (in terms of jurisdiction) and territory of the United States.

The United States Department of the Interior cites a landmass of 183.5 square miles (475.26 km2).[4] According to the 2010 United States Census, 53,883 people were living in the CNMI at that time.[5] 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 Pågan, which for various reasons over the centuries has experienced major population flux, but formerly had residents numbering in the thousands.[6][7]

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.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

  • Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas  (Chamorro)
  • Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas  (Carolinian)
Anthem: Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi  (Chamorro)
"Satil Matawal Pacifiko"  (Carolinian)
"In the Middle of the Sea"  (English)
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
Location of Northern Mariana Islands
and largest city
15°11′22″N 145°44′39″E / 15.189466°N 145.744256°ECoordinates: 15°11′22″N 145°44′39″E / 15.189466°N 145.744256°E
Official languages
Ethnic groups
Demonym(s)Northern Mariana Islander (formal)
Mariana (diminutive form)
Chamorro (colloquial)[2]
CountryUnited States
GovernmentTerritorial presidential constitutional republic
• President
Donald Trump (R)
• Governor
Ralph Torres (R)
Arnold Palacios (R)
• Delegate
Gregorio Sablan (I)
LegislatureCommonwealth Legislature
House of Representatives
Commonwealth in political union with the United States
• Part of the Spanish East Indies
• Part of German New Guinea
• Part of South Pacific Mandate
• Covenant
• Commonwealth
1 January 1978
• End of trusteeship
4 November 1986
• Total
464 km2 (179 sq mi) (n/a)
• Water (%)
• 2017 estimate
55,144 (n/a)
• 2010 census
53,833 (n/a)
• Density
113/km2 (292.7/sq mi) (n/a)
GDP (PPP)2013 estimate
• Total
$682 million[3] (n/a)
• Per capita
$13,300[3] (n/a)
CurrencyUnited States dollar (USD)
Time zoneUTC+10 (ChST)
Date formatMM/DD/YYYY
Driving sideright
Calling code+1 670
ISO 3166 codeMP


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 that Tinian might have been the first Pacific island outside of Asia to be settled.[8]

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%)[9] died from European diseases carried by the Spaniards or married non-Chamorro settlers under Spanish rule. New settlers, primarily from the Philippines and the Caroline Islands, were brought to repopulate the islands. The Chamorro population gradually recovered, and Chamorro, Filipino, and Refaluwasch 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 language, and have maintained many of the cultural distinctions and traditions of their ethnicity's land of ancestral origin.[10]

German possession and Japanese LON mandate

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.[11] Many Japanese civilians were also killed, by disease, starvation, enemy fire, and suicide. Approximately 1,000 civilians committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs at Mt. Marpi or Marpi Point.[12] 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 Possession (UN trusteeship)

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 commonwealth status began in 1972 and a covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the United States[13] 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. The commonwealth does not have voting representation in the United States Congress, but, since 2009, has been represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by a delegate who may participate in debate but may not vote on the floor. The commonwealth has no representation in the U.S. Senate.[14]


Northern Mariana Islands map
Map 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).[15] An expedition organized by John D. Mitchler and Reid Larson made the first complete ascent to the summit of this peak on June 1, 2018.[16]

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.[15] 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.[17]


The Northern Mariana Islands have a tropical rainforest 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 said Saipan has the most equable climate in the world.[18]

Politics and government

The Northern Mariana Islands have a multiparty presidential representative democratic system. They are a commonwealth of the United States. Federal funds to the commonwealth are administered by the Office of Insular Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Replicating the separation of powers elsewhere in the United States, the executive branch is headed by the Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands; legislative power is vested in the bicameral Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature and the judicial power is vested in the CNMI Supreme Court and the trial courts inferior to it.

Some critics, including the author of the political website Saipan Sucks, say that politics in the Northern Mariana Islands is often "more a function of family relationships and personal loyalties" where the size of one's extended family is more important than a candidate's personal qualifications. They charge that this is nepotism carried out within the trappings of democracy.[20][21]

In April 2012, anticipating a loss of funding by 2014, the commonwealth's public pension fund declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[22] The retirement fund is a defined benefit-type pension plan and was only partially funded by the government, with only $268.4 million in assets and $911 million in liabilities. The plan experienced low investment returns and a benefit structure that had been increased without raises in funding.[23]

In August 2012, cries for impeachment[24] arose, as the sitting governor Benigno Fitial was being held responsible for withholding payments from the pension fund,[25] not paying the local utility (Commonwealth Utilities or "CUC") for government offices,[26] cutting off funding to the only hospital in the Northern Marianas,[27][28] interfering with the delivery of a subpoena to his attorney general,[29] withholding required funds from the public schools,[30][31] and for signing a sole source $190 million contract for power generation.[32][33]

Administrative divisions

The islands total 179.01 square miles (463.63 km2). The table gives an overview, with the individual islands from north to south:

No. Island Area Population
Height Highest peak Location
sq mi km2 feet m
Northern Islands (Northern Islands Municipality)
1 Farallon de Pajaros (Urracas) 0.985 2.55 1,047 319 20°33′N 144°54′E / 20.550°N 144.900°E
2 Maug Islands[n 1] 0.822 2.13 745 227 (North Island) 20°02′N 145°19′E / 20.033°N 145.317°E
3 Asuncion 2.822 7.31 2,923 891 19°43′N 145°41′E / 19.717°N 145.683°E
4 Agrihan (Agrigan)[n 2] 16.80 43.51 3,166 965 Mount Agrihan 18°46′N 145°40′E / 18.767°N 145.667°E
5 Pagan[n 3] 18.24 47.24 1,900 579 Mount Pagan 18°08′36″N 145°47′39″E / 18.14333°N 145.79417°E
6 Alamagan 4.29 11.11 2,441 744 Alamagan 17°35′N 145°50′E / 17.583°N 145.833°E
7 Guguan 1.494 3.87 988 301 17°20′N 145°51′E / 17.333°N 145.850°E
8 Zealandia Bank >0.0 >0.0 >0 >0 16°45′N 145°42′E / 16.750°N 145.700°E
9 Sarigan[n 4] 1.92 4.97 1,801 549 16°43′N 145°47′E / 16.717°N 145.783°E
10 Anatahan[n 2] 12.05 31.21 2,582 787 16°22′N 145°40′E / 16.367°N 145.667°E
11 Farallon de Medinilla 0.328 0.85 266 81 16°01′N 146°04′E / 16.017°N 146.067°E
Southern Islands (3 municipalities)
12 Saipan 44.55 115.38 48,220 1,555 474 Mount Tapochau 15°11′06″N 145°44′28″E / 15.18500°N 145.74111°E
13 Tinian 39.00 101.01 3,136 558 170 Kastiyu (Lasso Hill) 14°57′12″N 145°38′54″E / 14.95333°N 145.64833°E
14 Aguijan (Agiguan)[n 5] 2.74 7.10 515 157 Alutom 14°42′N 145°18′E / 14.700°N 145.300°E
15 Rota 32.97 85.39 2,527 1,611 491 Mt. Manira 14°08′37″N 145°11′08″E / 14.14361°N 145.18556°E
Northern Mariana Islands 179.01 463.63 53,883 3,166 965 Mount Agrihan 14°08' to 20°33'N,
144°54° to 146°04'E
  1. ^ Japanese military occupation 1939 to 1944
  2. ^ a b evacuated 1990 due to volcanic eruptions
  3. ^ evacuated 1981 due to volcanic eruptions
  4. ^ formerly inhabited (population of 21 in 1935, but only 2 in 1968)
  5. ^ part of Tinian Municipality
  1. ^ Japanese military occupation 1939 to 1944
  2. ^ a b evacuated 1990 due to volcanic eruptions
  3. ^ evacuated 1981 due to volcanic eruptions
  4. ^ formerly inhabited (population of 21 in 1935, but only 2 in 1968)
  5. ^ part of Tinian Municipality

Administratively, the CNMI is divided into four municipalities:

The Northern Islands (north of Saipan) form the Northern Islands Municipality. The three main islands of the Southern Islands form the municipalities of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, with uninhabited Aguijan forming part of Tinian municipality.

Because of volcanic threat, the northern islands have been evacuated. Human habitation was limited to Agrihan, Pagan, and Alamagan, but population varied due to various economic factors, including children's education. The 2010 census showed no residents in Northern Islands municipality and the Northern Islands' mayor office is located in "exile" on Saipan.

Saipan, Tinian, and Rota have the only ports and harbors, and are the only permanently populated islands.

For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau reckons the four municipalities as county equivalents.

Political status

In 1947, the Northern Mariana Islands became part of the post–World War II United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The United States became the TTPI's administering authority under the terms of a trusteeship agreement. In 1976, Congress approved the mutually negotiated Covenant to establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) government adopted its own constitution in 1977, and the new government took office in January 1978. Implementation of Covenant, which took effect on January 1, 1978, was completed on November 3, 1986, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation no. 5564; which conferred United States citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents. This allowed the CNMI to be represented to the United States Government in Washington, DC by a Resident Representative, elected at-large by CNMI voters and whose office was paid for by the CNMI government. The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 ("CNRA"), approved by the U.S. Congress on May 8, 2008, established a CNMI delegate's seat; Democrat Gregorio Sablan was elected in November 2008 as the first CNMI delegate and took office in the 111th Congress. Like the other five delegates, he can participate in debates and vote in committee but has no vote on the floor of the House of Representatives; and has no role in the U.S. Senate, but is equal to a Senator when he serves on a conference committee.

On December 22, 1990, the United Nations Trusteeship Council terminated the TTPI as it applied to the CNMI and five other of the TTPI's original seven districts (the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap)), this was acknowledged in United Nations Security Council Resolution 683 passed on the same day.

TTPI High Court judges
TTPI High Court judges

Under the Covenant, in general, United States federal law applies to CNMI. However, the CNMI is outside the customs territory of the United States and, although the internal revenue code does apply in the form of a local income tax, the income tax system is largely locally determined. According to the Covenant, the federal minimum wage and federal immigration laws "will not apply to the Northern Mariana Islands except in the manner and to the extent made applicable to them by the Congress by law after termination of the Trusteeship Agreement."[34] The local control of minimum wage was superseded by the United States Congress in 2007.

Initially under the Covenant a separate immigration system existed in the CNMI, and U.S. immigration laws did not apply. But on November 28, 2009 the CNRA unilaterally amended the Covenant to match US law; specifically, CNRA § 702(a) amended the Covenant to state that "the provisions of the 'immigration laws' (as defined in section 101(a)(17) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(17))) shall apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands." Further, under CNRA § 702(a), the "immigration laws," as well as the amendments to the Covenant, "shall...supersede and replace all laws, provisions, or programs of the Commonwealth relating to the admission of aliens and the removal of aliens from the Commonwealth."[35] Transition to U.S. immigration laws began November 28, 2009.[36][37]

The CNMI has a United States territorial court which exercises jurisdiction over the District of the Northern Mariana Islands (DNMI), which is coterminous with the CNMI. The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands was established by act of Congress in 1977, and began operations in January 1978. The court sits on the island of Saipan, but may sit other places within the commonwealth. The district court has the same jurisdiction as all other United States district courts, including diversity jurisdiction and bankruptcy jurisdiction. Appeals are taken to the Ninth Circuit.


The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands benefits from its trading relationship with the federal government of the United States and cheap trained labor from Asia. Historically, the CNMI's economy has relied on tourism, mostly from Japan, and on the garment manufacturing sector. The economy has declined since quotas were lifted in 2005, eventually leading all the garment factories on Saipan to close by February 2009. Tourism also declined after 2005 when Japan Airlines stopped serving the Marianas.[38]

The Northern Mariana Islands had successfully used its position as a free trade area with the U.S., while at the same time not being subject to the same labor laws. For example, the $3.05 per hour minimum wage in the commonwealth, which lasted from 1997 to 2007, was lower than in the U.S. and some other worker protections are weaker, leading to lower production costs. That allowed garments to be labeled "Made in USA" without having to comply with all U.S. labor laws. However, the U.S. minimum wage law signed by President Bush on May 25, 2007, resulted in stepped increases in the Northern Marianas' minimum wage, which allowed it to reach the U.S. level in 2015.[39] The first step (to $3.55) became effective July 25, 2007, and a yearly increase of $0.50 will take effect every May thereafter until the CNMI minimum wage equals the nationwide minimum wage. However, a law signed by President Obama in December 2009 delayed the yearly increase from May to September. As of September 30, 2014, the minimum wage is $6.05 per hour.[40]

The island's exemption from U.S. labor laws had led to many alleged exploitations including recent claims of sweatshops, child labor, child prostitution, and even forced abortions.[41][42]

An immigration system mostly outside of federal U.S. control (which ended on November 28, 2009) resulted in a large number of Chinese migrant workers (about 15,000 during the peak years) employed in the islands' garment trade. However, the lifting of World Trade Organization restrictions on Chinese imports to the U.S. in 2005 had put the commonwealth-based trade under severe pressure, leading to a number of recent factory closures. Adding to the U.S.-imposed scheduled wage increases, the garment industry became extinct by 2009.[43]

Agricultural production, primarily of tapioca, cattle, coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes, and melons exists but is relatively unimportant in the economy.

Non-native islanders are not allowed to own land, but can lease it.[44]


The islands have over 220 miles (350 km) of highways, three airports with paved runways (one about 9,800 feet [3,000 m] long; two around 6,600 feet [2,000 m]), three airports with unpaved runways, and one heliport. The main commercial airport is Saipan International Airport.

Mail service for the islands is provided by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Each major island has its own zip code in the 96950–96952 range, and the USPS two-letter abbreviation for the CNMI is MP.[45][46] For phone service, the islands are included in the North American Numbering Plan, using area code 670.[45]

Television service is provided by KPPI-LP, Channel 7, which simulcasts Guam's ABC affiliate KTGM, as well as WSZE, Channel 10, which simulcasts Guam's NBC affiliate KUAM-TV. About 10 radio stations broadcast within the CNMI.


Historical population
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%
2017 52,263−3.0%

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%.[47] 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.[37]

Except for the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands are the least populous sub-federal jurisdiction in the United States, with fewer people than any of the 50 states, the other commonwealth and three self-governing territories, and the District of Columbia.[48]


The official languages on the Northern Marianas Islands include Chamorro, Carolinian, and English. Many Philippine languages, Chinese, and other Pacific island languages are spoken on the Northern Mariana Islands.

Ethnic groups

  • 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%


Many people on the Northern Mariana Islands are Roman Catholic or have traditional beliefs. According to the Pew Research Center, 2010:[49]


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.


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.


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 have become scarce in modern times on several islands, primarily due to the overharvesting of the species and loss of habitat; hunting them is now illegal even though poaching still occurs.

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.


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. Due to influence of the United States, diverse denominations of Protestantism also entered the islands.


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, which hosted the official 2009 Oceania Basketball Tournament. Trench Wars is the CNMI's Mixed Martial Arts brand.[50] Fighters from the CNMI have competed in the Pacific Xtreme Combat as well as the UFC.

Other sports in the CNMI include Ultimate Frisbee[51], volleyball, tennis, soccer, outrigger sailing, softball, beach volleyball, rugby, golf, boxing, kickboxing, tae kwon do, track and field, Swimming, Triathlon, and American football.

See also


  1. ^ Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  2. ^ "AAPI - Asian American and Pacific Islander - Primer". Environmental Protection Agency. June 28, 2006. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Australia-Oceania :: Guam (Territory of the US)". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  4. ^ Archived September 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Archived September 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Todiño, Junhan B. (June 10, 2015). "US military 'not sensitive to indigenous, cultural factors,' says Mayor Aldan". Marianas Variety. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  7. ^ Villegas Zotomayor, Alexie (January 15, 2015). "Pagan has 8 residents". Marianas Variety. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  8. ^ Zotomayor, Alexie (March 11, 2013). "Archaeologist says migration to Marianas longest ocean-crossing in human history". Marianas Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  9. ^ "Culture of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands". Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  10. ^ Cunningham, Lawrence J. (1992). Ancient Chamorro Society. Bess Press. pp. 193–195. ISBN 9781880188057.
  11. ^ "Battle Of Saipan". Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  12. ^ Trefalt, Beatrice (November 2009). "After the Battle for Saipan: the Internment of Japanese Civilians at Camp Susupe, 1944–1946". Japanese Studies. 29 (3): 337–352. doi:10.1080/10371390903298037 – via Taylor & Francis Online.
  13. ^ The Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union With the United States of America, Pub.L. 94–241, 90 Stat. 263, enacted March 24, 1976
  14. ^ "Pacific Magazine: Sablan WIll Stand For NMI Delegate Position". November 21, 2008. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008.
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Further reading

External links

News media
2008 United States House of Representatives election in the Northern Mariana Islands

The United States House of Representatives election in the Northern Mariana Islands, 2008 took place on November 4, 2008 and was the Northern Mariana Islands' first election of a delegate to the United States House of Representatives. Since the CNMI traditionally had general elections in odd-numbered years, the November 2008 ballot contained only this office.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was the last United States jurisdiction to receive congressional representation in the United States House of Representatives (in the form of a non-voting delegate).Gregorio Sablan, who ran as an independent, won the election and became the first Northern Mariana Islands Delegate in Congressional history. He assumed office in January 2009.

2016 United States presidential election in the Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands did not participate in the November 8, 2016 general election for President of the United States, because it is a territory and not a state. However, the five non-incorporated territories that send delegates to the House of Representatives participated in the presidential primaries of both major parties.

In the presidential primaries, voters expressed their preferences for the Democratic and Republican parties' respective nominees for president. Registered members of each party only voted in their party's primary, while voters who were unaffiliated chose any one primary in which to vote. The caucuses were held in March 2016.

2018 Northern Mariana Islands general election

The 2018 Northern Mariana Islands general election were held on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, corresponding with the 2018 United States midterm elections. Originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, the elections were delayed by one week due to the impact and aftermath of Typhoon Yutu. Early voting was held from Tuesday, November 6th, until Monday, November 12, 2018. An estimated 18,975 voters were eligible to vote in the 2018 election.Ninety-seven candidates competed for 45 elected positions across the Northern Mariana Islands. High-profile races included the 2018 gubernatorial election between incumbent governor Ralph Torres, a Republican, and former governor Juan Babauta, as well as the race for non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives between incumbent Gregorio Sablan and challenger Angel Demapan.

2018 Northern Mariana Islands gubernatorial election

The 2018 Northern Mariana gubernatorial election took place on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, to elect the Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands to a four-year term in office. The election, which corresponds to the larger Northern Mariana general election and the United States midterms, was originally scheduled to be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. However, Governor Ralph Torres postponed all elections in the territory until November 13 due to the impact of Typhoon Yutu, which struck the Northern Mariana Islands as a Category 5 storm in October 2018, shortly before the planned elections.Incumbent Republican Governor Ralph Torres, who became governor in December 2015 following the death in office of the late Governor Eloy Inos, sought election to a full term.Unlike past gubernatorial elections, there was no runoff election in 2018, since there are only two candidates contesting the gubernatorial contest, incumbent Ralph Torres and former Gov. Juan Babauta.On November 13, 2018, Governor Ralph Torres won his first full term as Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Arnold Palacios

Arnold Indalecio Palacios (born August 22, 1955) is a Northern Mariana Islands politician and a member of the Republican Party, the 12th and current lieutenant governor of the Northern Mariana Islands since 2019. He previously represented Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands Senate.

Palacios is a former Speaker of the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives. He was sworn in on January 14, 2008, as the Speaker of the House's 16th Legislature. He represented Election District 3 in the House, which encompasses portions of Saipan and the Northern Islands.Palacios was the running mate of four-time gubernatorial candidate Heinz Hofschneider in the 2009 election. If elected, Palacios would have become the Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands in 2010. Instead, he was elected in 2018 with incumbent Governor Ralph Torres to begin a term in January 2019.

Palacios is married to Wella Sablan Palacios and they have four children - Arnold Gerard, Nicole, Tiana and Eric. Palacios graduated from Portland State University.

District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands

The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands (in case citations, D. N. Mar. I.) is a federal territorial court whose jurisdiction comprises the United States-affiliated Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). It was established by Act of Congress in 1977, pursuant to an international agreement between the United States and the CNMI that brought the CNMI under United States sovereignty. The court began hearing cases in January 1978. The court regularly sits in Saipan but may sit elsewhere in the CNMI. The court has the same jurisdiction as United States District Courts, including diversity jurisdiction and bankruptcy jurisdiction. However, the District Court is not actually a true (i.e., Article III) U.S. District Court, and because of that its judge is appointed for a 10-year term instead of for life. Appeals are taken to the Ninth Circuit.

Like most federal judges, judges in this court are appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation. Judges may serve more than one term, subject to the standard nominating process.

The United States is represented in civil and criminal litigation in the court by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The first District Judge appointed was Alfred Laureta, who served from 1978 until 1988. His successor, Alex R. Munson, was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, and confirmed by the Senate in 1988. Munson was nominated for a second ten-year term by President Bill Clinton and was confirmed by the Senate in 1998. He took senior status effective February 28, 2010. On January 26, 2011, President Obama nominated Ramona Villagomez Manglona to be Judge for the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands for a term of ten years. The U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination by voice vote on July 26, 2011 and she received her commission on July 29, 2011. Her term will end on July 28, 2021.

The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands was established by Pub. L. 95-157, 91 Stat. 1265 (Nov. 8, 1977), and is codified at 48 U.S.C. § 1821, a nonpositive law title.

Education in the Northern Mariana Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System operates public schools in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has a self-governing government consisting of a locally elected governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature.Incumbent Governor Eloy S. Inos died on December 28, 2015 (local time in Seattle). According to Article III Section 7 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, "In case of the removal, death, or resignation of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall become governor and the president of the senate shall become lieutenant governor." Lieutenant Governor Ralph Torres became the governor, and President of the Senate Victor B. Hocog became lieutenant governor on December 28, 2015.

List of Governors of the Northern Mariana Islands

The following is a list of persons who served as Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands. The term of office is 4 years. The longest-serving governor in CNMI history is Pedro Tenorio, who served 12 years in office from 1982 to 1990 and again from 1998 to 2002.

Music of the Northern Mariana Islands

The music of the Northern Mariana Islands is dominated by the folk music of the Chamorros, which remains an important part of the islands' culture, though elements of music left by American, German, Spanish and Japanese colonizers are also in evidence. There are both Carolinian and Chamorro traditional chant styles. A variant of the Spanish cha-cha-chá is popular, as is a Carolinian "stick dance" which combines improvised percussion and foot stomping. A well-known stick dance group is the Talabwog Men Stick Dancers.

The national anthem of the Northern Mariana Islands is "Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi" (in Chamorro, "Satil Matawal Pacifico" in Carolinian), which was adopted on October 1996. The song's melody comes from a German tune, "Im Schoensten Wiesengrunde".Music festivals in the Northern Mariana Islands include the Fiestan Luta, an annual celebration.

National Register of Historic Places listings in the Northern Mariana Islands

This is a list of the buildings, sites, districts, and objects listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the Northern Mariana Islands. There currently 37 listed sites spread across the four municipalities of the Northern Mariana Islands. There are no sites listed on any of the islands that make up the Northern Islands Municipality.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted April 12, 2019.

Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature

The Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature is the territorial legislature of the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The legislative branch of the territory is bicameral, consisting of a 20-member lower House of Representatives, and an upper house Senate with nine Senators. Representatives serve two-year terms and Senators serve four-year terms, both without term limits. The territorial legislature meets in the commonwealth capital of Saipan.

Similar to the United States Congress, the Senate seats are divided into three districts (three seats each) whose boundaries are identical to those of the municipalities (except that the barely inhabited Northern Islands is incorporated with Saipan). The Constitution provides for the creation of a fourth district for the Northern Islands when the population exceeds 1,000. The Senate seats are divided into two classes, similar to the classes of Senators in the United States, with one class consisting of a single Senator from each district, and the second class consisting of two Senators from each district. In the first election after the ratification of the Constitution, the Senator with the third-highest number of votes held their seat for two years. Requirements for Senator are a minimum age of 25, residence in the Commonwealth for five years, and a registered voter in the district represented. The Constitution permits a higher residence requirement to be legislated.

The House seats are elected from seven districts. Two districts have one seat each, one for Rota and Aguijan and the other for Tinian. The remaining five districts elect multiple members, three with two members, and two with six members, and are all located on Saipan, with one also including the Northern Islands. The Constitution provides for the Northern Islands to be a separate district when the population exceeds the number of people represented by any Representative. Reapportionment occurs every 10 years following the census. Requirements for Representative are a minimum age of 21, residence in the Commonwealth for three years, and a registered voter in the district represented. As with the Senate, the Constitution permits the Legislature to enact a higher residence requirement.

The Legislature also has a youth congress, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Youth Congress.

Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives

The Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives is the lower house of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature.

In the 2007 election cycle, the CNMI House membership was increased from 18 to 20. Representatives serve two-year terms and are elected from seven election districts:

District 1: Saipan (6 seats)

District 2: Saipan (2 seats)

District 3: Saipan & the Northern Islands (6 seats)

District 4: Saipan (2 seats)

District 5: Saipan (2 seats)

District 6: Tinian (1 seat)

District 7: Rota & Aguiguan (1 seat)In the November 2007 general election, which elected the 16th House, Republicans won a majority (12 seats) and took control of the House in January 2008.

Northern Mariana Islands Senate

The is the upper house of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature. The Senate consists of nine senators representing three senatorial districts (Saipan & the Northern Islands, Tinian & Aguijan, and Rota), each a multi-member constituency with three senators.

In the November 2007 elections, the three senators up for re-election were all re-elected to another four-year term in the 16th and 17th Senate. The Covenant Party, which lost control of the House, entered into coalition with the Democrats and a lone Independent over the Senate's leadership and voting agenda.

The CNMI Senate was controlled in 2016 by a Republican majority under Senate President Franciso Borja.Maria Frica Pangelinan was the first woman to serve in the Senate.

Northern Mariana Islands Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1 CMC § 3101, is the highest court of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), exercising civil and criminal appellate jurisdiction over commonwealth law matters. It should not be confused with the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, which exercises jurisdiction over federal law. The Supreme Court sits in the capital, Saipan, and consists of a Chief Justice and two Associate Justices. The CNMI has no intermediate appellate commonwealth law court, which means that the CNMI Supreme Court hears appeals directly from the trial-level Superior Court.

Northern Mariana Islands national football team

The Northern Mariana Islands national football team represents the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in international men's football. The team is controlled by the governing body for football in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, which is a member of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) and an associate member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The federation is not a member of the world governing body FIFA and so whilst the national team is eligible to enter AFC and EAFF-run competitions, they are currently ineligible for global competitions such as the FIFA World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup. As such, they do not have an official FIFA ranking. However, the team have been consistently ranked as one of the worst teams in the world on the Elo ratings and are in fact, at July 2016 rated as the worst men's senior international team in the world in a ratings system that also includes a number of other non-FIFA teams. Following the completion of the preliminary qualifying round for the 2017 EAFF East Asian Cup the team have won only one official competitive match against international opposition and have a goal difference of −78 in official matches. The team have never qualified for the finals of a major tournament and beyond friendlies and qualifying matches, their only official competition has been in an exhibition tournament in the regional Micronesian Games in 1998, which they won, to date their only tournament success.

They are one of the youngest international teams, having played their first match in an exhibition tournament associated with the 1998 Micronesian Games. Following this appearance, they played only one more match, against the Federated States of Micronesia before the original governing body for football in the country, the Northern Mariana Islands Soccer Federation, became defunct and the team withdrew from international competition. During the time of the Northern Mariana Islands Soccer Federation, eligibility criteria for the national team were quite lax, a minimum residency requirement of two years meant that the national team often included a number of contractors working on Saipan who were not of Northern Marianan heritage. Following the foundation of a new governing body, the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, the national team was reestablished and, having resigned their associate membership of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), they joined the EAFF in 2006, becoming full members in 2008.

Since that date, their international appearances have mainly been restricted to qualifying competitions for the EAFF East Asian Cup, although they also attempted to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup once, having been admitted as associate members in 2009, and have played several friendly matches against neighboring nation Guam, in which the two countries compete for the perpetual trophy, the Marianas Cup.

Competitive success has been hard to come by for the team, they had to wait until June 2010 to register their first draw under the auspices of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, a 1–1 draw in a Marianas Cup match against Guam. A further four years passed before their first victory, a shock 2–1 win against Macau in July 2014 in EAFF Cup qualifying. As of July 2016 the team have failed to win another competitive international.

Republican Party (Northern Mariana Islands)

The CNMI Republican Party is a political party in the Northern Mariana Islands. The Northern Mariana Islands Republican Party is now associated with the United States Republican Party though no Northern Mariana Islands politicians have achieved high-ranking positions in the mainland United States.


Saipan (, formerly in Spanish: Saipán) is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. According to 2017 estimates by the United States Census Bureau, Saipan's population was 52,263.

The Commonwealth's center of government is located in the village of Capitol Hill on the island. Since the entire island is organized as a single municipality, most publications designate Saipan as the Commonwealth's capital.

The current Mayor of Saipan is David M. Apatang, who was sworn into office on June 12, 2015.

United States congressional delegations from the Northern Mariana Islands

The United States congressional delegations from the Northern Mariana Islands consist of single Delegate elected at-large. The first non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives, Gregorio Sablan, was elected in 2008 and took office in 2009.

Climate data for Saipan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 87
Average high °F (°C) 81.2
Daily mean °F (°C) 77.3
Average low °F (°C) 73.4
Record low °F (°C) 68
Average rainfall inches (mm) 3.84
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 inch) 18 16 15 17 18 20 24 24 23 25 21 19 240
Source: [19]
 Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
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