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A WGS Quarterly Publication

Hita I Manao’tao Yini na Tano
We are the People of this Land
By: LisaLinda Natividad, a daughter of Guahan (Guam)

CHamorus: Hita I tao’tao’ tano.  We are the people of this land.  We know that our land is an embodiment of the divine; our earth and sky created from his back, our sun and moon from his eyes, and our rainbows from his eyebrows.  We know this because our legend about Puntan and Fu’una tells us so. Our ancestors walked these lands for over 4,000 years.  The spirit of our land is vibrant and strong.

CHamorus: The Colonized.  Unincorporated territory. American citizens.  Colonial subjects.  Patriotic. Dependents.  Tourism.  Militarism.  Dirty.  Abusive. Drunken.  Lazy.  Stupid. Poor. Inadequate.  Inept.  Milking the system.  Pathetic.  Putting sentences to these words is just too painful.  The collective spirit of our people is ailing and weak.

Living the realities of the CHamoru colonial condition presents these dualities with which we are confronted everyday. On my homeland of 212 square miles, the United States’ military spear has brought with it dispossession of our people from ancestral lands, alarming rates of diseases, environmental contamination and degradation, a segregated school system, suppression of traditional methods in fishing and hunting, and the ongoing deferment of the CHamoru right to self-determination as defined by the United Nations. These acts perpetrated against our people has caused cultural trauma and a collective soul wound for generations of CHamorus.  Manifestations of this trauma include feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, self-doubt, and an overwhelming sense of cultural loss. 

Consequently, CHamorus are becoming more and more disenfranchised and marginalized in our homeland as indicated in over-representation in rates in prison, family violence cases, high school drop-outs, and mental health conditions. In this regard, we suffer a classic colonial condition also experienced by other oppressed groups throughout the globe inclusive of the Kanaka Maoli in Hawai’i Nei, Native Americans throughout the United States, and Aboriginals in Australia.

CHamorus’ first documented contact with the western world occurred in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan stumbled upon Guahan. In the next decade, Spain laid claims to the island as its first colonizer.  In the mid-1600’s, a Catholic settlement was established in Tumhon, carrying the colonizing weaponry of Western religion, thereby sanctifying the very mechanism that lay judgment on traditional ways of life as paganistic and barbaric. Spain maintained political control over Guahan until the end of the Spanish-American War, when the island was purchased by the United States as part of a $20 million package deal including the Philippines and Cuba in 1898.  At this time, Guahan was under the jurisdiction of numerous U.S. Naval officers. CHamorus were subject to restrictive policies developed by naval administrations addressing issues such as sanitation and hygiene. In 1941, Guahan was invaded by the Japanese Imperial Army because the island was a military outpost of the United States.  For about three years, the island was an active war zone during which time many CHamorus suffered inhumane atrocities.  Some women were kept as comfort women, while men and boys were made to labor in support of a world conflict they knew little about. The United States returned to reoccupy the island on July 21, 1944 and remains the island’s administering power in the 21st century. The local Government of Guam was created by a U.S. congressional act passed in 1950. Nonetheless, CHamorus and others living on Guahan do not have the civic right to vote in U.S. presidential elections. While Guahan has one elected representative to U.S. Congress, she does not have the right to participate in voting at the floor level.  Guahan’s unincorporated territory status of the United States likens it to that of a colony.

As a modern-day colony of the United States, Guahan and her people have no say in international decisions made between the United States and other countries that affect our daily lives.  In 2006, the United States entered into a bilateral agreement addressing U.S. military activities in Japan.  As part of affirmation. When I felt inspired into action, into the great loving No! (Yes!). When I was silenced by fear, blame, self doubt – the heavy hand of other. Where lies the balance?

The agreement, it was revealed that 8,000 U.S. Marines would be transferred from Okinawa to Guahan by 2014. 9,000 family members will accompany 8,000 active duty Marines.  In order to ready the island for the massive build-up, up to 20,000 foreign labor workers will be brought in to meet the construction demands.  As is typically the case on military bases, additional contractors (and their family members) will also be necessary to meet the demands for local support personnel. Guahan’s current population is approximately 170,000 people. The relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guahan will entail a nearly 30% population increase.

The proposed relocation of Marines to Guahan has been described as unprecedented in nature. It will double the existing military presence on the island and will eclipse the Chamoru population. The Guam build-up has been referred to as, “The largest project that the Department of Defense has ever attempted,” according to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, B.J. Penn. “Guam also offers the Air Force's largest fuel supply in the United States, its largest supply of weapons in the Pacific and a valuable urban training area in an abandoned housing area at a site known as Andersen South.”  Different military administrators have referred to Guahan with the following images: “America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Pacific”, “The Tip of the Spear”, “Fortress Pacific,” and “A Power projection hub.”  In the words of the former director of the Joint Guam Program Office, Captain Robert Lee, “We’re seeing a realignment of forces away from Cold War theatres to Pacific theatres and Guam is ideal for us because it is a US territory and therefore gives us maximum flexibility.” The notion of “maximum flexibility” is rooted in the fact that as an unincorporated territory, the United States and its military does not have to consult with Guahan or her people in its decision-making process, nor does it have to pay rental fees or negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement. Guahan has also been referred to as a former trailer park and a mere investment: "Guam is no longer the trailer park of the Pacific," Admiral Johnson said of the new military investment. Guam has emerged from backwater status to the center of the radar screen. This is rapidly becoming a focus for logistics, for strategic planning.” As we on Guahan stand on the precipice of change we can’t help but ask ourselves, “How will it change our lives?”

Beyond bombs and wars and fuel supplies, Chamorus lived in a land where our maga’hagas (female chiefs) and maga’lahis (male chiefs) made decisions based on the best interest of the clan and the land.  We are a people who lived in union with our land, air, sea, and water.  As we glance at our present political and historical context, we find ourselves trying to make sense of the senseless. The madness that has become the new world order does not protect our existence.  Rather, it leads us to our annihilation. Indigenous cultures have the wisdom to know this. Our indigenous sensibilities will lead us back to some semblance of sustainability and peace on Guahan; a place where relationships with each other is the fundamental purpose of living. CHamorus will continue to resist the U.S. military build-up and work for peace and justice for Guahan and her people.


LisaLinda Natividad sharing Guahan water in the opening ceremony and vigil at the Pentagon, Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases, February 27, 2009. Photo by Lindsey Kerr

April 2009 Newsletter
Hita I Manao’tao Yini na Tano
Militarism, Environmental Justice, and Sustainable Communities
Bases, Violence Against Women, & Resistance
Insight Interview with Ikehara Eriko
Anti-militarism Fashion Show
Printable Version: April 2009 Printable 11X17 Newsletter







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