Friday, March 29, 2013

The Birth of Nasion Chamoru

I am finishing up an entry for the website Guampedia on the activist group Nasion Chamoru. I didn't know much about Nasion Chamoru until I was  student at the University of Guam, and even then I would hear snippets from the media and from relatives and didn't really understand what they represented and what they were trying to do. Eventually after taking a Guam History classes, my artist temperament led me to question so many things about Guam and Chamorros that I had taken for granted or never even considered. This naturally led me to learn more about Nasion Chamoru and their members, their message. My grandfather being a cultural master helped identify me to people who might otherwise question the lightness of my skin or the strangeness of my last name. I spent time talking to members of Nasion Chamoru and I learned about their struggle. By this time Angel Santos had stepped out of the group and was a Senator and was also becoming ill. I would sit next to him at church with my grandmother, but never really got a chance to interact with him.

I attended meetings of the Colonized Chamoru Coalition and the Commission on Self-Determination, now known as the Commission on Decolonization. Eventually in 2003 before leaving island to start my Ph.D. program in San Diego, I officially joined Nasion Chamoru. Along with several others young people, a small ceremony was held at then Latte Stone Park in Hagatna, a site that holds great symbolic significance to Nasion Chamoru. Each of us took on a name as part of our joining, I took on the name "Sahuma Minagahet." It is currently tattooed to my forearms and something I usually conclude my emails or letters with.

Writing this entry has been eerily nostalgic for me. Even though I didn't camp out in front of Adelup on either of the times members of Nasion Chamoru did. Even though I did not join Angel Santos in any hungry strike. Even though I did not protest at Pott's Junction. Even though I did not lose land after World War II. Even though I was not a veteran who had come home after dispossessing people in Vietnam, questioning all the principles that everyone seems to foolishly believe that American stands for. Even though I did not meet any of these criteria, and did not participate in any of those direct actions or transformations of consciousness that help create Nasion Chamoru as a protest group, in the time that I spent with its members learning from them I felt responsible for carrying on the fight, for carrying on their story, for reminding the next generation and the next after, that the fight is not over.

As part of the writing of this article I went back to many of the early articles, flyers and declarations that led to the founding of Nasion Chamoru. By far my favorite is "The Birth of a Chamoru Nation" by Angel Santos. I've pasted it on this blog many times before, but feel the need today to paste it again.

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The Guam Tribune, Saturday, November 2, 1991
The Birth of the Chamoru Nation

Tinige' i Difunton Anghet Leon Guerrero Santos

        In the beginning of time, God created man in his own image. He created a universal home for his people. He scattered them throughout the world and gave each of them a language of their own. He gave them land and enough natural resources to live on. He created Koreans and gave them a home in Korea. Then he made the Japanese and gave them a home in Japan. Then he created Chamorus and gave them a home in the Marianas. 
         Who is a Chamoru? A Chamoru is a direct descendant of the original inhabitants of Guam regardless of variations of lineage. A Chamoru is not determined in terms of degrees or fractions. A person who is 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4 Chamoru is still a human beings have a God-given right to claim their identity based on the argument that there is no nationality in the world that is pure. Why must Chamorus be subjected to all the insults and alienation? Why must we justify our identities? God knows who we are and that's all that matters. Chamorus have an inalienable right to exist as a nation of people! Our ancestors were placed on this island with a unique culture and language, found nowhere in the world except in the Marianas Islands. Why do outsiders argue that there are no real Chamorus? Is it because these individuals or outside governments have an economic or political interest in our island? Or is it because they have no sense of their own identity? Chamorus know who they are. They are born, raised and proud to be Chamoru. A Chamoru is allowed to keep his clothes, American car, a concrete home, and government job and still be a Chamoru. It is not an immortal sin to be a Chamoru. It is a divine gift from God....
           Today, survival of the Chamoru Nation is threatened as a result of the US open door policy allowing the influx of immigrants into Guam. The United States denied Chamorus their fundamental human rights by taking Chamoru lands (one third of Guam) in the 1940's and 1950's, without due process of just compensation. For any nation to survive, is people must protect the land, water, air, spirituality, language and culture...
...Sovereignty is the right of a people to control their own destiny. All sovereign nations must protect six elements - land, water, air, spirituality, language and culture for the survival of its people. If any of these elements are sold, destroyed or lost, then sovereignty begins to erode and our right to survive is decreased. The influx of immigrants to Guam has an impact on these elements that threatens Chamoru survival.
        Some Chamorus feel its too late to attend to problems on Guam, but while the Chamorus still make up 42 percent of the population it is not too late. While some Chamorus chose not to sell their land, it is not too late. While some still speak the language, it is not too late. While our culture is still being practiced, it is not too late. While our children still depend on us, it is not too late. While we are still alive, it is not too late. Patience, faith and prayer are our only weapons in reversing the injustice and restoring hope for our people.

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