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    Saturday, November 17, 2018-11:37:12A.M.






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Young & Informed: Know history, build a brighter future

CNMI historian and author Don Farrell spoke to the students of the Current Issues classes at the Northern Marianas College earlier this month.

Farrell wrote The History of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1991, which is part of the curriculum of the Public School System. He also wrote History of the Mariana Islands to Partition in 2011.

Farrell’s presentation at NMC focused on Federal-Territorial relations, commonwealth status, military development, CJMT (Commonwealth Joint Military Training) and divert airfield for KC 135on Tinian. 

He started off with the definition of Federal-Territorial relations, which govern everything between Washington D.C. and the U.S. territories.

He engaged the students by asking them what the five U. S. flagged territories are: the CNMI, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico.Farrell emphasized that the main driver of everything that has happened regarding the U. S. territories was capitalism, which is the process of creating wealth or making money.

Farrell then gave a brief history of Mariana Islands. He noted that the Mariana Islands were a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American War in 1898. Spain lost the war and ceded Guam to the United States.

The U.S. government wanted Guam as a harbor and a military base, but not the Northern Mariana Islands. So Spain later sold the Northern Marianas to Germany. It was at this time that Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands each started a different political status.

During World War I, Japan controlled the Pacific and seized Germany’s colonies, including the Northern Marianas. During the Japanese administration, sugar cane prospered and Saipan and Tinian’s population reached 50,000 with the local population only 3,000. The rest of the population comprised the agricultural workers from Japan, Okinawa, and Korea.

The Northern Mariana Islands prospered with agriculture products mainly for Japan until Japanese’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941. After the horrific Battle of Saipan in 1944, the U.S. took the Northern Marianas from Japan.

The islands were used as a bombing base to attack mainland Japan. The two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were assembled on and launched from Tinian’s North Field.

After World War II, the NMI came under U.S. control as a strategic trust called the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Japan became American’s closest ally, and wanted Iwo Jima and Okinawa back.

Thus, the U.S. faced a problem of where to put their military base. With status negotiations that began in the early 1970’s, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. came to an agreement: the people of the Northern Marianas would get U.S. citizenship; all lands would go back to the NMI. In return, America could have Tinian as a military base. In addition, the NMI would get Federal funds for public education, public health, and public welfare.

With the Covenant approved in 1976, the NMI officially became a commonwealth in political union with the United States in 1978.

Asia has been America’s major market since the early 1900’s. When political status talks began between the U. S. and the Northern Marianas in the early 1970’s, then U. S. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, emphasized business.

Nixon wanted to open relations with China; he hand-picked Henry Kissinger as his National Security Advisor. Born in Germany, Kissingerwas a master of geopolitics.

Farrell also talked about the Air Force Divert Airfield on Tinian. The U.S. Air Force selected Tinian as the divert airfield for emergency purposes. Both Governor Ralph Torres and Tinian officials have approved the military plans for the divert airfield. Farrell noted that it will certainly bring economic development to the island.

Being aware of current issues is equally important as knowing the history. Students who are aware of things that are happening in the community and society are better able to connect to the real world.

Farrell’s presentation gave us a better understanding of the history of the Marianas. Why is knowing CNMI history important? Just as what former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”

History helps us to build a bright future. Knowing CNMI history can help prevent us from making the same mistakes; it will also help us make better decisions. By understanding our past, we can be more thankful and proud of who we are today.

Farrell first came to Guam from California in 1977. He taught at a junior high school then at a high school on Guam. Later in the 1980s, he worked for the Guam Legislature as a public relations officer and chief of staff. Farrell also wrote The Americanization of Guam: 1898-1919 and 1986; also Tinian: A Brief History in 1988. Farrell has been residing on Tinian since 1987, where he continues to do research, write, and teach.

(Any views expressed on this forum belong only to the student writers and the interviewees and do not represent Northern Marianas College or Marianas Variety News & Views.)