Ancient Living in Modern Times

Håfa adai mañelu-hu yan mañaina-hu!

Our ancestors, the ancient Chamorus called themselves the Taotao Tåno (people of the land). They lived healthy lives by working together to hunt, gather, farm, and fish to feed their clans—family and nature was life. They knew the properties of indigenous plants and used them to åmte (heal) physical and supernatural ailments. They mindfully used everything around them to sustain their clans. They didn’t just survive, they thrived and developed technologically advanced åcho latte and sakmans (flying proas) that we still can’t understand today. How they were able to sustain themselves by living harmoniously with the land and sea amazes and inspires me to do the same thing. After the U.S. recaptured Guåhan from Japan in World War II, the U.S. military seized 80% of i tano in a span of two years. Our 3,500 year-old subsistent economy (only produced/took enough for daily needs) instantly shifted to a cash-economy, which was a massive change for our grandparents and great grandparents; without their lands, they were unable to work in the låncho and go fishing. The only other way for Chamorus to feed their families and survive were working jobs and earning money. This abrupt change is a factor in the many Chamorus’ disconnection from i tano yan tasi and irrelevance of inafa’maolek—which is a deep Chamoru cultural value.

As a Chamoru living on Guåhan in the 21st century, I am a citizen of the United States living according to American standards. My parents work full time jobs to pay for the mortgage on the house, the cars, and day-to-day necessities. I go to college to earn a degree which will allow me to earn more money. I’m currently working a part-time job to pay for school and other things I need/want. Si tatå-hu bihu (my grandfather) was a lancheru while si nanå-hu biha was a stay-at-home-mother. Although my mother was raised working on the ranch and learning how to live off the land, I wasn’t. The survival skills I was taught were to study hard and get good grades so I can be a good worker and earn good money. In modern Guåhan, the ancient Chamoru survival skills of working at the låncho, building guma’ latte, talåya-throwing, weaving, slinging atupats, building and sailing sakmans, and navigating have become irrelevant. How can we find balance? How can we follow the footsteps of our ancestors in the uncharted paths of our future? How can we incorporate the ancient value inafa’maolek into our modern world?

I believe we must go back to i hale’-ta (our roots). We can’t (and I’m sure many don’t want to) make a complete U-turn and just go back to our subsistent lifestyle, but I think we can incorporate it into our modern lives as an island community. We should revamp our lånchos and reconnect to our land to become self-sustainable to a certain degree. For starters, we can take care of our environment by slowing down the pollution of our land, ocean, and air. Cleaning up after ourselves, properly disposing trash and other waste, and using all-natural cleaning products will prevent toxins and chemicals from destroying our precious soils and waters that grows our food. Following fishing laws and regulations will allow fish populations to remain stable to ensure that our children can fish forever. If one can’t fish or farm, they can buy local fruits, vegetables, and meats which will decrease the need for imported items (less shipments = less gas burned), support local farmers, and keep our money in our economy. We need to stop building concrete jungles and start preserving the lush jungles of precious indigenous plants–live with nature and not against it.

My dream is to be self-sustainable, and I hope to accomplish that by learning my ancestors’ ways of working in the låncho and fishing, but also putting this degree I’m earning to use. If we can all go back to our roots, respect i islå-ta and understand that it is our lifeline, Guåhan would be a much better, healthier, and more beautiful place for our people and culture to thrive on forever.

Saina ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

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