Northern Mariana Islands Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
Northern Mariana Islands Flag
Ocean blue with a white star superimposed on a pillar surrounded by a wreath of flowers.
Symbols: Star, latte stone, and Carolinian mwaar. The star symbolizes the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The latte stone is a gray stone pillar used to build traditional houses, and is a symbol of a Chamorro hero named Taga. The mwaar is a fragrant wreath of flowers traditionally worn on the head by Carolinian people. It can be interpreted as a symbol of the commonwealth.
Colors: Ocean blue, white, gray, red, purple, yellow, green. Blue and white show a link to the United Nations flag, from which the Northern Mariana flag was adapted. The other colors depict a realistic picture.
Proportions: 2:3, 3:5
When foreign explorers first arrived in what are now the Northern Mariana Islands in the early 1500s, the indigenous people had no flag or emblem. The idea was completely outside their culture. On remote islands with limited resources, Chamorros were accustomed to sharing whatever they had, so the idea of staking out land or territory by flying a flag was utterly foreign. Nevertheless, they soon found themselves under Spanish rule and the Spanish flag.
When the Spanish-American War ended in 1898, the Marianas were placed under German control. Japan claimed the islands soon afterward, during World War I. Neither power made any move to create a unique flag for the islands, so the Marianas remained under foreign flags until the end of World War II. Even then, the Northern Marianas were part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, so the flags in use were the pale blue United Nations flag and the U.S. flag.
The first Northern Marianas flag was introduced in 1972. The government chose a light blue flag, showing a link to the United Nations. The original flag only had the grey latte stone superimposed with the white star. The star represented the future commonwealth. The latte stone was chosen as a symbol of Chamorro heritage and of the legendary Chief Taga, whose stories are well known throughout the country. A particularly impressive latte stone on Tinian Island is known as the remains of Taga's house.
In 1981 the very detailed wreath was added, giving the flag symbols of both Chamorro and Carolinian heritage. Minor modifications were made in 1995, particularly to the wreath, but the flag's basic elements remained the same.
It is generally recommended that standard etiquette be observed when handling or displaying the Northern Marianas flag. Because the Northern Marianas is a territory, its flag normally flies with the U.S. flag. If both flags are on the same pole, the Northern Marianas flag flies below the American flag. If they're on separate poles, the Northern Marianas flag should be hoisted after the American flag, should be the same size or smaller, and should not be hoisted higher than the American flag. The Northern Marianas flag does not fly after dark unless it's properly lit. Normally, it is hoisted at sunrise and lowered at sunset, and does not fly if the weather is rainy or stormy.
The flag normally flies at schools when they're in session and at polling places during elections. Anyone may fly the flag, though people are encouraged to follow normal protocol and handle the flag with care and respect to prevent it from becoming dirty or damaged. It shouldn't touch the ground during hoisting or folding, and should hang clear of the ground, the floor, or anything underneath it. Deliberately damaging or marking a flag in public is strongly discouraged. Only flags in good condition should fly. Flags that become dirty or tattered through normal wear and tear should be disposed of privately, normally by burning.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
It is possible that Chief Taga actually existed, but most of the stories about him have a fairy-tale quality, and emphasize his superhuman size and strength. For example, at the age of three, Taga is supposed to have single-handedly uprooted a coconut tree to get at a crab. Many other tales are about tests of strength he won over his lifetime. His story doesn't have a happy ending, though. In the same way that Taga was stronger than his father, one of Taga's children showed signs of becoming stronger than Taga. Instead of learning from his own past troubles, Taga killed the boy in a fit of anger. After that, his wife and children died unhappy deaths one by one. A legend tells that Taga's house originally had twelve pillars, one for each child. As each dead child's spirit left the earth, one of the pillars fell. The last remaining pillar stands for the spirit of Taga's youngest daughter, who killed herself out of sadness at the loss of her mother and siblings. Because of this, her spirit still wanders the earth, and the last pillar, the one on the Northern Marianas flag, still stands.
-World Trade Press