It was not until 1976 that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands had an official flag.
The current flag for the 14-island archipelago near the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench has been in use since 1995. It is dominated in the center by a latte stone, an object important to the foundation of a traditional native Chamorros house. The latte stone is covered with a five-pointed white star, a symbol representing the commonwealth. Flowing around the stone and star is a mwarmwar, or floral lei, featuring local flowers meant to connect the islands to their history. The background color is blue to represent the ocean. The flag is in a 20:39 proportion.
For most of its history, the Northern Marianas flew under the flags of other nations. Explorer Ferdinand Magellan claimed the island group for Spain in 1521. After the Spanish-American War, the group was sold to Germany in 1899 and the Germans made the islands part of their German New Guinea territory. In 1914, during World War I, the Japanese moved into the islands and would later have permission to hold them as part of the South Pacific Mandate from the League of Nations. In 1944, the United States took the islands during World War II and continued to hold them as a territory under the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific.
In 1962, the Northern Marianas joined five other island groups to form the Federated States of Micronesia. The federation flew a light blue flag with six white five-pointed stars in a circular arrangement. In 1976, the Northern Marianas was one of two groups that left the federation, becoming at that time a commonwealth with continuing ties to the U.S. The federation flag still exists but now with four stars.
The current Northern Marianas design began as an unofficial flag in 1972. At that time, only the latte stone and star were included on a lighter blue background. This design was made official on the break from the federation on July 4, 1976. In 1981, the design was changed to add the mwarmwar. In 1995, the blue background was turned a darker shade and the mwarmwar was widened.