Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chamorro Studies History

The Chamorro Studies Program (Prugraman Inestudian Chamorro) at the University of Guam is located within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (Kolehon Atson Liberat yan Siensihan Sosiat). It has existed for four years and was officially launched in October of 2013. It was started by a faculty task force consisting of myself, Anne Perez Hattori, Evelyn San Miguel Flores, Rosa Salas Palomo, Sharleen Santos-Bamba, James Perez Viernes and a handful of others.

On October 24th, 2013 a launch event was held which featured panels, performances and also the start of a Chamorro language lecture series titled "The Chamorro Experience gi Fino' Chamorro." The late Chamorro Master Blacksmith Joaquin Flores Lujan or Tun Jack was the speaker for the inaugural event. On that day we signed up seven majors and seven minors into the program. Since that time, the Chamorro Studies Program has organized numerous events and programs all meant at promoting Chamorro language, culture and history. We piloted a new language learning program called "Master Apprentice." We have worked and continue to work on developing a new standardized curriculum for teaching Chamorro at the college level with the I Ma'adahen i Fino' Chamorro gi Koleho project with Dr. Faye Untalan. We worked with the late Mr. Jose Mata Torres on the publication of his memoir Massacre at Atate which provides a first hand account of how the men of Malesso' in the closing days of World War II, rose up against the Japanese occupiers in their village and liberated themselves. We continue to have annual events such as I Inacha'igen Fino' CHamoru or Chamorro Language Competition which brings hundreds of students from across the Marianas together to compete in the use of the Chamorro language in a variety of categories and formats. We've also offered for our majors special elective classes in weaving, dance and this semester one which under the direction of Dr. Kelly Marsh-Taitano offers students the chance to learn first hand the process and theory behind the construction of Latte stones. At present we have grown to more than 30 majors and 10 minors. Last semester we had our first three students graduate with their BA in Chamorro Studies.

Although the program has accomplished alot, it is still growing and finding itself. Last year, the faculty came together to discuss the issue of what exactly our intellectual corpus or what is the theoretical focus of our program. It is difficult to determine what this is exactly because our faculty is spread out across other programs or primarily adjunct and not full-time. Developing a focus can be hard to do when you are moving wherever the resources or assistance is. But in terms of establishing the intellectual core of what the program is supposed to be, we came up with this draft:

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The Chamorro Studies Program at the University of Guam acknowledges that Chamorro identity is not located at any particular point in time, but across a historical continuum, that spans the first settling of the Marianas Islands and persists into the present. At the core of this continuum is the Chamorro language, that has carried culture, values and cosmology of the Chamorro people through times of turbulence and adaptation.

Chamorro culture is formed through a combination of innovation, adaptation and creativity and adherence to tradition. As there is not set form for Chamorro identity, but rather a multiplicities and range of both contemporary and historical possibilities, there is a strong need for a space in which the nature of Chamorro identity and culture can be discussed in critical ways through informed, evidence-based research and community engagement. The Chamorro Studies Program at UOG is meant to be one such space, where the scholarly resources of the University of Guam can be utilized to better educate and illuminate the trajectories of particular Chamorro cultural manifestations. To this end the Chamorro Studies Program will provide scholarly interventions through the development of resources, programs and texts that can aid in the ongoing conversation over cultural perpetuation and language revitalization.

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