Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Guam Was Created

I am presenting next week on the Chamorro creation story, where Puntan and Fu'una create Guam and Chamorros. There are so many different versions of it, most of which follow the same trajectory but focus and leave out certain elements. San Vitores recorded a version of the story. So did other priests. Freciynet did as well. Today there are different theories as to what it means and what the Chamorro relationship to these great spirits was. In some versions Puntan and Fu'una are depicted as equal, while in others they are not and Puntan is firmly in charge with Fu'una his loyal sidekick. For my presentation I will be discussing the way this story was used in the creation of a mural in the village of Humatak and how it can be essential in the project of decolonization. I need to get back to work on it, but I thought I would share real quick one version of the story, written in Chamorro and published by the Department of Education. It is titled "Hafa Taimanu na Mafa'tinas i Islan Guahan." I'll be talking more about my presentation in the next week, but for those wanting to practice their Chamorro, the text is below:


Hafa Taimanu na Mafa’tinas i Islan Guahan

Ginen un tiempo tatte gi estoria-ta, tinampe i tano’ ni hanom, ya taya’ lugat para sagan-niha I taotao. Lao duranten este na tiempo gi estoria meggai i higante siha gi tano’. Manmipudet este na higante. Ya gof sina ma tulaika I fotman I tano’.

I mas muna’sina chumo’gue este na tinilaika era Si Puntan yan i che’lu-na as Fu’una.

Esta a’amko’ Si Puntan ya mumalago’ na para u guaha takhilo’ bida-na antes di u matai. Pues ha agang i che’lu-na as Fu'una ya ha eksplikayi hafa para u cho’gue ni’ tataotao-na. Ti mappot ete na minalago’ sa’ para u irensa I che’lu-na ni’ pakto-na.

Para u tinilaika i tano’ ginen inayudan Fu'una yan i tahtaotao Puntan.
Ginen i dos atadok-na na u ma fa’tinas i atdao yan i pilan.
Ginen i sehas-na na u ma fa’tinas isa ni’ bonito na kulot siha.
Ginen i pecho’-na na u ma fa’tinas i mikulot na langhet.
Gi finaitai-na na inesgue Si Puntan ni’ che’lu-na. Ha fa’tinas un dangkoluon acho’ ginen I pakto-na annai ha batte i edda’ agaga’ Guahan yan i hanom tasi.

Ginen este na acho’ yan baras siha, na manmafa’tinas i taotao Guahan.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kao Gaige Hamyo?

It is almost time for Chamorro Month. I'm getting in the mood for it by stretching myself too thin with a sakman-load of projects and presentations. I've also spent the day listening to Chamorro music. Not the usual cha cha style, which has its own merits, but the more conscious Chamorro music. There are so many songs out there that for me have a far greater and deeper message than most Chamorros allows themselves to think about. Those are the songs that fill my soul and keep me going. Johnny Sablan has so many of them. The group Chamorro had half an album filled with them. J.D. Crutch has a couple. K.C. Leon Guerrero one or two. One group which isn't as well known as a group, but is comprised of many famous local musicians is Native Sun, which released the CD "New Horizons." Although most of the songs on the CD are in English it has a definite island feel to it. 

The song that stuck out the most for me was "Ko Gaige Hamyo?" or "Are you there?" It is a song which has a very special guest on it, the late Senator Angel Santos. In the style that you'd expect, his section of the song is a call to action, a cry for Chamorros to wake up and take control of their destiny. 

What better way to prepare for Mes Chamoru than with those words? Maolek na para ta na'liston maisa hit para Mes Chamoru ni i tahdong na fino'-na.


Anai humanao yu’ lagu, hu hasso tatte, manma’pos siha na tiempo. Anai manmagof i manChamorro. Managofli’e’, manakomprende yan managuaiya, put respetu todus i manChamorro.

Kao gaige hamyo Chamorro?

An ta atan pa’go, hafa guha gi tano’-ta, Manatanges yan manmumu i taotao, i manChamorro. Manmaleleffa, manmalingu, mamatai i respetu i kustrumbre i manChamorro.

Nangga, ti atrasao, Mungga maleffa hayi hamyo. Maila, Hagu yan Guahu. Ta akudi i taotao-ta siha.

Manatanges i guela yan i guelo, ni hafa guaguaha guini gi tano’-ta pa’go. Hafa taimanu u fanla’la’ i famagu’on-ta anggen taya’ ta cho’gue pa’go? Hafa ta nanangga? Ai manu na manggaige hamyo manChamorro? Yanggen ti ta cho’gue hafa pa’go teneki i famagu’on-ta pumulopu todu este i achaki gi mamaila siha na tiempo. Manatanges ham pa’go! Fanmakmata’ Chamorro! Fanohgue Chamorro! Hafa ta nanangga? Fanmakmata’ afanelos amanu na manggaige hamyo!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mata'pang gui'

Sesso nina'triste yu' ni i estorian Maga'lahi Mata'pang. Matatnga na gerreru gui'. Ha kontra i Espanot ko'lo'lo'na i mamale' anai ti meggai na Chamorro kumokontra. Guihi na tiempo meggai mano'sun nu i inentalo', lao i meggaina manma'a'nao nu i atmas i sindalun Espanot. Tumachu Si Hurao kontra siha gi 1671, lao manguahlo'. Kana' ma ikak i Espanot, lao manggineggue siha ni un pakyo'. Mandinestrosa i gima'Chamorro siha, lao tumotohgue ha' sin danu i gima'yu'us Katoliko. Gi 1672 anai umannok Si Mata'pang gi i estoria-ta, ha na'hasso i taotao na debi di u mana'suha i taotao sanhiyong. Ha puno' Si San Vitores yan i ayudante-na, i halacha na mafa'santo na Tagalog as Pedro Calusnor. Si Mata'pang ha fa'nu'i i tiguang-na siha na ti manyu'us i gilagu, sina mehagga'. Gi minagahet esta i Chamorro ma tungo' este, lao manmaleffanaihon.

Gof na'ma'a'se na i hiniyong i mimu-na na mana'chilong i na'an-na yan meggai baba pat taihinasso na bida gi i kuminidat. Puede ha' mohon gi i mamaila na tiempo sina ta tulaika este, sina ta satba i na'an-na. Anggen ta hasso i mismo bida-na, debi di ta hatsa i na'an-na komo i babaon i fuetsa-ta yan i minetgot i manaina-ta.

From Guampedia:

Mata'pang: Evolution of the term

Matå’pang is a Chamorro word used to describe a person who is acting careless, rude or stupid. It is a highly-charged word, which can almost be considered to be a casual slang in some instances and a very insulting appellation in others. It is a negative term which is meant to capture a whole host of socially unacceptable actions. A person who is called  matå’pang might be acting rude, snobbish, silly, uncivilized, impolite, or crazy. It is such a popular term in Guam contemporary life, that even many non-Chamorros know and use the term.

The history of this term, however, is far more complex than just this shallow social insult. It is a word through which we can perceive the impacts of Spanish colonization on Guam and amongst Chamorros, and how it impacted their worldview and language. The word  matå’pang is also well known as the name of an ancient historical Chamorro figure, a maga’låhi (highest ranking mail or chief of a village) from 17th century Guam, whose actions against the newly arrived Spanish missionaries, are most likely the reason for the word’s contemporary negative associations.

Matå’pang the man

Matå’pang was a maga’låhi from the songsong (village) of Tomhom, (modern-day Tumon). Upon the arrival of the Spanish missionaries, led by Catholic Spanish priest Pale’ (Father) Diego Luis de San Vitores,  Matå’pang was one of many high-caste Chamorros who initially welcomed them and argued that they be allowed to stay on the island and share their new religion and technology. The first months and years after the establishment of the Spanish mission on Guam since 1668, were full of some suspicion and some excitement, as the missionaries and their garrison were a source of curiosity for the Chamorros. Numerous Chamorros agreed to be converted to Christianity, Matå’pang included.
As time passed however, it became increasingly clear that the Spanish represented a serious threat to Chamorros and their ways of life, and that whether they agreed to be converted or not, the Spanish were claiming the anti, lina’la’ yan tåno’ (spirit, life and land) of Chamorros as their own. As the Spanish began to condemn Chamorro cultural practices and beliefs as pagan or savage, Chamorros started to resist this invasion into their lives and homes.

In 1672, while Matå’pang was away from his home, San Vitores and his lay assistant Pedro Calangsod entered the magå’låhi’s home and baptized his daughter. A few years earlier such an act might have been considered exciting or a curiosity, a tribute to the strange ways of Guam’s newest residents, but by 1672, the aura of mystery around the Spanish had long faded. The Chamorro people were being wracked with horrible diseases that they had no immunities to nor known åmot (medicine), and rightfully assumed that they had been brought by the Spanish. The holy water that priests such as San Vitores used during baptisms was thought to be poisonous and one of the ways in which the foreign disease were transmitted.  Matå’pang became enraged believing that San Vitores had put his daughter’s life in jeopardy by baptizing her, and that San Vitores did not even seek his permission first.

Matå’pang was joined by another Chamorro named Hurao as they attacked San Vitores and his servant, killing them. The death of San Vitores helped lead to an increased militarization of the Spanish attempts to colonize the Chamorros. More than two decades of war throughout the entire island archipelago followed the death of San Vitores.  Matå’pang fled to the neighboring island of  Luta (Rota) to escape capture and continued to fight against the Spanish, until he was caught and killed in 1680.

Solidifying Spanish symbolic power

At the end of the Chamorro-Spanish Wars (1671 – 1698), the Catholic Church – in order to solidify its power over Chamorros, ensure their proper Christianization – undertook a systematic process of prohibiting and condemning large portions of Chamorro culture. The seafaring navigational culture, practices of ancestral worship, some dances and songs, and parts of the matriarchal culture, were just a few examples of things which the Spanish saw as a threat to their new hold over Chamorros, and which had to be eradicated.

Part of the reason that Spanish established themselves in a time of peace with Chamorros, was to help shape the way that the previous era of Chamorro history, their resistance, was remembered, or would become embedded in their identity as a people moving forward. In order to do this, two primary figures were drawn from the Chamorro-Spanish War period, and placed forth to Chamorros as good and evil of themselves, the epitome and the enemy of their behavior and society.

Kepuha (also known as Quipuha), because of his early support for the Catholic Church and the Spanish in Guam, became the epitome of the savage Chamorro, the ideal to which they should aspire, the Chamorro who recognized the salvation the church represented and who did not resist or stand in the way of its influence. Matå’pang, the wild savage who murdered a holy man, became the symbol of all that Chamorros should not be. Matå’pang came to represent someone who who foolishly resisted society and progress, who stood outside of polite society and community, who rashly and stupidly defied it and therefore embodies the evil that led to a community’s violent decay.

The result is the imposing and celebratory statue of Maga’låhi Kephua that stands in the center of the island in present-day Hagåtña, the island’s capital, and the denigration of Maga’låhi Mata’pang’s name to mean “silly” and “crazy.”

Alternative meanings

As Chamorros have become more of a presence in researching, writing and telling of their history, and the dominance of the Catholic Church’s historiography of Guam has been challenged, and the figure and meaning of “matå’pang” has started to shift. Matå’pang is no longer considered to be a crazy evil figure who stands against faith, reason and God, but a much more complex figure, who resisted the colonization of his people, and can be considered to be one of the first-known Chamorro freedom fighters.

The definition of matå’pang as a word in Chamorro has also shifted, as older meanings of the term are being more commonly used in order to keep from participating in this aspect of Guam’s continuing colonization.


Matå’pang also means “to be cleansed or purified.” Mata’pang literally translates to “the one who has been cleansed.” “Tå’pang“- the root word – means “to clean or wash” or “to rinse in salt water.” Ironically, “tå’pang” is also closely associated to the term takpångi which means “to baptize or to christen.”

Another alternative, but closely related meaning to matå’pang is “boring, dreary or bland” as in activities or food. The implication for this meaning appears to be that something is bland or boring because its been cleansed of all the fun or taste.

Finally, in another strange twist of meaning in an  already very charged word, matå’pang can be used to refer to something as being mixed up or unclear, for example hånom (water) when it is brackish or murky.

By Michael Lujan Bevacqua, PhD

For further reading

Benavente, Ed. I Manmañaina-ta: I Manmaga’låhi yan I Manmå’gas; Geran Chamoru yan Españot (1668-1695). Mangilao, GU: Ed Benavente, 2007.

Garcia, Francisco, S.J. The Life and Martyrdom of the Venerable Father Diego Luis de San Vitores of the Society of Jesus, First Apostle of the Mariana Islands and Events of These Islands from the Year Sixteen Hundred and Sixty-Eight Through the Year Sixteen Hundred and Eighty-One. Translated from Spanish by Margaret M. Higgins, Felicia Plaza and Juan M.H. Ledesma. Edited by James A. McDonough. Mangilao, GU: University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, 2004.

Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission. I Magubetna-na Guahan: Governing Guam, Before and After the Wars. Hagåtña: Political Status Education and Coordination Commission, 1993.

Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission. I Manfayi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History,Vol. 1. Hagåtña: Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission, 1995.

Russell, Scott. Tiempon I Manmofo’na: Ancient Chamorro Culture and History of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan, CNMI: Division of Historic Preservation, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1998.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Solidarity Networks

I have been working for the past week on answering some questions for an antibase group in Italy. Through David Vine, best known for his book Islands of Shame about Diego Garcia, they held a virtual meeting amongst demilitarization activists from around the Pacific and Europe. A physical gathering of antibase activists in Italy coordinated virtual presentations from speakers representing struggles in Guam, Okinawa, South Korea, Hawai'i, Diego Garcia and elsewhere. It was an inspiring and invigorating moment even though because of time differences I was hunched over my computer at 2 in the morning. The group found the exchange of information so interesting they decided to produce a book that would give a road map to the struggles that are happening around the world, to help us better see how we are connected.

Here is the text for the short presentation that I made during last year's demilitarization network solidarity meeting. 


I apologize that there is no one else from Guam to greet all of you. It is 1 am here right now and so most people are asleep. But they are here in spirit, in sleeping spirit.

My name is Michael Lujan Bevacqua, I am a professor of Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam and a decolonization and demilitarization activist.

I am from Guam, an island in the Western Pacific that has long hosted several bases that are integral for US strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. My island of 212 miles is 28% US military bases. The United States has referred to our island by many names, “the tip of the spear” “fortress Guam” and “the USS Guam.” All of which are connected to Guam being transformed from an island of peace into a weapon of war. Whether it wants to be or not, Guam has been involved in every major US conflict or project of force projection in Asia, primarily as a transmit point for weapons or victims of war. Soldiers, weapons and bombs pass through Guam on their way to Asia, and refugees leaving conflicts in Vietnam, Burma and Iraq pass through Guam on their way to the United States.

Since 2005, Guam has lived under the shadow of a dramatic military increase primarily Marines and their dependents from bases in Okinawa. In 2009, the US Department of Defense released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for their “military buildup” to Guam. What they proposed would require their leasing of more than 1000 acres of new lands in order to build firing ranges and the destruction of dozens of acres of coral reef in order to build a berth for aircraft carriers. If their plans were carried out the Department of Defense estimated that Guam’s population could increase by 75,000 in just four years. Guam’s population is around 170,000.

The community responded to this proposal with concern and anger. The DEIS comment period was filled with public meetings and forums in which those critical of the buildup came out in full force and changed the public discussion on the issue. While the Department of Defense informally stated that they were only expecting around 500 comments from the community on their plans, public campaigns and protests ensured that more than 10,000 comments were submitted.

A lawsuit was filed in order to protect a sacred site in northern Guam called Pagat that would become part of a firing range complex. These community protests and the lawsuit combined have delayed the military buildup for several years. The Department of Defense is currently reformatting their plans but is likely to come up with a new round of proposals next year.

Guam is the southernmost and largest island in the Marinas Island Archipelago. The northern islands are known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and together Guam and the CNMI make up the what the Department of Defense refers to as its “Marianas Range Complex.” The US not only utilizes Guam but vast areas of ocean for holding war games, such as Valiant Shield and Valiant Shield 2. They also own substantial portions of the island of Tinian, which is notorious historically as being the island from which the planes that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki left from. Another northern island Farallon de Medinilla has been used for bombing practice.

The Department of Defense is currently making plans to transform a beautiful and largely pristine island of Pagan into a site for massive amphibious and aerial assault training and for bombing practice. 

Just yesterday we held a first meeting of activists from the northern islands and Guam, who are concerned about the militarization of the Marianas. We hope to build on this network and connect our islands together not through their strategic importance but through a shared desire for peace and for the protection of our islands.

As a final note, Guam, like other island bases provide a good lesson of how militarization works. The value of places like Guam that are small and faraway, is that they are small and faraway and therefore to much of the world they are invisible and appear to be meaningless. This smallness and this distance is part of the strategic value of island bases, it is something that militaries count on in order to protect their training and their other activities. When visible places protest and demand that training be reduced or bases be closed, they often go to invisible islands like Guam, which most of the world could care less about. It is important in developing a global network to resist militarism that we keep this dynamic and the strategic importance of smallness and invisibility in mind.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

O Guinaiya

O Tano'
Gof triste hao pa'go
Sa' i mas gefpago na diamante
Esta gaige giya Guahu

O Mapagahes,
Triste hao,
Sa' taya' mas "fluffy"
Kinu i guinaiya-ku

O Uchan,
Un na'matmos i tano'
Lao esta masmai i korason-hu ni guinaiya

O Isa,
Manayao hao kulot
Ginen i mitkilot na guinaiya-ku

O Atdao,
Hosguan hao
Nu i minaipen i guinaiya-ku

O Pulan,
Gof hosguan
Nu i mina'lak i nobia-hu

Kao toninos hao?
Sa' toninos yu'
Kao toninos hit gi i tasin guinaiya?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The National Postman

I have a weird fascination with movies that people generally don't like. I've never found anyone else for example who enjoyed the film The Postman directed by Kevin Costner from the book by David Brin. In the spectrum of what makes a movie enjoyable or likeable a film like The Postman, seems to fall inbetween the crack of everything. You can like movies because it connects with something in you, because everyone else likes it, because so many people say it is great. You can hate it because it offends you, bores you, is just plan stupid or terrible. Interestingly enough when something reaches the point where its meaning is too assured, that is precisely when your response may end up on the opposite end of the spectrum. If a movie is too poorly put together, it can become charming, unique, silly, bad in a good way, etc.

The Postman, which tells the story of how certain symbols of daily modern life, such as mail, play an inspiring role in rebuilding communities after the world as we know it comes to an end. In a world that has been destroyed by war and terrible weapons, Kevin Costner pretends to be a postman of a restored United States government in order to trick villagers into giving him food. His ruse however inspires people who have been beaten down and gutted by the cruelty of post-apocalyptic life into believing in the possibility of their previous sense of normalcy returning. The hope the return of postal service represents helps people that their world can change and soon the fiction that the Postman created becomes a reality.

The movie is filled with jingoism and patriotism and at times it becomes far too much. In the final fight of the film Kevin Costner vanquishes his opponent after he fills himself with zeal by crying out his devotion for the United States of America. Symbols such as the Federal Government and the American flag that have little meaning in the slow death the world seems to be stricken with taken on new and old meanings.

The Postman using his inner patriotic power to defeat the villain of the film is silly but also telling in terms of the dynamics involved. The lack of governments, the lack of countries, the lack of even the ability to invoke humanity as moving forward in time means that people live without grand narratives. Even Mother Nature is antagonistic and ti anggokuyon as it has been poisoned and scarred by human idiocy and greed. This means there is no Big Other out there to collect the errant and stray meaning of existence. The previously mentioned things all operated as screens, "the nation" or "humanity" or "the world" through which so many of the things that you didn't want to be bothered to think or worry about could be dealt with.

We all live like this on a daily basis. A belief in progress will enable you to see the world as always moving forward and allowing you to cope with what you see around you that might dramatically counter this point. A belief in your government allows you to abdicate responsibility over so many things in your life that you otherwise feel responsible for taking care of yourself. A believe in your "nation" means that no matter what your nation does, you will always have easy to access apologia and excuse that you can use to protect the reputation of your country.

These grand narratives are out there and they provide people with a sense of security and comfort, so long as you don't think about them too much. The less you think about your government, about humanity, about your nation, about religion, about nature, the easier it is to persist in a simple and clueless way. Those grand narratives seem impossible to challenge or think around so long as they aren't thought about. But if you dare to interrogate them and people do in small and large ways constantly, you will see, taste and feel their fragility easily.

People will always feel conflicted about this relationship. It is on the one hand a comforting default connection. These narratives allow you to think less about many events around you and give you the opportunity to focus on yourself and your immediate identity. On the other hand people will always find ways to argue they are independent, they are alterity in the flesh. They aren't the sum of the things they take for granted, they are the choices they make that define them against others who float blindly along.

But the lure of the grand all-seeing power of the Other than knows is too strong, people will find their ways back to it. They will find their ways back into believing, accepting, deceiving, or whatever it takes to find an invisible groove within that massive beast of meaning. It is just too tempting to have something or someone out there upon whom you can lay so many of the questions of existence or the impossible to quantify responsibilities of existence.

When I was in graduate school one debate that stayed with us students constantly was what to do with the nation? Nationalism promised much and had delivered little for those seeking justice or decolonization. Ethnic groups that bought into nationalism, whether as minorities or as decolonized subjects often times ended up becoming mirror versions of the colonizers and slave masters who had once oppressed them. Nationalism with its emphasis on forgetting the sins of the past and dazzling its members with promises of future fortunes did not seem to break the cycle of human violence or of colonialism, it seemed to just continue it with different colored spokes.

Nationalism is an elixir that is so difficult to resist. As a narrative, a meaning generating organism it is comforting and inspiring. It represents a repository of past glories and dreams future conquests. What the film The Postman shows is the ways in which people can feel connected and imagine themselves in some solidarity even if they don't know each other and never meet each other. Every large collective is intriguing and complicated in its own way, but all requires mechanisms through which people can feel connected and possibly be connected. There have to be means of traversing distances, whether humans bodies or human thoughts. People have to feel a latent network out there that gives them the skeletal spiritual tough of community. The larger the distances the greater the empty networks of possible links and potential ties that have to be in place.

In the film the denizens of the post-apocalpyse don't see the nation as being possible or even that desirable as they eek out their existence, because the structures such as media, government, communication that existence before don't give you the everyday ability to imagine that someone on the other side of the land mass has the same values as you, or watches the same TV shows you do or is headed in the same destined direction you and the nation are. The revival of mail service and even the possibility of mail service reignites that feeling of possibility for a larger community. This is what makes it a film ideal for the mechanics of nationalism. It shows very well, in sometimes clunky ways what theorists of nationalism talk about in terms of how these communities are formed and how they are maintained.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ralph Nader's Activist Awards

Now Presenting.... The Activist Awards


The Kodak Theater in Los Angeles where the Academy Award ceremonies are held. (File)

The annual Academy Awards GALA, viewed by one billion people worldwide, is scheduled for the evening of March 2, 2014. Motion pictures and the people who act in and produce them are center stage. Apart from the documentaries, this is a glittering evening of “make-believe” and “make business.”

Now suppose our country had another Academy Awards GALA for citizen heroes – those tiny numbers of Americans who are working successfully full-time in nonprofit groups to advance access to justice, general operations of our faltering democratic society, and the health, safety, and economic well-being of all citizens.

This must sound unexciting in comparison with the intensity of the world of film. Until you see what these unsung people do in your local communities, your state, and your country. Then let’s see if you think what my choice of civic heroes do every day isn’t exciting. They are selected because they work in groups associated either directly or indirectly with me over the course of several decades.

1. Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety and an engineer and lawyer. Mr. Ditlow has forced the auto companies to recall millions of defective motor vehicles, has brought auto companies to justice on many occasions in courts of law, and puts out volumes of information to inform elected representatives and the public about the need for stronger federal regulation of the resisting auto industry.

2. James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International. As a mere high school graduate, he stunned specialists with the brilliance of his written analysis of energy subjects in Alaska. Mr. Love has been on the move all over the world challenging the tax-subsidized, highly profitable drug companies to stop gouging millions of patient-victims with “pay or die” marketing schemes. Big Pharma endured a rare defeat when Mr. Love convinced Ministers of Health and Dr. Yusuf Hamied, head of India’s CIPLA Pharmaceutical, in 2001 to break the $10,000 per patient per year drug treatment for AIDS and bring the cost down to $300 per year (

3. Dr. Michael F. Jacobson was a young PhD student in biochemistry at MIT when I interviewed him for a position with us. I told him we were looking for long-termers. He nodded. Nearly forty-five years later, Dr. Jacobson, having started the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has done more than anyone to document and brightly publicize enjoyable nutritional diets with less salt, sugar and fat. His Center knows how to communicate. Nutrition Action goes to 90,000 subscribers. He sends messages to your stomach in order to stimulate your mind.

4. Al Fritsch, another scientist PhD, joined us at the same time as did Michael Jacobson. He didn’t spend much time in Washington before he returned to his home region of Appalachia where he started the Appalachia Center for Science in the Public Interest. Applied science and technology, as if people mattered most, was his credo. He pioneered simple, old and new ways – for example, to preserve the land and forest, make the drinking water safe, and grow more food – that he conveyed to local people of all ages who then became community scientists innovating themselves.

5. Lois M. Gibbs started as a mother and housewife until she saw what the chemicals seeping through the ground of their middle-income housing project in Niagara Falls were doing to residents, especially children. She then became unstoppable, moving from protesting for a cleanup to starting the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in 1981 with chapters and activists all over the country taking on and often winning the battle against the silent violence of reckless industries.

6. Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe founded with me the Health Research Group of Public Citizen. Do you want to see what a small group of half a dozen people can accomplish in getting rid of hundreds of prescription and over the counter drugs “that don’t work?” Or do you want to learn how Dr. Wolfe has kept the Food and Drug Administration’s feet to the fire and held many doctors accountable to professional standards? Or how about investigating scores of harmful conditions bred by the avarice or incompetence of the medical/hospital/drug industry complex (

7. Joan Claybrook, went from heading our immense Congress project, that issued magazine-sized profiles of every member of Congress going for re-election in 1972, to running the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for President Jimmy Carter, and then to the presidency of Public Citizen for nearly thirty years without missing a beat. The auto companies called her “the Dragon Lady.” A fixture on Capitol Hill, she roared down the corridors on behalf of safety protections for millions of Americans.

8. Karen Ferguson started, a few years out of Harvard Law School, with my help the Pension Rights Center (PRC) in 1976. Karen and her staff dedicated themselves completely to being a watchdog of Congress, the Department of Labor, and a myriad of corporations, proposing legislative and regulatory changes and responding to the growing crisis of declining or looted traditional pensions for millions of workers. One of the biggest economic injustices in our economy is the loss or shredding of defined benefit pensions which either aren’t being replaced or are replaced by exploitable 401(k)s. Trillions of dollars and millions of families are affected – luckily, the PRC and Ms. Ferguson are there year in and year out.

9. Robert C. Fellmeth in 1970 brought hundreds of eager law students from Harvard and other law schools to work with us. In a short time he authored or co-authored three large books, then went to California to become a prosecutor, then combined a career as law professor, litigator and leading public advocate for children through his Children’s Advocacy Institute. No one can ever outwork or out-produce Fellmeth. His example has prompted his associates to coin the word “Fellmethian.” His emphasis on children – protection, legislation, lawsuits, exposes, and a unique annual California Children’s Budget only provide a glimmer of this creative civic giant’s prodigious successes.

10. Robert G. Vaughn, when in his mid-twenties, chose our project on the federal civil servants. His work became a book titled The Spoiled System (1975). Over forty years later he teaches at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., is an expert on civil servant law and is the world’s leading authority on whistle-blowing in dozens of countries (see The Successes and Failures of Whistleblower Laws, Edward Elgar, 2012). He has inspired hundreds of law students in treating law as justice and practicing along that pathway.

11. John Richard, has worked with us since 1978 becoming a peerless networker and adviser for citizen groups, their leaders and staff on all kinds of subjects. In his thirty-five years, he has participated in more gatherings and action meetings on more topics than anyone. This has nourished the wisdom of his assistance to scores of civic advocates who seek his help. Mr. Richard avoids taking any credit but his daily low-key pushing forward of the train of justice speaks for itself.

These people of significance, and many more stalwarts who labor in the vineyards of a better life for all Americans, receive far less public attention than cartoon characters, misbehaving entertainers and athletes, and carousing politicians.

The more difficult, despairing, and overburdened are the livelihoods of millions of hard-pressed Americans, the more they spend time becoming spectators of mass entertainment and sports as a distraction and relief from their painful and desperate situations.

A drama-filled activist award night for civic courage and creativity will inspire millions of viewers to try their hand at operating the levers of power for the good of our society. And what is more dramatic than real life struggles and successes for justice against the bullies, the greedhounds and the authoritarians who presently make up the few who rule the many?

Dare it be said that the more people immerse themselves in learning about these heroics, the more compelling will be their civic interest and passion. Certainly there is more meaning to their daily lives than watching “make-believe” or someone putting a ball in a hoop or into the ground.

Where is the enlightened billionaire who can launch such a televised national activist awards evening for the greatest work of humans on Earth – which is advancing justice?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Estorian Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru

The Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru or "Chamorro Language Competition" is just a month away. This year I have the honor of helping organize the event, whereas in the past I only got to participate as a judge or as a spectator. I have written quite a bit about the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru in the past, about what it represents in terms of decolonizing the community and setting the foundation for the reversal of negative language attitudes. What is holding Chamorros back today in terms of revitalizing their language has nothing to do with resources, but everything to do with attitudes. There are still tens of thousands of Chamorro speakers out there. No one is punishing anyone for speaking Chamorro anymore. What continues to kill the language is the attitudes that people have that makes them feel like they shouldn't speak Chamorro to their kids or to others. These same ideologies make them blame others for the decline of the language when in truth, every speaker of the language can only blame themselves for the decline since, not passing the language on to one's children or grandchildren is precisely what is the problem. A space such as the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru is important because it can help to re-naturalize the use of Chamorro language amongst the youth. This does not mean that the youth are the true targets of this intervention. It is meant to teach them some Chamorro, make them feel pride in it. But in truth the targets are their elders, their parents and grandparents. It is amongst them that the language still lives and is still healthy, but the problem is they aren't transmitting it to those younger them. They are the ones who need to see the possibilities in terms of the youth speaking and using Chamorro. They are the ones who need to see the responsibility that they have to give this 4,000 year old gift to our children.

Below is a short history of how the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru came into being:


The forerunner of the CHamoru Language Competition was the All-Island Secondary Schools Competition that was held for nine years at the University of Guam’s former College of Arts and Sciences now named the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. The All-Island Secondary Schools Competition, headed by the college’s Modern Languages Program involved the middle and high public and private schools on Guam. The languages featured the skills of students in CHamoru, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The All-Island Secondary Schools Competition in its ninth year ended in 2001 under the chairmanship of CHamoru language assistant instructor Peter R. Onedera who also chaired the previous eighth annual competition.

During a two-year hiatus, attempts to revive the all-island competition failed and Onedera decided to pursue the competition with just the CHamoru language. The first competition was launched in 2004 as a part of the annual Charter Day observance of the University of Guam. For that first competition with over four hundred students, five schools competed in the middle school category while five schools competed in the high school category. For the first time, schools from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas joined in with representation from Tinian Elementary, Marianas High and Rota High. The competition has now regularly included schools from these islands and at the same time has also become an annual event in conjunction with the University of Guam’s Charter Day.
The genres in the All-Island Secondary Competition were proficiency, dramatic presentation, song and dance and poetry recitation. Onedera expanded the genres in the CHamoru Language Competition to include oratorical, chant, choral reading, essay for the middle schools and the high school male and female singing. Unlike the all-island competitions, an annual theme was also incorporated into the CHamoru competitions.

For the fifth competition in 2008, elementary schools were added and they competed in the genres of spelling, storytelling, drawing and choir with two divisions, that of grades kindergarten to second and grades third to fifth. For the first time in the history of the competition, the first Catholic School participated and that was Mt. Carmel School in Agat.

At the 6th competition on March 10, 2009, the island of Tinian sent its first non-denominational school, that of Grace Christian Academy in the middle school division. The school's representatives captured the gold medal in oratorical, an individual event; a silver in the essay and a gold in the choral reading genre which is a group event. In addition, Guam's archdiocesan Catholic school system added another school to its roster of participants, that of Saint Anthony which captured two drawing golds and one silver respectively and a bronze medal in the children's choir.

It is hoped that future competitions will involve the non-denominational schools on Guam and additional ones from the CNMI, the Department of Defense Domestic Dependants Elementary and Secondary Schools and that of mainland CHamoru organizations who continue to instill pride in the culture and the perpetuation of the CHamoru language among its children.

The event now involve university students enrolled during the semester in the CHamoru language classes, judges who are pillars of the CHamoru speaking community in both Guam and the CNMI as well as with grant support from the Guam Visitors Bureau's Cultural Heritage and Community Outreach program and the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency. Previously, monetary support was also received from notable civic and business entities.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ha'anin Guinaiya

Biba Ha’anin Guinaiya!
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety

I Ha’anin Guinaiya or Valentine’s Day is just a few days away. Stores have been stocking up for a while with stuffed animals, special chocolates and scores of imported flowers. Restaurants are offering special deals and reservations are being taken. Surprises are being planned and also some who aren’t great with dates or holidays are letting the week pass completely clueless as to what is coming. People are rushing about trying to find the most ideal way of translating your feelings for someone into an item, an experience, into a series of carefully chosen words.

I know that Chamorro month isn’t for a few more weeks, but as a proponent for the use and revitalize of the Chamorro language, I think that we should incorporate Chamorro language into everything humanly possible. So I respectfully ask that as you are working on the best way to communicate your affection/devotion/love/lust/obsession this month, please consider using the Chamorro language. Although Valentine’s Day has only been on Guam for a short period, the Chamorro language has been used to give emotional form to love, lust and romance for thousands of years. With the declining use of Chamorro, we naturally see a decline in people expression these feelings in it as well.

Most people on Guam know “hu guaiya hao” as “I love you,” but if you are like most people, a simple I Love You doesn’t get at the depths of what love is as a cosmic thing. There is always more to say and so many ways to say it. For the past four years I’ve used this column each Valentine’s Day to offer interesting, effective, creative and sometime stupid ways of communicating your love for someone special using the Chamorro language.  

My offerings this year are derived from song lyrics, movie quotes and poetry offered to me by friends and random people via Facebook and my blog. Please note that these translations are sometimes not direct or literal. As with all languages there are many ways to translate something the list below represents my choices for how to say it in Chamorro.  


Ilek-mu na un guaiya yu’, kao un tungo’ na hu laguaiya hao?
You say you love you, do you know I love you more?

Este i minagahet: gof mahålang yu’ nu Hågu yan guaha na biahi ti sungon’on i siniente.
This is the truth, I truly miss you and sometimes the feeling is unbearable.  

Todu i bidå-hu gi lina’la’-hu, kalang ha chalalåni yu’ mågi para Hågu yan este na momento.  
All that I have done in my life, it is as if it has led me here to you and to this moment.

Debi di un machiku, sesso yan duru. Kada diha, kada ora, kada minuto.
You should be kissed often and well. Everyday, every hour, every minute.

Minatai, ti siña ha na’påra i magåhet na guinaiya. Siña ha na’pårañaihon ha’.
Death cannot stop true love. It can only delay it.

Achokka’ ågupa’ ti agupa’-ta, på’go na ha’åni iyo-ta.
Even if tomorrow isn’t ours. Today is ours.

Taimanu siña hu na’tungo’ hao put todu i minames ni’ un nå’i yu’. Meggaigai siña masångan, lao ti siña hu sodda’ i palåbras, fuera di, ‘hu guaiya hao.‘
How can I let you know about the sweetness that you have given me? There is so much to say, but I can’t find the words, other than ‘I love you.”

I guinaiyå-ta kalang i manglo’. Ti siña hu li’e’, lao siña hu siente.
Our love is like the wind. I can’t see it, but I can feel it.

Kada hinagong gi gefes-mu kalang un rigålu para Guahu.
Each breathe in your lungs is like a gift to me.

Ti un nisisita kumombense yu’, esta iyo-mu yu’.
You don’t have to convince me, I’m already yours.

Kao magåhet na umali’e’ ham? Pat kao un mames na guinife ha’ este?
Did we really meet? Or is this just a sweet dream?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Uncharted Waters

Over the weekend I took the kids to a birthday party where instead or horse rides or karabao rides the family was offering proa rides. The party took place on the beach in Hagatna right across the street from the Federal Court Building. Children and adults could take turns riding in the canoe as it went out to the edge of the reef and back. Sumahi and Akli'e' have ridden in boats before but never a canoe like that crafted and manned by Chamorros and other Micronesians.

The canoe and the rides were provided by Rob Limtiaco, a former apprentice of Tun Segundo Blas, the late Chamorro Master Carver. Limtiaco studied under Tun Segundo when Chamorros were at a different point in terms of their shifting of consciousness and moving towards a more indigenous context. This was when Chamorro dancing as we know it today did not exist. There were Chamorro activist groups but Nasion Chamoru was still a decade away from existence. Criticism of the military in terms of its form and its sense of possibility was very different. The way that Chamorros understood themselves as a people was still limited heavily by colonialism and a gross anthropological view of their history. They still saw themselves as having little and being little due to the stains of colonization on them.

For example, according to historical accounts Ancient Chamorros created six different types of canoes. From largest to smallest they were: sakman, the lekkek, duding, duduli, panga and galaide. By the 20th century Chamorros only knew about one of these the smallest, the galaide, which is most likely in truth not even a Chamorro word. The galaide in a way represented the Chamorro in a colonial context. The galaide had no sail and was used primarily to get around in a single bay but not really travel anywhere. This was the Chamorro after European colonization, stripped of its wings or sails in a sense. Stuck and disconnected from the Pacific around it.

As if to make things even worse Chamorros came to use the term for a canoe with no sail to refer to all canoes. That is why for many older Chamorros today the word "galaide" can be used to refer to any type of ship and even canoes with sails even if historically that isn't the right usage. I have had conversations with elderly Chamorros who refuse to accept terms such as "sakman" for canoe because in their mind all there was and can be is the "galaide" and whatever image they have of it.

The movement to recover the tradition of Chamorro navigation attains a new beauty when seen in this context. It is not about going back in time or creating something which is perfectly authentic, whatever that means. It is about giving the Chamorros a sail again. It is about challenging the colonial assumptions that deprived them of their sovereignty and identity, which in essence tore the sail or la'yak from their canoes and then demanded that they exist without the mobility or that sense of purpose. But this is what decolonization is supposed to be about, not the denial of colonization, not a fantasy about living before it or without it, but instead that strength to see the need to attach a sail again to one's canoe, to be able to sail again into new uncharted waters.

Monday, February 10, 2014

America's Favorite Socialist Lesbian

Typical was the reaction of Michael Leahy of the wacko website
“The company used such an iconic song, one often sung in churches on the 4th of July that represents the old ‘E Pluribus Unum’ view of how American society is integrated, to push multiculturalism down our throats.”
The reliably reactionary Glenn Beck said that the ad will "divide us politically." He added:

“That's all this ad is. It's an in your face -- and if you don't like, if you're offended by it, then you're a racist. If you do like it, well then you're for immigration, that's what it is. You're for progress. That's all this is, is to divide people.”
Former Florida Congressman Allen West, a Tea Party favorite, blogged:

“It started rather patriotically with the words of ‘America the Beautiful.’ Then the words went from English to languages I didn't recognize....If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing ‘American the Beautiful’ in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come -- doggone we are on the road to perdition.”
Limbaugh told his listeners:

“If you think the best way, if you are convinced that the best way to sell Coca-Cola to Americans is to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in multiple languages, then why don't you produce the product with labels printed in 10 different languages? Is that the way to sell Coca-Cola?”
Had these conservative commentators known the origins of "America the Beautiful," they might have been doubly outraged, accusing Coca Cola of promoting the so-called "homosexual agenda." 

Because, had they bothered to look up the facts (not a strong point among reactionaries), they would have learned that "America the Beautiful" was written by -- dare we say this in public? -- a lesbian!
Yes, indeed. The author of this iconic anthem of American patriotism was Katharine Lee Bates. In a brilliant lampoon of the bigots' backlash against the Coke commercial, Stephen Colbert pointed out that Bates was a lesbian. He could also have added that she was also a Christian socialist and an ardent foe of American imperialism.

Bates (1859-1929), a well-respected poet and professor of English at Wellesley College, was part of progressive reform circles in the Boston area, concerned about labor rights, urban slums and women's suffrage.

For decades Bates lived with and loved her Wellesley colleague Katharine Coman, founder of the college's economics department, who authored The History of Contract Labor in the Hawaiian Islands and The Economic History of the Far West. Coman was also a poet. She and Bates jointly wrote English History as Taught by English Poets.

Although they lived together for 25 years in what was then called a "Boston Marriage," they could not publicly acknowledge their intimate relationship. When Coman died, however, Bates published Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance that celebrated their love and their involvement in the radical and social reform movements of their day.

Were Bates and Coman alive today, they would probably have taken advantage of Massachusetts' law allowing same-sex couples to marry -- a law that folks like Limbaugh find appalling.

Bates' circle of reformers and radicals -- including union activists, feminists and housing crusaders -- were strong advocates for immigrants. Bates and Coman volunteered at Denison House, a Boston settlement house that worked to improve the lives of immigrants who lived in Boston's slums and worked in its sweatshops. Denison House was founded by their Wellesley colleague Vida Scudder, another radical socialist, feminist, and lesbian. It was modeled on Hull House, founded by Jane Addams in Chicago.

To honor her achievements, two elementary schools -- one in Wellesley, Mass., the other in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as well as Bates Hall dormitory at Wellesley College -- are named for the author of "America the Beautiful."

Limbaugh, West and the other conservatives outraged by the Coke commercial do have at least one thing in common with Bates. She was a lifelong Republican, at a time when there were many progressive Republicans. But Bates broke with the party to endorse Democratic presidential candidate John W. Davis in 1924 because of the GOP's opposition to American participation in the League of Nations. (Davis lost that election to Calvin Coolidge). Like many activists at the time, Bates believed that the U.S. should participate in global affairs, but that it should not be a bully against weaker nations -- sentiments she clearly expressed in "America the Beautiful."

Bates penned the poem "America the Beautiful" in 1893 after visiting Pikes Peak in Colorado, from which she saw the Rocky Mountains in one direction and the Great Plains in the other. When she returned to her hotel room, she wrote a letter to friends, observing that "countries such as England failed because, while they may have been 'great,'" they had not been "good." She declared, "Unless we are willing to crown our greatness with goodness, and our bounty with brotherhood, our beloved America may go the same way." She revised the poem several times. The most famous version appeared in her collection America the Beautiful, and Other Poems (1912).

"America the Beautiful" is both a declaration of Bates' patriotism and a protest against Gilded Age greed. It begins with the now well-known words,

“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain; For purple mountains' majesty above the fruited plain."
Then she pivots to the lines meant as a protest against America's reckless and illegal overseas military adventures as well as the U.S. government's illegal suppression of free speech, dissent, and civil liberties:

"America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! "
In another verse, she observed:

"America! America! God shed his grace on thee. Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free! "
Bates wasn't happy about America's political leaders, either, as reflected in this verse:

"America! America! God shed his grace on thee. Till nobler men keep once again. Thy whiter jubilee!"
The poem's final words -- "and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea" -- are an appeal for social justice rather than the pursuit of wealth.

"America the Beautiful" was published in 1895 and later set to music written by Samuel Ward, the organist at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey.

And as long as we're educating the Limbaugh lunatics and other broadcasting bigots about America's secret radical history, they might also want to know that the “Pledge of Allegiance” also written by a Christian socialist, Francis Bellamy. And that the author of "This Land is Your Land," Woody Guthrie, was a committed radical, that Pete Seeger, the folksinger who popularized the song and even performed it at Obama’s inauguration party, was also a left-winger, and that this patriotic protest song includes a little-known stanza that criticizes the notion of private property!

Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College and is author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, published by Nation Books.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


The Battle of Guam/Okinawa project took several months but it was well worth it.

After visiting the Sakima Art Museum in Okinawa I was consumed by a painting that is in their permanent collection, "The Battle of Okinawa." This painting was designed to show the horror of World War II in Okinawa, when the island was destroyed in a typhoon of steel. This painting was the height of the Museum and filled with imagery that intrigued, haunted and horrified. I knew I could never match up to the intensity of that image, but felt the need to try to create my own intervention.

After traveling and visiting Okinawa so many times in the past few years and seeing the way our tragic histories have given us similar difficult experiences, I wanted to build upon the intent of the original Battle of Okinawa painting, but also put my own wishful solidarity, in whatever form I could find it. I decided to try to paint an image that could combine the effects and impacts of World War II in both Guam and Okinawa. Being colonized and used as strategic bases as given us similar pasts and presents, but the wish for decolonization and justice could give us very different futures if we continue to fight and protest.

The image blends in some obvious and some less than obvious ways the experiences of those in Okinawa and Guam, pushed to the side when two great Empires transformed their homelands into battlegrounds.

Due to a lack of funds I was unable to exhibit the painting as part of a show and so I created a digital exhibit instead. It can be found at the following address:

In the website you will find details of the painting as well as more information on Guam and Okinawa and their connections and wartime experiences.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Protecting the Waters and the Lands

Indigenous Groups: 'No Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cross Our Lands'

Native American communities along proposed route vow resistance against 'black snake' pipeline

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer 
Native American communities are promising fierce resistance to stop TransCanada from building, and President Barack Obama from permitting, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline."No Keystone XL pipeline will cross Lakota lands," declares a joint statement from Honor the Earth, the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred. "We stand with the Lakota Nation, we stand on the side of protecting sacred water, we stand for Indigenous land-based lifeways which will NOT be corrupted by a hazardous, toxic pipeline."

Members of seven Lakota nation tribes, as well as indigenous communities in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, are preparing to take action to stop Keystone XL.

“It will band all Lakota to live together and you can’t cross a living area if it’s occupied,” said Greg Grey Cloud, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, in an interview with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “If it does get approved we aim to stop it.”

The indigenous-led 'Moccasins on the Ground' program has been laying the groundwork for this resistance for over two years by giving nonviolent direct action trainings to front-line communities.
"We go up to wherever we've been invited, usually along pipeline routes," said Kent Lebsock, director of the Owe Aku International Justice Project, in an interview with Common Dreams. "We have three-day trainings on nonviolent direct action. This includes blockade tactics, and discipline is a big part of the training as well. We did nine of them last summer and fall, all the way from Montana to South Dakota, as well as teach-ins in Colorado and a training camp in Oklahoma."

"We are working with nations from Canada and British Columbia, as well as with the people where tar sands are located," Lebsock added.

"As an example of this nonviolent direct action," explains Lebsock, in March 2012 people at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota held a blockade to stop trucks from transporting parts of the Keystone XL pipeline through the reservation.

In August 2013, members of the Nez Perce tribe blockaded megaloads traveling Idaho's Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Descendants of the Ponca Tribe and non-native allies held a Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp in Nebraska in November to prevent the construction of the pipeline.

More spiritual camps along the proposed route of the pipeline are promised, although their date and location are not yet being publicly shared.

The promises of joint action follow the U.S. State Department’s public release on Friday of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). This report has been widely criticized as tainted by the close ties between Transcanada and the Environmental Resource Management contractor hired to do the report.

While the oil industry is largely spinning the report as a green-light for the pipeline, green groups emphasize that it contains stern warnings over the massive carbon pollution that would result if the pipeline is built, including the admission that tar sands oil produces approximately 17 percent more carbon than traditional crude.

The release of the FEIS kicked off a 90-day inter-agency review and 30-day public comment period. The pipeline's opponents say now is a critical time to prevent Obama from approving the pipeline, which is proposed to stretch 1,179 miles from Alberta, Canada, across the border to Montana, and down to Cushing, Oklahoma where it would link with other pipelines, as part of a plan to drastically increase Canada's tar sands production.

The southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline — which begins in Cushing, passes through communities in Oklahoma and East Texas, and arrives at coastal refineries and shipping ports — began operations last month after facing fierce opposition and protest from people in its path.
"Let's honor the trail blazers from the Keystone XL south fight," said Idle No More campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller. "Time for some action, and yes, some of us may get arrested!”



When a Pipeline Crosses a Trail of Tears

Right here in the heartland of America, the divisive Keystone XL pipeline is uniting people in ways few could ever have imagined.
Consider the events that brought Betty Albrecht of Atkinson, and Mekasi Horinek, of the Ponca Reservation in Oklahoma, to a meeting on hallowed ground. Every Memorial Day, when Albrecht was a little girl growing up in Tilden - a small farm town in northeastern Nebraska - her family would drive 15 miles north to Neligh to place flowers at the grave of White Buffalo Girl, an 18-month-old who died there on May 23, 1877.

The townspeople of Neligh had laid White Buffalo Girl to rest at the request of her grief-stricken father, just four days into the forced march that sent the Ponca Nation from its Nebraska homelands south to Oklahoma. For 136 years, the people of Neligh have honored his plea to care for the grave of his daughter as if she had been one of their own. He could not even stay for the burial. 
So it was particularly moving for Albrecht, who now lives on a cattle ranch 75 miles farther up the road, to revisit that hilltop cemetery of her girlhood memories last Saturday, surrounded by Oklahoma descendants of the tribe who survived what they call the Ponca Trail of Tears.

That grave was brimming with mums, roses, daffodils, poppies and sun-bleached stuffed toy bears. Standing beside her at the gravesite was Horinek, an eloquent activist and grandfather of nine, who works for the Tribal Agriculture Department on the Ponca reservation. He brought his two youngest sons north that weekend to visit the land from where his great grandfather fled as a boy; to show them this sacred ground.

It was the Keystone XL pipeline, and a deeply felt loathing of it, that brought these two from vastly different backgrounds together.  

Albrecht is a member of NEAT, the Nebraska Easement Action Team, a landowners’ rights group that is battling the TransCanada pipeline and threats of eminent domain to run the pipeline through regardless of property owner opposition.

The proposed Keystone XL corridor is vital for TransCanada’s plan to expand its tar sands mining operations in Alberta. The high-pressure line would ship hot, diluted bitumen from the Alberta sites to Louisiana, where it would be refined for shipment overseas. Keystone XL would punch into Nebraska just 50 miles north of Albrecht’s farm, and slice right through her neighbor’s property.
“For some, this is a tribal issue, for others, it’s about property rights,” said Albrecht. “My personal feeling is that my government is doing to us what they did to the Indians.”

Albrecht and Horinek met earlier on Art and Helen Tanderup’s 160 acre farm, eight miles north of Neligh, at an event billed the Trail of Tears Ponca Spiritual Camp. The Tanderups had welcomed members of the Ponca, Lakota, Omaha and Oceti Sakowin tribes, as well as members of the anti-pipeline activist group Bold Nebraska, to camp on their farm for four days.

They were joined by members of a remarkable coalition of ranchers and Native Americans who call themselves the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. People with different lives, different incomes, of different faiths, and even different politics discovered they shared a deeply spiritual bond: the conviction that the land beneath their feet, and the water that flowed through it, was sacred.

Helen Tanderup’s family built the farmhouse from components in a catalog in the 1920s. An old steel Aermotor windmill rises 75 feet above a well, broken but still spinning, long-since replaced by drilled well and electric pumps to bring water to the house. The Keystone XL pipeline would break through a line of cottonwood trees her father planted; and cut right through their cornfield just west of the house.

To avoid the house itself, the line would bend and run south through another line of cottonwoods, crossing a dirt road and cutting through miles more of fields before skirting Neligh itself. Just across that dirt road from the Tanderup farm, records indicate, is the Trail of Tears, the path Horinek’s great grandfather, and White Buffalo Girl and her parents, walked in 1877.

Art Tanderup is a retired schoolteacher, but he knows his ground. He grows his corn, beans and rye with a no-till method. “This ground here will not blow away when we have heavy winds,” he said. Unlike the North Dakota farmland that was flooded by 843,000 gallons of oil from a pipeline leak in late September, soils like Tanderup’s in the Elkhorn watershed have no clay base to trap a spill.
The old sandhills formation soils are mostly fine Thurman sands and gravel. Leaking oil and chemicals would head directly into the aquifer. “In North Dakota, with all their fancy equipment, they could not detect a quarter-inch leak. If that happened here, they would detect only after it turned up in the wells and irrigation systems,” he said.

The Keystone XL would go through four bends in one and one-half miles to skirt the Tanderup house. “Any time you bend a pipe, you thin out the walls and weaken it,” Tanderup said. “These pipes will have 1,500 pounds per square inch of pressure. They are far more apt to break and spill.”

At White Buffalo Girl’s gravesite, the link between distant history and current controversies was palpable “We all know when we lose a loved one that it hurts; to lose a child is probably the most painful thing you can go through,” said Horinek. He thanked the citizens of Neligh for caring for this grave, and he thanked the activists who were fighting the pipeline. “We are all connected to the land, and we are all connected to each other,” he said.

In a very strange way, all these folks on Tanderup’s land last weekend are connected: by roads, by the World Wide Web, by a pipeline, by a Trail of Tears, by a common bond to the water and land. The policy makers in Washington D.C., and the TransCanada Corporation in Alberta, have no idea what they are up against.

Sabin Russell is a freelance writer, visiting Nebraska. His work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times.


No Keystone XL Blacksnake will Cross Lakota Lands

"Lakota are united with our relatives and allies up north. We must stop this kxl from entering the territory our ancestors loved, lived on for thousands of generations, and gave their greatest gift of all to defend, their lives. Our Creation stories teach us that this is our Home on Unci Maka, our homeland is part of our identity, we have our inherent birth right as Lakota Oyate. Our inherent birth right is a spiritual and human right, and we have treaty rights. We do not want kxl, we do not want tarsands in our lands, the tarsands must stay in the ground, the extraction and its aftermath is killing humans and all of life up there, and wasting precious water. The leaders of the world are looking at this, we need them to be good leaders and stand in the way of something bad coming toward us, all over the world, and here, in the big land, it is time for people to be clear to their leader. Now is a time when he can be a green revolutionary, and make decisions that can change the world.
Please take a moment to help get our words, thoughts, and prayers out to the world, all over Unci Maka, that Lakota People, and many other Red Nations people, we have painted our faces. Our allies up north have painted their faces. For sacred water, for Unci Maka, for our generations. As people of the earth, our coming generations have a right to sacred water, no policy, no corporation, no politics should be more important than that. Regional water shortages are befalling people all over the world, people are being displaced, the four legged, the winged nations are becoming endangered and extinct because the system in place honors a huge profit over the health of Unci Maka, prioritizes an unsustainable energy policy that is and that will continue to lead us closer to what is perhaps the most dangerous point in our lifetime, wars over war. We are in a time of prophecy, our collective action will be significant, with all the love in our hearts, we must all resist this destruction, and stand for sacred water and Unci Maka." -Owe Aku.

Please share far and wide, time is drawing near and we must be ready.

Honor the Earth, Idle No More and Defenders of the Land stand with the Lakota Nation, Owe Aku, Protect the Sacred, and all land defenders opposing Keystone XL.  We stand with our neighbors to honour the treaties, protect sacred water, and to defend the Indigenous ways of life.

Below is a statement from Honor the Earth that has been developed in collaboration with the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred.  Check the information links below and organize a vigil in your community in solidarity with the Lakota resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
"The Oglala Lakota Nation has taken leadership by saying "NO" to the Keystone XL Pipeline. They have done what is right for the land, for their people, who, from grassroots organizers like Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, have called on their leaders to stand and protect their sacred lands. And they have: KXL will NOT cross their treaty territory, which extends past the reservation boundaries. Their horses are ready. So are ours. We stand with the Lakota Nation, we stand on the side of protecting sacred water, we stand for Indigenous land-based lifeways which will NOT be corrupted by a hazardous, toxic pipeline. WE ALL NEED TO STAND WITH THEM.

On Friday, January 27th, the State Department issued its Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline. president Obama said that he won't approve the pipeline if it increases carbon emissions. The report was drafted in coordination with consultants who have worked for TransCanada -- the company seeking to build the pipeline. Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, was briefed by "sources within the administration" on the timing and content of the report before its release, and was pleased to say that it will not impact the environment.
As Native Nations, we're ready to protect our homelands from this pipeline, and we need to SHORE UP OUR SUPPORT of organizations like Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, who are on the ground organizing in the Lakota Nation.

We also need to put the pressure on Barack Obama to recognize that:

1) The Lakota Nation - a sovereign governmental body - has united its government and grassroots against the pipeline, and the United States needs to honor treaty rights by denying the pipeline.
2) There is direct conflict of interest in the report issued by the State Department -- the process is broken, and a new report which reflects the true environmental impact is needed.
3) This pipeline will, in fact, increase carbon emissions and cause grave and irreversible environmental harm globally. This pipeline would cause direct environmental harm -- and put the well-being of all who live in relationship with the Oglala Aquifer at risk.

4) In recognition of our responsibilities to protect Mother Earth, Native peoples will not allow this pipeline to come across our treaty areas. We will defend our lives, and our mother Earth, and we need Barack Obama to do the same.

On Monday night, all across the country, people will be gathering to mark this moment together at protest vigils organized by350.orgOil Change International, and others, where the night will be alight with our resolve to keep fighting. We need to show the media, big oil and the President that we, as Indigenous Peoples (especially from the Great Sioux Nation), the entire state of Nebraska, and the tens of thousands of American citizens that have signed up to put their bodies on the line using non violent civil disobedience in every state in the lower 48 and Alaska, First Nations, and allies in Canada, are mobilized and unafraid.

As Idle No More campaigner and friend Clayton Thomas-Muller said "Its time to light the fire in your hearts and at your one said this wouldn't end up being a ditch fight lets honour the trail blazers from Keystone XL south fight, time for some action and yes some of us may get arrested!"
Click here to look for an event near you, and sign up to host if there isn't one near you.
Click here to sign a petition to urge Obama to stop the Keystone XL.
Support Moccasins on the Ground to organize further grassroots resistance:
 Check out this video and support Honor the Earth!
Read more:
Keystone XL ‘black snake’ pipeline to face ‘epic’ opposition from Native American alliance
What did Big Oil Know, and When Did they Know it? "

Social Media Hashtags: #MoccasinsontheGround #HonourTheEarth #NoKXL


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