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Location of Tanapag


Satellite image



The Mariana Islands follow along an oceanic ridge in the Westernmost part of the North Pacific. Guam sits at the southernmost end of the chain, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) stretches northward from there. To the West, CNMI is close to the Philippines and Taiwan. To the Southeast lies the scattering of islands that became known collectively as the Caroline Islands, which in turn lie within the larger region of mostly very small islands, collectively referred to as "Micronesia."


Micronesia Map

Map of Micronesia derived from one published in Karolle (1995).




The Mariana Islands have been inhabited by Chamorro peoples for over 4,000 years. The Chamorros are known for their monolithic structures called latte stones (pronounced "lattee"), remains of which are found throughout the archipelago.

The Marianas, including Guam, also have the dubious distinction of being the first islands encountered by Europeans. Magellan landed on Guam in 1521, and the islands were colonized by Spain for three centuries.

The Chamorro population was moved to Guam in the early 1700s, with the exception of a small group on Rota. Carolinians from the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk arrived and colonized the islands in the mid 19th century. Chamorros then moved back from Guam, creating a mixed population. Now people reside almost entirely on the southernmost islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Following the 1898 Spanish defeat in the Spanish-American War, the Northern Mariana Islands were sold by Spain to Germany (while Guam became a U.S. territory). They were subsequently acquired by Japan at the end of the first World War, and then became part of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific after World War II.


Tanapag was one of two original villages settled by the Carolinians in the 1800s. After Saipan was repopulated with Chamorros, a larger number of villages came into being. Most of these villages originally had Chamorro or Carolinian names. Today, many of those names have since been changed to honor Catholic saints.

Tanapag is located on the large lagoon that extends out from the West side of the island. The Carolinians chose this location because of its excellent fishing grounds, and fishing remains an important part of the culture in Tanapag.


Modern villages of Saipan.



On the next page, we will look more closely at the village of Tanapag, and orient ourselves to its various features and locales.



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