The first occupants of the Island, the Arawak Indians, arrived around 800 AD from South America to settle down to a life of fishing, hunting and farming .
The Arawaks were not alone, however. They were followed in the 14th century by a much more war-like tribe - the cannibalistic Carib Indians.
These new arrivals are the ones who gave the region its , and knew St. Maarten as Soualiga , or "Salt Island" after its main mineral deposit
The remains of the Great Salt Pond can still be seen in Philipsburg today.
Remenants of their passage can be found in a few archaeological sites, such as the Hope Estate, where many arrefacts have been found.
These can be seen at the Marigot Museum
Discovered by Christopher Colombus on November 11, 1493. during his second voyage, St Martin was given the name of the day's Saint Patron.
The 11th of November is celebrated to this day, as St. Martin/St. Maarten's Day.
Although Columbus sighted and named the island, the Spanish made no initial attempt to settle here.
Around the year 1630 the Dutch and French established small settlements on the island.
The Spanish must have not taken to well to this settlement - they saw it as a threat to their influence in the region and attacked the island - driving out both the Dutch and French settlements.
The Dutch settled on the southern part of the Island, around the salt flats of what was to become Philipsburg, the Capital.
The French, more interested in agriculture, taking the northern end.
When the respective governments decided to take notice of the Island, it was to officially recognize the de facto situation of cooperation and goodwill established by the populations.
The 1648 treaty signed by the two nations became the official birth certificate of the world's smallest territory shared by two different nations.
The treaty recognizes both the island's double nationality and its unity: The Island never had any material borders, and persons and good can freely circulate from one to the other side.
This is still in effect today, and while maintaining a distinct identity, both sides of the Island keep to the spirit of the 1648 treaty of Concordia.
This is why, even today, St Maarten, St Martin is a free port, which could establish itself as one of the top Caribbean touristic destinations.
The Island is the smallest landmass to be shared by two separate governments, Holland and France.Capitals:
Tel: (599) 542-4317
Fax: (599) 543-0080
P.O Box 1033 Back Street No.7
Phillipsburg, St.Maarten, Netherlands Antilles