CHamoru Language Commission re-established
by Manny Cruz
The Guam Daily Post
May 9, 2017
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the CHamoru Language Commission became a functioning body once more on Monday. The commission's first order of business: Establish an explicit purview of its work.
"We need to know how far our kulo' blows," said the commission's new chairwoman, former Sen. Hope Cristobal.
The duties the commission is legally tasked with are no small feats.
Public law states that the commission is to:
- Continually study and update orthographic rules of the CHamoru language; and notify public and private institutions of updates;
- Work toward a standardization of the CHamoru language across the Marianas;
- Develop a standardized school curricula for Guam schools; and
- Function as a clearinghouse to provide advice for accurate representations and interpretations of CHamoru language, history and culture
Other commission members include University of Guam President Robert Underwood, literary activist Peter Onedera, Rosa Palomo and seven other members who have made contributions to the vitality of the CHamoru language and culture.
The commission was first created by public law in 1964 but, near the end of its lifespan in 1999, faced controversy when it tried to change the official spelling of the name given to the indigenous people of Guam from "Chamorro" to "CHamoru," according to Guampedia.
On Monday, Onedera, who previously served on the commission in the past, stated vehemently that "CHamoru" is the orthographically correct spelling of the name of the indigenous people of Guam, and that it is within the purview of the board to correct such spelling errors.
The bill that re-established the commission, authored by former Sen. Judith Won Pat and signed by Gov. Eddie Calvo in January, uses the term "CHamoru" explicitly in its legal text.
Meanwhile, the commission is pressed for time in terms of finalizing a proposed $250,000 budget for the next fiscal year.
The commission members plan to meet with Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje by June 6, ahead of GovGuam budget hearings for fiscal 2018.
Native Language Commission Re-established on Guam
May 9, 2017
Radio New Zealand
The Guam Daily Post reports the commission was resurrected after nearly 20 years on Monday, with the former senator Hope Cristobal its chair.
The commission has been charged with updating the orthographic rules of the language, standardising it across the Marianas and developing a curricula for schools.
The chair Ms Cristobal said the commission's members include "heavy-hitters" in Chamorro history, language and education.
The legislation that re-established the commission uses the term 'CHamoru' in its text, which some argue is the correct spelling of the name for Guam's indigenous people.
Is it Chamorro or CHamoru?
by Joanne Camacho
The Pacific Daily News
March 16, 2012
Growing up on Guam I've always thought it was spelled Chamorro. It wasn't until about 1993 when the Chamorro Language Commission started its long battle with the decision to change the spelling of Chamorro to CHamoru that I realized it was originally spelled with "r-u."
I did my research before tackling this question and after reading everything I could about the Chamorro Language Commission and its fight with the Legislature and the people of Guam, I wasn't even sure I wanted to get involved. I will try and be careful with what I write, but if I offend anyone in any way, please accept my apology in advance.
When the Spaniards came to Guåhan, they saw our CHamoru's with shaved heads and a "topknot" on the top of their heads. In Spanish, the word Chamorro actually means shorn or shaven. So they gave us the name "Chamorro."
In 1983 the Chamorro Language Commission adopted a spelling system called the Chamorro Standard Orthography. This is a system that basically spells the Chamorro words just as they are supposed to be pronounced. For example our capital, Agana, is now spelled Hagåtña.
When the Commission decided to change the spelling of Chamorro to CHamoru, it brought up a lot of controversy with many people. Some people argued that it would be too confusing. Others argued that it would be too much work to change all of the existing documents that are written as Chamorro to CHamoru.
In the end the spelling "Chamorro" remains. The legislature made the final decision in 1994 and although some people still spell it with "r-u," it really depends on the person who is writing it.
Joanne Camacho is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and has been a resident of Guam most of her life. She has extensive experience in retail, marketing and business management. She is married with two children and currently resides in Tamuning.
Revealed in translation
by Laura Torres Souder
The Guam Daily Post
February 1, 2017
HAGÅTÑA — CHamoru or Chamorro? I have been asked by numerous friends, family members and colleagues alike why I choose to spell CHamoru thusly.
First and foremost, I answer, it has been the official spelling in our orthography since 1983. Most of us, myself included, were oblivious or confused about the change and went our merry way spelling the way we always did. Some registered more formal protest. But adhering to the standardized version of how to spell and punctuate CHamoru words is not as easy as just following orthographic rules. It involves a cultural shift in our thinking about how we successfully navigate the journey from orality to literacy.
Fino’ Haya, aka the CHamoru language, is the unique invention of the indigenous inhabitants of this island we call, Tano’ta. It is a viable, dynamic, living legacy of our ancestors, which reflects thousands of years of seafaring, cultural exchange, forced or friendly genetic mixing and commerce with other Pacific island seafarers. In its present form, it also reflects our colonial history as root words from the Spanish, Japanese and English languages have been introduced and incorporated into our vernacular, which is defined as the language spoken as a mother tongue and not imposed as a second language. So, while Spanish or English speakers may recognize a word here or there, they do not understand spoken CHamoru.
“Why CHamoru? Why not use the spelling we have always used?” It is human nature to gravitate to what is familiar. We hold on to the way things have been done in the past, either out of fondness for something or out of habit. We resist change. At face value, there is nothing wrong with wanting to keep the “old spelling” of Chamorro intact. But, should we insist on clinging to old ways of doing things that have no meaning or cultural significance, just because?! Decolonization looms heavy in our discourse these days. For me, this means we need to deliberately, purposefully and consistently engage in decolonizing our mindsets, our ways of thinking, the names we give to things, and how we define and interpret our history and use our language as an agent of decolonization. We need to have the courage to change what lacks cultural relevance and meaning in all realms of life, including our pedagogy and language.
So, let’s look at the word Chamorro spelled the familiar way. In many Spanish-speaking countries, the surname Chamorro is not uncommon. The most prominent is Violeta Barrios Torres de Chamorro, the first female president of Nicaragua, known for ending the Contra War, the final chapter of the Nicaraguan Revolution, and bringing peace to the country. While honorable in this context, it is not the collective label that indigenous inhabitants of Guam use to refer to themselves. We know who we are — as our ancestors did — and we refer to our people as taotao tano, or people of the land. Chamorro, as a word, was first introduced into our vocabulary by the Spaniards to reference the indios or nativos in the early Spanish colonial period. In Spanish it means bald or shorn. It’s easy to see how they applied this word to the indigenous inhabitants as Spanish chroniclers documented how our male ancestors wore their hair. Maga’lahi as Kepuha is a distinguished model of this traditional coiffure. I have also heard that the word Chamorro may have meant, “akin to Moros.” The Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century when Muslims from Africa occupied Granada and other coastal cities in Southern Spain. Their religion and dark skin evoked disdain and set them apart from Spaniards.
There is another definition of the term: beef shank. Now I know why we don’t refer to our delicious kåddon kåtne by its other name! Imagine my surprise when I first arrived in Chicago and went to a Mexican supermarket to discover signs on the window advertising Chamorro de Res for $2.29 a pound. I was flabbergasted and asked the clerk if I could buy some. She pointed me to the meat counter where the butcher handed me freshly cut pieces of shank. Honestly, I shuddered at the awful prospect that my people had been quartered for dinner. I got over it quickly, of course, and this is a rather dramatic example of why we must consider words in their fullness as we continue the task of establishing cultural relevance as a paramount responsibility in the decolonization process.
When members of the now defunct Kumision I Fino’ CHamoru struggled and deliberated about how to make the Spanish word, Chamorro, one that we, as indigenous people, could claim as legitimately our own, they arrived at a solution that to some may be imperfect. Notwithstanding, it represents a sincere effort to disassociate reference to our language and people as either a hairstyle or piece of beef. By making a subtle but clear distinction in the way the word is spelled, Kumision members were engaged in nation-building, which goes hand in hand with efforts to decolonize. What they did was to transform the word and therefore its meaning. Part of decolonizing language is to establish meaning, own it, change it when necessary and claim its relevance. This is urgent but difficult work. It is filled with disagreement, confrontation, excitement, exhaustion, and compromise as the collective genius of self-determined people is unleashed. I applaud the members of the 33rd Guam Legislature and the governor for their support of the legislation signed into law this month re-establishing the Kumision as I Kumision I Fino’ Chamoru yan I Fina’na’guen I Historia yan I Lina’la’ I Taotao Tano to serve as a vehicle through which we can continue the process of decolonizing our language and ensuring cultural relevance in the way we teach our language, history and culture. The law codified CHamoru, which will hopefully settle the debate once and for all.