Length changes in human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are potentially useful markers for inferring the evolutionary history of populations. One such length change is a nine base pair (9-bp) deletion that is located in the intergenic region between the COII gene and the Lysine tRNA gene (COII/tRNALys intergenic region). This deletion has been used as a genetic marker to trace descent from peoples of East Asian origin. A geographic cline of the deletion frequency across modern Pacific Islander populations suggests that the deletion may be useful for tracing prehistoric Polynesian origins and affinities. Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation within two variable segments of the control region (CR) permits a number of inferences regarding the evolutionary history of the 9-bp deletion that cannot be determined from frequency data alone. We obtained CR sequences from 74 mtDNAs with the 9-bp deletion from Indonesia, coastal Papua New Guinea (PNG), and American Samoa. Phylogenetic and pairwise distribution analysis of these CR sequences pooled with previously published CR sequences reveals that the deletion arose independently in Africa and Asia and suggests possible multiple origins of the deletion in Asia. A clinal increase of the frequency of the 9-bp deletion across the three Pacific populations is associated with a decrease in CR sequence diversity, consistent with founder events. Furthermore, analysis of pairwise difference distributions indicates an expansion time of proto-Polynesians that began 5,500 yr ago from Southeast Asia. These results are consistent with the express train model of Polynesian origins.