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American Folklife Center Collections: Northern Mariana Islands

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands at the Library of Congress.


Northern Marianas, 1980-1987. Bess Lomax Hawes collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The American Folklife Center holds traditional arts documentation from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in the Bess Lomax Hawes collection, described below. The Veteran's History Project holds several collections documenting military service during World War II on the islands of Saipan and Tinian; it also has the collections of sixteen veterans from the CNMI.

Bess Lomax Hawes collection

As director of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Folk Arts Program, 1970s-1990s, Bess Lomax Hawes directed staff to visit and report on folk arts in the Pacific US territories, including the Northern Mariana Islands. These reports are available online, as are a variety of other documents. For example, the collection includes issues of Fina'tinas: A Quarterly Newsletter about Arts in the Northern Marianas, 1980-1987 and Tradewinds: A Publication of the Consortium for Pacific Arts and Cultures. It also contains copies of stand-alone historical narratives, including an English translation of Georg Fritz's 1904 publication Die Chamorro: Eine Geschichte und Ethnographie der Marianen (The Chamorro: A History and Ethnography of the Marianas), and an anthology of poetry from the Northern Mariana Islands titled I Speak the Beginning, compiled by W[illiam] M. Peck, whose correspondence with Hawes is also available. In addition, three exhibit catalogs—Marianas Art and Culture Under the Spanish Administration (1668-1899), Life in the Northern Mariana Islands During the German Administration (1899-1914) and Rising Sun over the Northern Marianas: life and Culture Under the Japanese Administration (1914-1944)—originally accompanied respective exhibits sponsored by the Commonwealth Arts Council / Commonwealth Council for Arts and Cultures in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts. The catalogs are available online in their entirety.

Selections from the Bess Lomax Hawes collection

The following links are to digital content related to the Northern Mariana Islands in the Bess Lomax Hawes collection.

Collection of Interest

Feature: Veteran's History Project collections

In this oral history interview, Rita Sarah N. Taitano speaks with interviewer Randy Johnson about her family in Saipan and her enlistment in the United States Army at the age of seventeen. She also describes her experiences in training and her service in Guam and Afghanistan. (Interview date: June 13, 2018)