The Talking Chief presented to Micah two beautiful presents, the staff and the whisk, a symbol of wisdom, both the essential gear of a high talking chief.
"This is the staff of a high talking chief in Samoa. A Samoan orator. This is a symbol of authority. In our villages. In our districts...Everywhere you go in Samoa you are a high talking chief, it is a symbol of authority...I would like to present to you, Micah, in the spirit of appreciation for a job well done in organizing this symposium.Micah accepted the gift and was visibly choked up and emotional about it. He wanted to accept the gift, but also wanted to make sure that the proper protocols were followed. He pulled out an object that was both a rattler and a whistle and began to say a solemn chant. It was a very touching moment, for so many reasons.
One of the things that was interesting from a Chamorro perspective, was the emphasis on protocol. For any official event in Guam there are protocols, but these are ones that are more or less standard for most modern countries. These is a prayer of some sort (in the past it was Catholic, but nowadays it can be from several religions, including one that is Ancient Chamorro in spirit). There may be a dance or a song. There are mentions of the famous and political people in the audience. But for the most part there is little that is there that you could call is derived from a Chamorro experience or Chamorro history/culture.
Indigenous people tend to be very small and sometimes invisible groups. They are obscured and given subordinate places in the lands that they used to call their own. Their suppressed histories, their attacked cultures, their stolen lands all point to them having nothing and so much being taken from them. Given the realities they face it might appear to make sense for them to just give up everything and just let it all go. But that sovereignty can give you a foundation upon which you can strengthen your identity, re-infuse value into your culture and keep your ability to stand strong, fight on or decolonize alive.
For the first stewards conference there was alot of protocol implemented into our daily activities. There were certain protocol officers who participated in all cultural activities. There were witnesses whose purpose was to go back to their communities in order to communicate as best as they could the messages of the symposium. There were regular ceremonies, prayers and chants that accompanied introductions, exchanges. It was beautiful to see.
But this is one of the most important conversations in Guam that no one wants to have. Guam has been a Chamorro homeland, as far as we know for 4000 years. It was a Spanish colony for a couple hundred. A Japanese colony for 32 months. An American colony for more than a century. But when we look at the island today, there is a cursory sort of respect for the indigenous people, but they are, like most indigenous people today, not supposed to have any sovereignty. They are supposed to give up their language and culture and land in order to make way for others, and not impose themselves on others, but allow someone greater, in this case the United States to be the neutral imposing force. Such is the most nefarious aspect of settler colonialism. Is that it appears to be so natural and invisible. It is appears to be so practical there shouldn't be anything wrong with it. Why should Chamorros have more say in Guam than anyone else? The American flag flies over Guam and that means they are in charge. The idea of respect and holding a true love or affection for the place that you live is gone by this point, all that is left is selfish settler colonialism.