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Ha na Liliti i Kurason-hu as Litekyan

Hafa adai mañelu-hu yan mañaina-hu! Biba CHAMORU!!!

A few weekends ago, I went on the first tour open to the public for Guampedia to the rediscovered ancient latte sites in Litekyan (stirring place)–not Ritidian. Our ancestors named it Litekyan because it is where the eastern and western currents meet and form whirlpools. Indeed, Litekyan made my heart stir– Ha na liliti i kurason-hu as Litekyan. Litekyan is not only a cultural heritage site, but an official National Wildlife Refuge containing thousands of trongkon niyok and other indigenous plants, lush coral reefs, yan meggai na man aniti lokkue (and many spirits as well). The latte’ sites are unbelievable; many are still standing, surrounded by countless pottery shards, lusongs and lommoks, and other remnants of our ancestors’ lives. In fact, our ancestors still reside in Litekyan which some can feel upon entering i halom tano (the jungle). There are tours of Litekyan daily from 8-4pm that are absolutely free.

My experience in Litekyan was almost magical and definitely spiritual . I was in awe at how beautiful it was and the abundance of life, but a little disheartened at the small amount of trash I collected. Our hike was like a journey through time because we visited different sites of different eras. I almost couldn’t believe that these places were homes of my ancestors where they would cook and eat the food they caught and farmed, where they would talk to each other and tell stories, and carve lattes and lusongs. These latte’ sites are tangible links to our past and reminders of who we are that must be protected. The fact that they are so beautifully and naturally preserved, almost locked in time, reassured me that we aren’t going anywhere.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Litekyan. The U.S. government wants to take OUR culturally, historically, and environmentally rich WILDLIFE REFUGE to use for military training purposes. They already built a barb-wire fence around the premises! Do I even have to say what’s wrong with this??? Ha na lalalo yu! (It makes me so mad!) Like I said in In Dependence, when the government takes land, they take the best land as if they don’t have enough. The latte’ sites within those fences are OURS. If they take them, what will we have to show our future generations? They too will be further disconnected from our past than we already are.

Put fabot, hånao yan bisita fan Litekyan. Go on a tour, look around and experience the magic for yourself, and remember that everything there could be destroyed for military target practice, unless we do something about it.

Si Yu’us ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.

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Biba M̶e̶s̶ Chamoru!

Buenas Mañelus!

Måtsu (March) was declared Chamoru Heritage Month by the government since 19 forgotten. Many schools, government agencies,  and hopefully companies are hosting various activities to celebrate our culture and heritage. Although this month is a great way for Chamorus and Guamanians to recognize and appreciate all things Chamoru, I feel that this shouldn’t be done one month a year, but year-round and every single day.Our cultures should be who we are and permeate  our everyday lives. If we only recognize our roots one month a year, who are we the remaining 11?

I have been learning a lot in my History of Guåhan course at the university. One thing that interests me the most is how our culture and language survived about 348 years (and counting) of colonialism. The Spanish colonized us in 1668 upon the arrival of Padre Luis San Vitores. He successfully converted all of the Chamorus from our ancient animistic religion and beliefs in Puntan and Fu’una to Catholicism. The Chamoru population was decimated by 80 percent in 30 years as a result of disease and the Chamoru-Spanish War. Many families’ lands that were passed on to them from their families was taken from them. The Japanese and Americans forced us to learn their languages and abandon our own. The American government even threatens our Chamoru identity with Guamanian, as if we aren’t really a people. With these rapid, traumatic changes throughout the years, the perpetuation of our culture and values and use of our language is significant evidence of our strength as a people.

Remember, we are the keepers, the sacred vessels of our culture. If we don’t pass it on, it will cease to exist. Our culture is changing because times are rapidly changing, but what we have been through and learned in the past can help guide us through whatever the future holds. So this mes Chamoru and on, let’s reconnect and stay connected. Let’s appreciate and protect what we have to pass on to future generations. BIBA CHAMORU, MANTAOTAO TÅNO!

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.

Major Indecision

Hafañelus!

Remember when I said I wanted to double major in Pacific Island Studies and International Hospitality and Tourism? Well… I changed my mind about tourism having seen the effects it has had on our island. Tomhom (darkness), also known as Tumon is the heart of tourism here on Guam. Little do people know that it is the biggest burial site in the Pacific. It used to have the most beautiful, pristine beaches and luscious jungles, and now it’s a playground for tourists with hotels, shopping plazas, and pollution. The picture above is actually Tumon bay in the 1950s. Gef pågo (beautiful), no? Because tourism is the island’s main source of revenue, we are starting to put the desires of tourists before the needs of the people and the land. It’s like we’re creating a picture perfect paradise Guam just for their pleasure. Eco-tourism companies such as Fisheye Marine Park let tourists feed the fish dog food and bread even though it is bad for the fish and the already fragile ecosystem they are a part of. Jetski clubs pollute the beaches and scare the fish away on the daily just to give tourists a joyride. There are many pressing issues on our island that need to be addressed like homelessness, pollution, failing public transportation, the illegal raises that the governor gave his staff, public health and education, chemical castration of sex offenders, decolonization, the list goes on. But instead, a culvert that drains filthy water into our beaches to alleviate flooding in Tumon is more important to our leaders. The bill wasn’t passed thanks to concerned taotao Guåhan, but I just think it shouldn’t have been proposed in the first place.  I wanted to be in tourism to show people Guåhan for all that she naturally is and not what people are shaping her to be. I wanted to show tourists Guåhan’s soul, but it’s getting harder to find it. I wanted to engender respect and appreciation for our culture and our island in visitors, but how could they appreciate it if we don’t?

Pues pågo (so now), my options are open! It’s quite exciting because there are so many majors and programs I can choose from and so many things I can learn to help si nanan-mami Guahån (our mother Guam). I don’t want my career and my life to revolve around money, I want to help something bigger than myself sa hu guaiya i islå-ta, i taotao-ta, yan i kotturå-ta (because I love our island, our people, and our culture).

Si Yu’us ma’åse for reading.

In Dependence

Buenas yan hafa adai!

I have just completed my first semester of college, and it was an adventure! I loved a lot of things about it, and disliked things too, but overall, it was a learning experience that I’m grateful for. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to start my new adventure: Spring semester. Yayyyy. Well writing for my classes has taken up a lot of my personal writing time, as it may have shown throughout the last few months. However, I killed two birds with one atupat and wrote about things pertaining to our Chamoru culture, island, and current issues. Here is my final essay for Freshman Composition called In Dependence without all of the APA citations. I hope you enjoy…

In Dependence

            Guam needs change. Guam is currently one of the last 16 colonized, non-self-governing nations with the longest colonial history in the world. Guam was colonized by Spain in the 1600s then given to the U.S. in 1898 as a spoil of the Spanish-American war. Although the native people of Guam, the Chamorus were forced to stop speaking their language, forced to convert from their indigenous spiritual practices to Christianity, forced out of their own land, suffered genocide in the Chamoru-Spanish War, and held as second-class citizens in their own home, they have remained resilient and managed to keep much of the culture and language alive.

Guam’s current political status is “unincorporated territory” of the United States of America, meaning that it is a possession of the U.S. that has limited self-government and is at the disposal of the U.S. According to Guampedia, the people of Guam are US Citizens and while they may acquire full political equality as individuals, if they move to any of the fifty states, they are in a subservient political condition if they remain on Guam. They are unable to vote for president, select members of US Congress with voting power and congress can overturn any law passed in Guam and decide which parts of the US Constitution apply to it” (Underwood 2014). Guam has no voting delegate in Congress or seat in the United Nations. This has and is still affecting our island’s infrastructure, culture, resources, and people in mostly negative ways. As an unincorporated territory, Guam is unable to manage immigration suitable for the island, therefore our infrastructure is not up to par for the amount of residents and visitors. Under the U.S. Department of Education and economy, Guam has become more “Americanized” with little to no Chamoru culture and language taught in schools and no use for Chamoru in everyday life. Guam is also dependent on the U.S. federal government monetarily, using thousands of federal dollars each fiscal year for programs such as food stamps, welfare, and even our tax refunds to name a few. As an unincorporated territory of the U.S., the federal government can take whatever land they want and is currently controlling one third of Guam’s landmass, not properly taking care of the resources within. Guam’s government and citizens have limited freedoms due to its political status which may be changed through decolonization. Decolonization is the freeing of a colony to become self-governing or independent.

In order for the indigenous Chamoru people of Guam and the migrated people who call Guam home to decolonize themselves, they must undergo the process of self-determination. Self-determination is the process in which the people of a colonial territory express their desire for a self-governing status. The people of Guam have three options of self-government: statehood, free association, and independence. If permitted by the U.S., in statehood, Guam will become the 51st (fifty-first) state of the United States of America in which residents abide to the laws and receive constitutional rights. Free association is in essence a bargain through which a degree of external sovereignty is freely exchanged in return for a defense commitment and the promise of significant economic assistance. Independence is becoming a sovereign nation. Each status will affect Guam’s land and resources, the residents’ rights, immigration, culture, legal system, education, and foreign affairs. Each status has its pros and cons, however, I believe that independence is the best status option for Guam. According to the Independence for Guam Task Force of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, “Independence is a chance for the people of Guam to truly determine our own destiny. For many centuries, Guam’s political course has been dictated for us—our people, our land, and our resources have been used to benefit other countries leaving us at a greater loss each time. Currently, Guam is stuck with a dependent and underdeveloped relationship with the United States. The colonial status of Guam keeps us trapped – economically, politically, mentally, and spiritually. Independence will allow us to work together as a community to grow into a more sustainable and regionally integrated people, who will no longer be stunted as a colony of the United States” (Hafa Ilek-mu Self-Determination, n.d.).  The native and indigenous people of Guam should declare independence from the United States government because of its dictatorial history, to protect the Chamoru culture and language, and to manage the resources to sustain themselves and future generations.

The United States government has expressed no interest in the wellbeing of the Chamoru people and the perpetuation and protection of the Chamoru culture many times throughout their colonialism on Guam. As stated earlier, Guam was purchased by the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris in 1898 as a spoil of the Spanish-American War. The U.S. bought Guam, the Phillippines, and all inhabitants as if they were animals and not human beings. Following the Treaty of Paris, the Navy assumed the position of the government of Guam. According to one of the first appointed Naval governors Governor Dyer, the Chamorus were to be Americanized and, “…taught, at once, to help themselves in ways to make themselves useful to us . . .”. After Guam was seized by Japan in WWII, the military leveled the island with thousands of pounds of explosives regardless of the presence of the local people. The U.S. then reclaimed Guam in 1944 and seized one third of the island’s landmass without adequate compensation, leaving many Chamorus homeless and poor. According to my grandmother Engracia Pangelinan, WWII survivor, the schools established by the Navy discouraged the use of the Chamoru language and forced English upon them in hopes of Americanizing the Chamorus. The Chamoru people resented the way the government treated them and sought for a fair government and civil rights. They believed that becoming U.S. citizens would give them U.S. civil rights and fought for such. They were granted citizenship in the Organic Act of 1950 which was modeled after the U.S. Constitution, but were not granted all the constitutional rights including the right to vote for President. There have been many efforts by the Chamoru people to decolonize themselves, but due to the lack of support from the federal government and education amongst Chamorus, they have failed. Today, the U.S. still owns one third of Guam’s landmass and is continuing to take more. They have recently finalized the taking of Litekyan- a wildlife reserve, ancient village, and sacred place to the Chamoru people to be used as a firing range. The U.S. plans on taking more for the highly anticipated military buildup- the relocation of thousands of marines and their dependents to Guam. Some say the buildup will be good for Guam, but many native Chamorus feel that it will be further detrimental to the land, culture, language, and survival of the Chamoru people in their own home.

Choosing independence for Guam will better allow the preservation and perpetuation of the Chamoru culture and language. Guam’s educational system is and has always been parallel to that of the United States, in which students learn the same things as students in the continental U.S., and are compared to American standards and statistics. My father Rick Nauta, whom does not speak Chamoru but has Chamoru-speaking parents asked his mother why she did not teach him Chamoru. She said that she did not want it to affect his English and how well he did in school. As one can see, the U.S. has affectively devalued the importance of the Chamoru culture and language in Chamorus themselves. Today, there are few courses in high school that teach Chamoru language, dance, history, and practices, however in my experience, they seemed underfunded and unimportant to the education of a Guam student as a whole. Public elementary students are only allotted 20 minutes each day for learning Chamoru. What can possibly taught, learned, and comprehended in 20 minutes? The perpetuation of the culture is obviously not a priority for the Department of Education, so if our culture and language is not taught, it will die. In Decolonization Through the Self-Determination of a People- An Overview of Guam’s Status and Options by the Guam Commission on Decolonization, independence will engender the “continuation of existing standards with large resource allocation directed to long-term residents… the local school system empowered to develop locally/regionally relevant curriculum”. As an independent nation, not only will Guam be able to implement Chamoru values and language into the curriculum, but teach the curriculum in Chamoru. In An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Guam’s Political Status Options by Joseph Bradley, “it is anticipated that there will be a resurgence in the Chamorro language and culture in the independent nation of Guam.  There is even the remote possibility that the use of the Chamorro language will be mandated for some of the island’s governmental activities”.

As an independent nation, Guam will regain access to all of its natural resources and manage them according to the needs of the people. As a small island with only 212 square miles of land, Guam is limited in resources including soil for agriculture and freshwater sources. The federal government currently owns land that has many resources including but not limited to the Mt. Santa Rosa Reservoir, Agana Springs, Tarague Natural Wells, the Tumon Bay Recreational area, and the Fena River Reservoir, totaling in over 43,000 acres. That land was taken from many Chamoru families whom were inadequately compensated, including my maternal grandmother Engracia Pangelinan. The military exploits the resources in those lands to benefit themselves and even sells the products back to the government of Guam. They do not properly care for the land as seen in their ownership of Tiyan. The military claimed it after the war, dumped biohazardous waste on it, and gave it back to the government when it was deemed toxic and inhabitable. There are actually 95 toxic sites on Guam alone, many results of mistreatment and disrespect. As an independent nation, Chamoru property rights will come first and local law will be redefined to accommodate local conditions and economic development. As an independent nation, Guam will also be able to control immigration and the use of public land to better stabilize infrastructure (Guam Commission on Decolonization, n.d.). All 43,000+ acres of land under the military’s control will be distributed back to their rightful owners, and the rest could be used for agricultural development or economic enhancement.

Many people believe that Guam is not ready for independence, however the longer we spend preparing and planning, the more land is taken away, the more our culture and language die, and the more our island becomes a big military base. It is going to be a drastic and difficult change, but it is possible. For guidance and reassurance, we can look to our sister island of Palau. With education of its people, government involvement, self-determination, and great effort, they have become their own sovereign nation where their culture and language thrive, their resources are loved and taken care of, and their people are interdependent on each other and their land. If Palau can do it, Guam can do it too. We must educate ourselves, join hand in hand, and vote for our right to be our own nation. “The foundation of Guåhan is the Chamoru culture in all its expressions. The ancients arrived thousands of years ago. The future generations will continue this journey in search of the expression of the human experience.” –Anthony J Ramirez. Guåhan is tano i man Chamoru—the land of the Chamoru people, and we should keep it that way. Together we can change our status from in dependence to independent.

Si Yu’us Ma’ase for reading.

Biba Santa Marian Kamalen

Håfañelus! (Hafa adai Mañelu)

Håfa manatatmanu-hamyo? Long time, no?

As many of you may or may not know, today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception in which Catholics on Guam honor and venerate the patron saint of Guam Santa Marian Kamalen. The tradition is to have mass at the Cathedral followed by a procession around Hagatña, then pray to and venerate the historical statue of our Blessed Lady.

Santa Marian Kamalen has historical significance here on Guam. According to the stories of mañaina-ta, a group of fishermen were fishing down in Malesso when one of them saw crabs carrying the statue underwater, swam to her, and brought her in. The statue allegedly came from a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of Malesso. For the full history of Santa Marian Kamalen here on Guam, visit guampedia.com or ask your grandparents to tell you the legend.

Although today is a day of celebration, it’s also a sad day. On this day 74 years ago, the Japanese bombed Guam and began World War II. The entire island was preparing for the nobena, lukao (procession), and misa (mass) in their own villages when the bombs dropped and war was declared around 9:oo AM. My grandma Engracia Diaz Pangelinan whom was present that day said that many parishioners cheered because they had never seen planes before and believed that it was a blessing from God, only to end up screaming in terror.

Growing up, procession was kind of fun, kind of not. I got to see a lot of people, but it would get hot and I would be sweating in my Saint Francis uniform or my confirmation shirt. Today, it means so much more. This is the one day dedicated to the Patron Saint of Guam Santa Marian Kamalen, the person that our people, the Chamorus have prayed to, and through her intercession, overcame many difficult things, including World War II. Today, I am celebrating our people’s patronage, spirituality, and faith that has kept us alive and together, remembering the history of our once broken people, and keeping the tradition of lukao para Santa Marian Kamalen alive… What is this day to you?

Biba Santa Marian Kamalen! Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading.

P.S. Procession is at 4 at the Cathedral followed by mass, and if you’re unable to attend mass, watch the Voices of Our Elders – Santa Marian Kamalen Retold section on Guampedia (:

“Håfa Adai!”

Buenas todus hamyu!

“Håfa adai!” is the most renowned Chamoru greeting in all of the Marianas. It’s a spirit of warmth, hospitality, and love, residing in the hearts of all those who perpetuate it. It’s an icon of the Chamoru culture, illustrated on many hats and shirts of local brands. Many Chamorus and Guamanians alike are bringing this Chamoru greeting back to life by using in their everyday lives. Even local companies have taken the “Håfa Adai Pledge” in which they swear to greet everyone with håfa adai. It’s awesome and a great step for our people towards the revival of our culture.

“Håfa adai”, to me has always been a simple Chamoru greeting, until recently when my uncle Tony Ramirez, accomplished Guåhan historian and my mother Rita Nauta, co-founder of guampedia.com shed light on the true meaning and depth of those words.

I mañaina-hu said that håfa adai is actually short for håfa un adadahi hao meaning, “how are you caring for yourself”. In that moment, it all came together… Our culture teaches that we are supposed to treat everyone like they’re family, so showing love and care for someone, even a complete stranger is (supposed to be) our initial response to assoda (meeting) them… like second nature.

Knowing the meaning of håfa adai is only half the job; the other half is to perpetuate the beliefs, practices, and values that are in the meaning itself. Like si nanå-hu said, in our culture, we practice universal love–loving everyone selflessly. Doing this, however, has become quite difficult with Western influence and what the Westerners did with our hospitality. Western ideals and culture are much more individualistic, which clash with our collectivistic Chamoru values. It’s also hard to be welcoming and caring for everyone because as a people, we are scarred. We were so grateful to Uncle Sam for saving us from the Japanese in World War II, but what they did and are doing to us now is beyond chenchule’. They’ve taken our land without adequate compensation; made us second-class citizens on our own island; seized ancestral, spiritual lands; denied us access to those lands; and infected our culture.

A great step in the direction of cultural-identification and self-determination is knowing and practising the values of our culture, such as the håfa adai spirit. Love your neighbor like he’s your che’lu. Respect people and their property like it’s your grandma’s own. Spread pås yan guinaiya (peace and love).

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading

Tåya Filter Pågo

Håfa Adai Famagu’on Guåhan!

I want to apologize to all my readers… For my writing, I tend to look at the brighter side of our island where it’s all sunshine, rainbows, and happiness, however, our beautiful little island is not “paradise”. I have been a bit misleading and have turned away from today’s realities, filtering the bad stuff and only writing about the good.

There are a lot of ugly things happening in our home. Our leaders are intoxicated with greed; our sacred, ancestral lands are being taken away from us; thousands of soldiers are slowly cramming our island against our will; pollution, and the economy is tearing our families apart (I will elaborate on this in a later post). What’s even scarier is that there are worse things happening in the rest of the world!

Since some of my goals are to help preserve the culture and nourish our island back to health, thinking about how much of a fight reaching my goal might be would be daunting and discouraging, so I looked the other way and followed the light. I also didn’t want to give any of you a negative impression about our island. Please don’t get me wrong, there are still many great people here and great things happening, there are just important issues that need our immediate attention.

Looking at the bright side can be a bit misleading sometimes, but that’s what keeps us going. From now on, I will include pressing issues and controversies in my writing, along with the sunshine and rainbows. I’ll make time to read the newspaper more, and I encourage you to do the same as well. We should all get involved because this is OUR home, i gimå-ta (our home).

Pås yan guinaiya, si Yu’us ma’åse for reading.