Northern Mariana Islands

views updated May 17 2018

Northern Mariana Islands

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Language(s):English, Chamorro, Carolinian
Literacy Rate:97%

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a U.S. territory that is a 300-mile archipelago comprised of 14 islands. Although the U.S. Congress approved a covenant to establish a commonwealth in 1976, it did not become a territory until 1986. Unlike the 12 outlying territories of the United States (Guam, Virgin Islands, etc.), the people of CNMI adopted a constitution for its government functions. Federal funds to CNMI are administered by the U.S. Department of Interiors, Office of Insular Affairs. CNMI is divided into four municipalities: Northern Mariana Island, Rota, Saipan, and Tinian.

The population, as of July 2000, was 71,912 people with 24 percent being under the age of 14. About 28,000 inhabitants are alien workers due mostly to an increase in the tourism and manufacturing (clothing) industries. The resident population is made up mostly of Chamorro, Carolinians, and Micronesians. The three main languages spoken are English, Chamorro, and Carolinian. Some 86 percent of the inhabitants speaks a language other than English at home.

The CNMI educational system is similar to that of the U.S. public school system. Accreditation started in 1987 and is through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Education is compulsory from the ages of 6 to 18.

In early 2001 the public school system of CNMI had 15 facilities with plans to build two more. Of these, 11 served the primary level. The school year runs from August to June with class hours from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in elementary school and 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. for high school. Teachers are required to have certification. There are also 15 private schools offering education in the primary and secondary levels. In 1995 the pupil-teacher ratio was nearly 21:1.

Numerous programs are offered by the public school system, such as the provision of childcare for 190 families (380 children) whose parents are in school; bilingual education; and Head Start for children under six years of age. The country uses the Stanford Achievement Test 9 (SAT9) as their form of student assessment.

The Commonwealth has one postsecondary institution, Northern Mariana College, that offers programs such as associate of arts or science; adult, vocational, and continuing education; and professional development. For further studies students go to the University of Guam or the University of Hawaii.

CNMI faces three main issues to resolve: a 14 percent unemployment rate, an immigration problem, and reports of industrial worker abuse. A report from the U.S. Congress in 1998 estimates that there are at least 10,000 illegal aliens in the Commonwealth. Additionally, in 1999 several American clothing makers agreed to pay some $1.25 million as a settlement on behalf of more than 50,000 workers forced to work in undesirable conditions. Part of this settlement fund goes to an education campaign to create awareness for better work conditions.

Juanita Villena-Alvarez and Victoria Villena

Northern Mariana Islands

views updated Jun 08 2018

Northern Mariana Islands

Basic Data

Official Country Name:Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Region (Map name):Oceania
Language(s):English, Chamorro,Carolinian
Literacy rate:97%

The Northern Mariana Islands, located in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines, were settled by ancestors of the Chamorros Indians around 2000 B.C. In 1521, explorer Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands for Spain, which ruled them until selling them to Germany in 1899. At the start of World War I, Japan seized the islands until the close of World War II, when they became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States via a United Nations mandate. The islands became self-governing in 1975, and in the 1980s, its citizens received both U.S. citizenship and the civil and political rights of the U.S. Constitution. In 1990, the UN terminated the Trust Territory, but the U.S. remains responsible for foreign affairs and defense. Although the official language is English, most of the population speaks another language at home, such as Chamorro or Carolinian. The population is approximately 72,000, and the literacy rate is 97 percent. The U.S. President serves as the Chief of State, but the Head of Government is local. There is a bicameral legislature with a Senate and a House of Representatives. The garment industry is the most important segment of the economy, but tourism, mostly from Japan, also plays a major role, as does agriculture.

The media enjoy freedom of the press and speech. Two newspapers print Monday through Friday: the Saipan Tribune and the Marianas Variety. Both are available online. The Saipan Tribune publishes in English. The Marianas Variety print edition features both English and Chamorro, but its online edition is English only.

There are five radio stations, two AM and three FM. There is one television station and one Internet service provider.


"Annual Survey of Freedom Related Territory Scores," Freedom House (2000). Available from

"Country Profile," (2002). Available from

"Northern Mariana Islands," CIA World Fact Book (2001). Available from

Saipan Tribune, (1998) Home Page. Available from

Jenny B. Davis

Northern Mariana Islands

views updated Jun 11 2018

Northern Mariana Islands

At a Glance

Nickname: America's Best Kept Secret

Capital: Saipan (38,896)

Size: 184 sq. mi. (477 sq km)

Population: 74,612

Statehood: Unincorporated

Electoral votes: 0

U.S. Representatives: 1 (nonvoting)

The Place

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands is a chain of 16 islands in the Pacific Ocean, south of Japan and east of the Philippines. Combined with the island of Guam, these islands make up the full Mariana Islands. The Mariana Islands are part of the region in the Pacific Ocean known as Micronesia.

The largest island in the Northern Marianas is Saipan, which is also the capital. The second-largest island is Tinian; Rota is the third largest. Most of the population lives on these three islands. Seven of the northern islands have active volcanoes. The islands have a warm climate year-round and receive about 84 inches of rain annually.

The Past

A group of people known as the Chamorros first began to settle in the Northern Marianas around 1500 b.c. Another group, known as the Carolinians, first came to the Marianas after 1815, when typhoons (huge storms) washed out their homes in lower Micronesia. The first European to see the Mariana Islands was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Spain quickly claimed the region, but did not settle the area until 1668. The islands were ruled successively by Spain, Germany, and Japan. Japan controlled the Northern Mariana Islands until 1944, when the United States took them over as a United Nations trusteeship during World War II. In 1975, the United States allowed the Northern Mariana Islands to choose its own government officials, and it became a U.S. commonwealth in November 1986.

The Present

Residents of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands are considered U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections. They have one representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, but this representative can vote only in committees. The Northern Mariana Islands' government is made up of a 9-member senate and a 15-member house of representatives, and the three largest islands have mayors. The United States provides defense and handles international relations for the islands.

The island of Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands and is home to about 90 percent of its population. Saipan contains the seat of government, a busy seaport, and an international airport.

The economy is based on tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture. Tourism is the largest industry. The islands manufacture textiles, and agricultural exports include vegetables, beef, and pork. Government jobs are also critical to the economy of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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Northern Mariana Islands

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Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic


Northern Mariana Islands