The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), is one of the two insular area Commonwealths of the United States of America, the other being Puerto Rico. Both can also be classified as unincorporated, organized territories of the United States.
The Northern Mariana Islands (between latitude 13-20 north and longitude 140 east) are part of the highest slopes of a massive mountain range rising out of the Mariana Trench, which creates a boundary between the Pacific and the Philippine Sea to the west. Eight of the islands in the north - Farallon de Pajaros, Asuncion, Pagan, Agrihan, Alamagan, Guguan, Sarigan and Anatahan - are active volcanoes; Maug is a cluster of three islets.
The Northern Mariana Islands are a United States Commonwealth (The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or "CNMI"), having a United States political status similar to that of Puerto Rico. Under the terms of the "Covenant" agreement that created the Commonwealth CNMI citizens have U.S. citizenship, and the CNMI is subject to U.S. federal laws except for certain Immigration, Minimum Wage, and Tax laws that are subject to local CNMI control. The CNMI has an elected Governor, Legislature and Municipal leaders; and the CNMI Judicial Branch has a Superior Court and a Commonwealth Supreme Court. Saipan Island is the Capital of the CNMI.
Archaeological evidence at Chalan Piao on Saipan indicates that the Northern Marianas were settled by an insular people originating in Southeast Asia. They made a distinctive form of red-slipped pottery, sometimes incised with lime-filled decoration, closely related to Philippine ceramics. By ad 800 a plain, unslipped pottery style was in use. Stone architecture had also developed, characterized by parallel rows of upright pillars topped with hemispheric capstones (halege). According to early Spanish accounts, the pillars were supports for structures called latte (for which term the culture is named), which may have served as houses or canoe sheds. Each village had from one to several latte structures. Stone and shell tools were used and betel nuts were chewed, as shown by extended burials most often located between the rows of latte.
The cultural diversity of the Northern Marianas has increased rapidly since the late 20th century. There are growing Filipino, Chinese, and Korean communities, although they have limited political representation. The Carolinian community, which has lived on Saipan since the 19th century, is represented in the legislature. The local Chamorro population, with its tradition of extended families, is dominant in political, economic, and cultural matters. A local arts council has promoted folk arts and cultural events in the community, and there are small museums and libraries. Public beach parks and preserves as well as golf courses and other sports facilities provide recreation; scuba diving is particularly popular among tourists.
On December 22, 1990, the Security Council of the United Nations terminated the TTPI as it applied to the CNMI and five other [the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap)] of the TTPI's original seven districts. Under the Covenant, in general, 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:"
In 1962 Saipan was selected as the capital of what is now the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, but was then a trust territory - established by the United Nations in 1947, and administered by the US federal government - which encompassed all the Micronesian islands under the Japanese from 1914-44. Among other things, the selection of Saipan resulted in greater development of certain areas of the island. Today, the area known as Capital hill (formerly Army Hill under the US Navy) is the seat of the executive and legislative branches of the Commonwealth government.
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 (CNMI) in Political Union with the United States. The CNMI Government adopted its own constitution in 1977, and the constitutional government took office in January1978. The Covenant was fully implemented on November 3, 1986, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation no. 5564, which conferred United States citizenship on legally qualified CNMI residents.
The Marianas Islands are governed under the constitution of 1978. The president of the United States is the head of state. The government is headed by a governor, who is popularly elected for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. There is a bicameral legislature. Members of the nine-seat Senate serve four-year terms, while members of the 18-seat House of Representatives serve two-year terms; all legislators are elected by popular vote. Administratively, the Northern Marianas are divided into four municipalities. Residents are U.S. citizens but do not vote in U.S. presidential elections.
The Northern Mariana Islands, east of the Philippines and south of Japan, include the islands of Rota, Saipan, Tinian, Pagan, Guguan, Agrihan, and Aguijan. Although sighted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 as he sailed for Spain, the islands were not settled by Europeans until 1668, when missionaries converted the indigenous Chamorro people to Catholicism. They were ruled successively by Spain, Germany, and Japan before they became a UN Trusteeship (administered by the U.S.) after World War II. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) became part of the United States in Nov. 1986. Spanish cultural traditions remain strong.
The Northern Mariana Islands comprise all of the Mariana Islands chain in the north west Pacific except for the island of Guam. On the map you will find the Northern Mariana Islands running along 145E Longitude, beginning at 14N Latitude, which is about 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) west of Hawaii, and about 1,250 miles (2,012) kilometers) southeast of Tokyo Japan. There are three principal populated islands in the Northern Mariana Islands: Spain, Tinian and Rota Island.