Monday, October 07, 2013

Dealing With The Dinagi Siha

I posted the information about this Beyond the Fence episode earlier in the year, but felt compelled to post it again today. 

It is titled "Minagahet yan Dinagi Siha: The Revitalization of the Chamorro Language." It features presentations from myself and my friend Edward Alvarez that we gave during a conference in Okinawa earlier this year on the revitalization of island languages.

At present I am the coordinator for the Chamorro Studies program at the University of Guam. For years I have been working on issues of language and cultural revitalization from "the outside." But now I have an official and formal role in those debates and in that ideological infrastructure. I am teaching classes at the University of Guam in Chamorro language and Chamorro culture and I couldn't be happier. But like anyone who becomes used to seeing the problems of the world from a distance, where they appear to be more easily resolved, once you enter the thick of them, the complexity can start to drain and gnaw at you.

I am not so drained yet, but I do need to remind myself as to what the problems are and stay firm in my ideas about how they can be resolved. In terms of language loss, this presentation represented my attempt to articulate as best as possible the problem in terms of why Chamorro language isn't being passed on to the next generation, and what no one is doing anything about it.

You can find my others posts from that Okinawa trip under the tag "O3."


I invite you to tune in to Beyond the Fence which airs every Friday at noon on Public Radio Guam-KPRG 89.3 FM, immediately following Democracy Now.  This one hour locally produced program features interviews with diverse individuals and coverage of public events offering analysis and personal perspectives on the local impacts of US global militarism in the Asia-Pacific, especially in Guam and the Northern Marianas.  It provides accounts of different forms of resistance, decolonization and sovereignty  struggles, and the challenges of building community beyond the fence.  Audio podcasts of most episodes are available for free and may be downloaded within five days of the original broadcast by going to and clicking on the link to Beyond the Fence or by going directly to

Ep. 154 “Minagahet yan Dinagi Siha: The Revitalization of the Chamorro Language” (hosted by Rosa Salas Palomo with production assistance of Joy White ) was recorded by Michael Lujan Bevacqua in Okinawa in March 2013 and airs 7/12/13. 

This episode features two presentations from Guahan that were recorded at the March 2013 Island Language Revitalization Conference at Ryukyu University in Okinawa. This conference was organized by the Institute of Island Studies and Institute of Okinawa Studies at Ryukyu University by Professors Yoko Fujita and Masahide Ishihara. Language activists and linguists from Ainu, Chamorro, Maori, Hawaiian, Welsh and Okinawan communities were invited to share the state of their language revitalization efforts and learn new strategies for tackling this increasingly important issue for indigenous peoples.

Two Chamorro representatives, Edward A. Alvarez (, the executive director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization and Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua (, assistant professor of Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam, presented at this conference.  

Mr. Alvarez speaks about the history of Government of Guam efforts since 1964 to revitalize the Chamorro and of the difficult “minagahet”or truth that, despite these efforts, you can live your entire life on Guam and still not learn its native language. He also discusses the impact of the planned military buildup on language revitalization and political self-determination efforts. 

Professor Bevacqua speaks about the “gefpago na dinagi” or the “beautiful lie,” meaning the gap between positive language attitudes and the fact that Chamorros and many other indigenous people are still not passing on their languages to younger generations.  He examines the Guam experience in relation to the four stages of language colonization and decolonization (cultural self-destruction, recognition of loss, celebration; and return to sovereignty). 

Music selection:  “Fanohge Chamorro” or the “Guam Hymn”, written by Dr. Ramon Sablan and translated into Chamorro by Tan Lagrimas Untalan.  Implicit in the phrases, “Para ta onra, para ta gloria” is respect for the indigenous language and culture.

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