Monday, April 30, 2007

The Language of Decolonization

I just wanted to share with everyone, the short speech below which I had intended to give at last week's incredible conference, Famoksaiyan "Our Time to Paddle Forward" Summit on Native Self-Determination and Decolonization. This was a continuation of last year's conference that we held down here in San Diego, and because the dream didn't die, didn't dissolve and didn't disappear, I can safely now refer to last year's gathering as "historic." And do so with incredible pride.

It has truly been inspiring, both this year and last year to see the incredible excitement and commitment that I have come across and that has been created amongst Chamorros and others from Guam out here. I'll make an uncomfortable point here before continuing. I rarely put any stock into the self-inflating rhetoric of Chamorros being strong or passionate or willing to fight for what is right, since this, like with most ethnic groups or communities, often is spoken simply to provide a talking point through which people can talk around the absence or disappointment of precisely what they are praising. The idea of Chamorros as strong and committed subjects is most prominently linked to their ability to be super-Americans, or psuedo, sub-Americans who gallantly and bravely soldier, celebrate and accept their secondary citizenship and status. In a related, but less visible way, we have the commitment of Chamorros (especially in the states, but this is also increasing in Guam), to their culture and language, not because they want to be good Chamorros, but because they want to be good Americans! The reason that an idiot like Don Imus can't get away with making stupid racist remarks against the Rutger's girls basketball team is because the subject of American society and culture today isn't a racist white male, but rather a subject of many different colors who 1. appreciates diversity and accepts that people should be allowed to speak other languages and be able to call themselves different things and 2. accepts more fundamentally the whiteness of the nature of American life, and therefore doesn't allow the multicultural tendencies which are becoming more and more dominant to interfere or threaten what makes America great, which is all derived from the intelligence, benevolence, understanding or compassion of a long line of great white men. In this sense, we see more and more Chamorros pushing for things such as "language preservation" and "cultural heritage" not because these things should be spoken, lived, passed on, but rather because Americans are no longer simply white men who have no culture, but now the real American is slightly culture, lightly colored with not too much color, but just enough to give a sense that it has roots somewhere else, a language it used to speak, or another culture or home which it can make it feel unique or different.

Unfortunately, those who are politically committed to things such as decolonization and other forms of activism (unless its religious) are generally labelled as crazy, radical, anti-American types, who live in the halomtano' outside of polite American society in Guam. What I see in Famoksaiyan and a few other groups that are emerging, is that the thesis of "no activism in Chamorro culture" is actively being rejected, both in direct confrontation, as I often prefer, or in simply ignoring those labels entirely. As I have seen over the last year with the incredible progress that Famoksaiyan has made in bringing Chamorros and others from Guam together for very specific political purposes, and helping inform people around the world in what is happening and the status of Guam is Chamorros taking up the challenge of living up to our own rhetoric of love, inafa'maolek, community, political/social commitment and so on, and proving that we are not simply talking, but are acting!
In the midst of all of this excitment, there is one thing which I have been a little distressed about, and that is how little is being done to actually learn the Chamorro language, amongst the hundreds I am encountering who want to fight for Chamorro issues, learning their language and culture/history, and reconnect to the Marianas Islands. I have hoped that these spaces would help instill that need and help proliferate the desire to learn, speak and perpetuate the language. Unfortunately this has not been the case, although I do see many people trying in small ways to bring tiny bits of Chamorro into their conversations and email correspondence.

When I opened the conference last year, despite the fact that most people present could not speak Chamorro or understand it, I opened it with a statement in Chamorro, and then reminded all present the centrality of language in our efforts of decolonization and cultural/political revitalization. I would later make this point while drafting Filosofia Famoksaiyan, or what I would hope lies at the spiritual and political core of Famoksaiyan as a group:

Central to this aesthetic impetus is a commitment to the revitalization of Chamorro language. The process of decolonization is the re-invention of a form, an identity, or a place in relationship to something once conceived of as lost or gone. Over the past two generations the language loss amongst Chamorros on Guam has been terrifying. Anti-Chamorro language policies propagated by both emissaries of the United States and Chamorros themselves have both linked speaking perfect English and ridding of the Chamorro language and accent to better chances at economic prosperity and therefore happiness. As Chamorros of the most recent generation contend with their own language loss, which was either forced from their mouths when they were children or kept hidden from them entirely, what is to be the relationship we define to that loss? Do we accept this loss as American education planners perceived it, as natural death and the only route to progress and the future? Or is decolonization the reversing or the disrupting of this very natural flow by which the path forward is followed? A redefining of what the future can and should be, based on in this instance, what language we will use to meet it, to describe it, to live it?

As the importance of language goes beyond communication alone and extends into the realm of expression and beauty of a world view, the overall process of decolonization is not complete without a revitalizing of Chamorro language, whether in public discourse, everyday conversations, or the arts.

I had wanted to make a similar point this year, again reminding people of how important the revitalization of Chamorro language is, in taking a stand against the order of things, challenging the way our future is being directed, and moving it in our own direction. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time in the presentations, so I did end up just sharing it with people informally in conversations and during the sessions. I also wanted to share it her as well.


Antes di ta tutuhun på’go na ha’åni, guaha bai hu sångan gi fino’ Chamoru put fino’ Chamoru.

Gi este i dos na ha’åni ta’lo, siempre guaha impotånte siha ta diskuti put i mamamaila na lina’la’ i taotao-ta yan i islå-ta, yan lokkue’ put i kinalamten i otron gurupun natibu siha gi Estabos Unidos ya gi eriyan i Pasifik.

Este na para ta sångan på’go, yanggen hagas ta cho’gue, sien años pat maskeseha sinkuenta años antes (tåtte), siña mohon ta diskuti gi fino’ Chamoru. Lao på’go siempre ta sångan osino diskuti todu gi fino’ Ingles.

Meggai giya Hita ni’ manggaigaige guini maninteresao put (gi) decolonization. Guaha interesao gi pulitikat, kuttura, pat hinasso. Lao maskeseha hafa guenao, gof impotånte para Hita todus, ya ta tatanga na u ma kumple i decolonization.

Guaha nasion siha, ilek-ñiha na Siha gumehilulu’i i kinalamten i mindo (mundo/tano’). Ilek-ñiha na Siha dumirihi i milalak Estoria yan Tiempo. Yanggen saddok i tiempo, siempre gaige Siha gi i puntan i saddok. Pues Estoria, Tiempo yan Inadelanto milalak ginnen Hita para Siha, ginnen i Chamoru para i Amerikånu pat i manåpa’ka. Osino guini na hemplo, ginnen Fino’ Chamoru asta Fino’ Ingles.

Yanggen ta aksepta este na punto, este na logic, para maseha hafa na rason, lastima i dinsehå-ta siha nu decolonization. Yanggen ta aksepta este put i lenguahi-ta, buente sa’ gof mappot matungo’ fino Chamoru, pat tåya’ bali-ña para u matungo’ fino’ Chamoru, pat todu ha’ esta manfino’ I’ingles, pat tåya’ tiempo, i humuyongña na gof chachago’ ha’ i guinife-ta siha nu decolonization.

Mientras ma diskukuti i mamamaila na lina’la’ i Chamoru yan i isla siha, ya taimanu siña ta na’magåhet i guinife-ta yan dineshå-ta, debi di u mahasso na gof impotånte para i che’cho’-ta i lenguahi-ta Chamoru. Ti kabåbales ha’ este na decolonization, kontat ki, ti ta chuchule’ tåtte gui’ ginnen Siha sumakke’. Ti kabåbales ha’, yanggen ti na’la’la’la’ gui’ mo’ña para i famagu’on-ta, yan i famagu’on i famagu’on-ta.

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