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Winston-Salem Journal

Kid SAM the Straight Answer Ma'am

What Are The Six U.S. Territories?

DECEMBER 31, 2001
Copyright © 2001
Winston-Salem Journal. All Rights Reserved.

Q. What are the six U.S. territories? I looked in my atlas and found Washington, D.C.; Guam; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Puerto Rico . I couldn't find the other two. Do they have flags? - L.H.

A. American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands are all territories of the United States. Washington, D.C., and the Northern Mariana Islands are commonwealths. Puerto Rico was once a territory, but is now a commonwealth, according to Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids, published by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

Territories and commonwealths are partly self-governing areas that have not been granted statehood . The indigenous people of these areas are citizens of the United States.

American Samoa is made up of six Polynesian islands in the South Pacific. It is the United States' southernmost territory. If you drew a triangle from Hawaii, New Zealand and Tahiti you would find Samoa in the middle. It is about 77 square miles.

American Samoa became an unincorporated U.S. territory in 1900. The flag was adopted in 1960 and is red, white and blue. It features an American bald eagle holding traditional Samoan symbols - a staff and a war club. American Samoa's U.S. House representative is Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat.

The Northern Mariana Islands are in the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines and south of Japan. The chain of 14 islands is spread over 500 miles. Guam is the southernmost island of the chain.

The Northern Mariana Islands became a U.S. territory in 1947 when the United Nations gave the United States trusteeship over the islands. A covenant with the U.S. was signed in 1978. The people of the Northern Marianas were granted United States citizenship in 1986. Under the terms of the covenant, citizens of the self-governing commonwealth are not allowed to vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they enjoy other benefits of U.S. citizenship. The commonwealth elects a representative to serve in the U.S. House.

The flag of the Northern Mariana Islands was adopted in 1972. The blue field on the flag represents the Pacific Ocean, and the star is for the commonwealth. The gray stone is for Taga, a legendary Chamorro. Chamorro is the name of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

The island of Guam is about 30 miles long. Shaped like a footprint, Guam was formed by the union of two volcanoes. Guam is the westernmost U.S. territory. West of the International Dateline, it is one day ahead of the U.S. mainland. Because of this, Guam's motto is "Where America's Day Begins."

Guam became an unincorporated territory of the United States in 1898. On Aug. 1, 1950, the Chamorros of Guam were granted the right of civilian rule. There is one non-voting representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Underwood.

The flag was adopted in 1917 and modified in 1948. The traditional Chamorro canoe, a palm tree and the mouth of the Agaa River appear in Guam's seal.

The nation's capital, Washington, District of Columbia, is on the bank of the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland. Named after George Washington and Christopher Columbus, it was established in 1791.Washington is 68 square miles.

The flag was adopted in 1938. It is composed of two thick horizontal red stripes under three red stars on a white field. The U.S. House representative is Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are east of Puerto Rico and north of Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. The three islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix -cover 133 square miles in all.

The Virgin Islands became a U.S. territory in 1917. The flag, adopted in 1921, is a simplified version of the U.S. coat of arms and the initials of the islands. The U.S. House representative is Donna Christian-Christensen, a Democrat.

Puerto Rico is between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic.

The Foraker Act of 1901 established the relationship of the United States with Puerto Rico and many of its provisions are still in force. The Jones act of 1917 made Puerto Ricans American citizens, and Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States. Partial self-government was granted in 1947. In 1952 a new constitution made Puerto Rico an autonomous part of the United States called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico .

The flag was adopted in 1952. It is based on the Cuban flag and, ultimately, the U.S. flag. It was originally created in 1895 when the island was seeking independence from Spain. The U.S. House representative is Anibal Acevedo-Vila, a Democrat.

If you would like more information about the territories, including pictures of the flags, go to the Internet site bensguide and click on "Commonwealths and Territories" on the map.

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