Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Oh Catalonia!

It is common in Guam to feel very alone in terms of decolonization.

History books and political commentators tend to argue that the age of decolonization is over.

It happened in the 1960s or 1970s, and that those who remain colonized missed the boat.

They missed the decolonial sakman and are therefore stuck, in whatever political status they have.

It is an intriguing way of justifying the status quo.

A way of arguing that the current world order or framework isn't simply something that has happened.

But rather the end.

Teleological or evolutionary, but ultimately that an apex is reached and there can't be any further reconfiguration of power or reality. 

In the 1980s this notion was called "The End of History" after Francis Fukuyama.

It wasn't real or true, but it felt authentic, in the same way each epoch achieves a certain character or feeling of self-realization.

We have seen History continue marching on.

And those who still have claims from the most recent periods of mass human exploitation are still fighting for them, even if they might not seem to have the greatest chances at finding some sort of real justice.

But as the Catalonian drive for independence shows us, there are still many places that don't want to accept the maps drawn around them and with their sovereignty or destiny subsumed within the interests and power of another.

On Guam, it is imperative that we keep track of what is happening in Catalonia.

Whether they are successful or not this time around, they help the cause of decolonization in Guam.

They help draw attention to the grievances of those who are tired of the global order decided against them, and want the lines or labels shifted in small, but significant ways to accommodate their dreams as well.

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Catalan Parliament Declares Independence From Spain
by Sam Edwards and Julien Toyer
Reuters
10/27/17

BARCELONA/MADRID, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The Madrid government sacked Catalonia’s president and dismissed its parliament on Friday, hours after the region declared itself an independent nation, in Spain’s gravest political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago.
A new election will be held in Catalonia on Dec. 21, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address on a day of high drama.
As well as removing Carles Puigdemont as head of the autonomous region, he also fired the police chief and said central government ministries would take over the Catalan administration.
“Spain is living through a sad day,” Rajoy said. “We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf.”
As he spoke thousands of independence supporters packed the Sant Jaume Square in front of the Catalan regional headquarters in Barcelona, their earlier celebratory mood dampened by Rajoy’s actions.
In a stunning show of defiance to Madrid, the Catalan parliament had voted in the afternoon to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

Despite the emotions and celebrations inside and outside the building, it was a futile gesture as shortly afterwards the Spanish Senate approved the imposition of direct rule on the autonomous region.
Several European countries, including France and Germany, and the United States also rejected the independence declaration and said they supported Rajoy’s efforts to preserve Spain’s unity.
The crisis has reached a new and possibly dangerous level as independence supporters have called for a campaign of disobedience. Immediately after news of the Catalan vote, which three opposition parties boycotted, Spanish shares and bonds were sold off, reflecting business concern over the turmoil.
The crisis unfolded after Catalonia held an independence referendum on Oct. 1 which was declared illegal by Madrid. Although it endorsed independence, it drew only a 43 percent turnout as Catalans who oppose independence largely boycotted it.
The independence push has caused deep resentment around Spain. The chaos has also prompted a flight of business from Catalonia and alarmed European leaders who fear the crisis could fan separatist sentiment around the continent.

Catalonia is one of Spain’s most prosperous regions and already has a high degree of autonomy. But it has a litany of historic grievances, exacerbated during the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship, when its culture and politics were suppressed.
In Barcelona, Jordi Cases, 52, a farmer from Lleida province who had driven down with his family for the protest, said he was excited but worried about what came next.
“Now the repression is going to be terrible but we have to take what we can. We must resist and ask for help where needed,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Paul Day, Julien Toyer and Jesus Aguado, writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Julien Toyer)

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Spain's Harsh Crackdown Draws Worldwide Attention to Catalonia
by Nick Robins-Early
Huffington Post
10/1/17


Spanish riot police forcefully descended on polling stations and rallies in Catalonia on Sunday, as the region held a independence referendum that the country’s government in Madrid had attempted to stop.
The referendum saw police use rubber bullets and batons in their operation to seize ballot boxes and shutter voting sites. At least 800 people were injured in the crackdown, according to the Catalan regional government.
The shocking scenes of unrest and violent tactics of the police brought international attention to Catalonia, with the subsequent chaos from the actions to stop the referendum giving additional weight to the symbolic independence vote.
Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters on Monday morning that 90 percent of Catalans voted yes, but turnout in the disputed referendum was only around 43 percent of eligible voters.
The violence threatens to deepen the longstanding divisions between Catalan separatists and the Spanish government, putting pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and ensuring that the issue of independence will only become more prominent in the days to come.
Images and videos circulating from Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region, and other cities across the area showed officers violently shutting down a peaceful referendum, albeit one banned by Spain’s central government and deemed illegitimate by the country’s courts. Footage captured police smashing through glass doors and dragging away dissident citizens attempting to protect polling stations.

Some protesters tussled with authorities, leading to several arrests and reports that at least 12 officers had been injured.
In a further sign of the divide between regional authorities, Spain’s riot police got into confrontations with Catalan regional officers and firefighters attempting to allow the rallies and referendum to proceed. Spain’s police closed nearly a hundred polling stations in all, and arrested several protesters.

The clampdown also deepened political divisions between Catalan government officials and Spain’s leadership in Madrid. Tensions over the referendum have been rising for months as the vote approached, and as violence erupted on Sunday both sides blamed one another for the situation.
Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau called for Prime Minister Rajoy to resign following the crackdown, saying “he is a coward who does not live up to his state responsibilities.” Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile, claimed that the police actions would eternally shame the country.

Several leftist Spanish politicians also joined in the calls for Rajoy’s ouster, adding to the prime minister’s political woes. He is currently the head of a relatively fragile minority government that has already run into trouble in recent weeks from political partners protesting his handling of Catalonia’s bid for secession.
Rajoy defended the police actions on Sunday as a justified response to Catalonia’s attempts to break “the rule of law,” while denying that a referendum had taken place, emphasizing the lack of participation and the illegality of the vote.
But although Rajoy has always had the support of the European Union and the courts in rejecting the legitimacy of Catalonia’s referendum, the harsh response from authorities could embolden the separatist movement.

The level of support for independence in Catalonia is not entirely clear. Polling was scarce in the lead up to the election, but a survey from July showed that only around 41 percent of people in Catalonia favored independence.
Most major European Union officials were largely silent over the events in Catalonia, although some figures including Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel and the EU parliament’s Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt condemned the violence.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has pursued a second independence referendum for Scotland in the United Kingdom, called Spain’s actions “wrong and damaging.”
This post has been updated with the Catalan government’s announcement of results and turnout figures.

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Spain Sets Stage to Take Control of Catalonia in Independence Fight
by Raphael Minder
NYT
October 19, 2017


BARCELONA, Spain — The standoff over Catalonia intensified significantly on Thursday as the Spanish government said it would take emergency measures to halt a secessionist drive in the economically vital and politically restive northeastern region.

The announcement came almost immediately after the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, facing a second deadline to clarify Catalonia’s intentions since it held an Oct. 1 referendum on independence, warned that regional lawmakers were prepared to break from Spain.

The government in Madrid, in turn, announced that it would convene an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday “to defend the general interest of Spaniards, among them the citizens of Catalonia.”

The rapid succession of events moved what was already one of the gravest crises in Spain’s relatively young democracy to a far more serious and unpredictable stage, with the prospect that Madrid could take over the running of Catalonia. At the most extreme, the Spanish government could arrest Mr. Puigdemont and charge him with sedition, as it has done with two other separatist leaders.

But such a step would risk provoking a popular backlash and new street demonstrations in a region where many are already bridling at what they see as a heavy hand by the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The latest statements from each side now move the dispute to the brink of a potentially explosive confrontation.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, spokesman for the Spanish government, said at a news conference that Madrid was ready to use “all the means within its reach to restore the legality and constitutional order as soon as possible.”

Yet such steps are fraught with uncertainty in a country that adopted its democratic constitution only in 1978, after the death of its longtime dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco.

Last week, Mr. Rajoy initiated a request to invoke a broad and forceful tool that has never before been used — Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — which would allow him to take direct control of Catalonia.

He said he could resort to such a step if Mr. Puigdemont did not clearly back down from a threat to declare independence.
But on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont sent a defiant letter to Mr. Rajoy, blaming him for escalating the conflict by refusing to meet and negotiate.

“If the government continues to prevent dialogue and maintains the repression,’’ he wrote, “the Parliament of Catalonia could go ahead, if it deems it opportune, and vote the formal declaration of independence.”

Officials in Madrid have repeatedly warned in recent days that Mr. Rajoy would consider anything short of a clear withdrawal of the declaration of independence to be unacceptable, after what he deemed an unsatisfactory response from Mr. Puigdemont on Monday.

Article 155 would give Madrid the authority to suspend Mr. Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers, and to take charge of the region’s autonomous administration, including the Catalan broadcaster and autonomous police force, although Mr. Rajoy has not publicly committed to an emergency intervention.

It is unclear what Mr. Rajoy will propose to his cabinet on Saturday, but he may try to gradually raise pressure on the fragile coalition of Catalan separatists rather than risk a forceful intervention that could further galvanize the independence movement.

José Luis Ábalos, an official from the main opposition Socialist party, indicated at a news conference on Thursday that the party would support Mr. Rajoy — as long as the prime minister made limited and short use of Article 155, and also somehow kept “self-government” in Catalonia.

Using constitutional powers, Mr. Rajoy could appoint a caretaker administration in Catalonia. Mr. Puigdemont, on the other hand, could face sedition charges and ultimately a long prison sentence for presenting a unilateral declaration of independence that violates Spain’s Constitution.

Politicians in Madrid have recently demanded that Catalonia hold regional elections as soon as possible, but Mr. Puigdemont made no mention of such a vote in his letter on Thursday.

The separatist leaders of Catalonia are already claiming that Madrid has used disproportionate means to push them out of office, with the help of the Spanish police and the courts.

About 200,000 demonstrators gathered on Tuesday in central Barcelona, according to the local police, to demand the release of two separatist leaders who were sent to prison without bail, pending a trial on sedition charges. In his letter on Thursday, Mr. Puigdemont mentioned the arrest of the two leaders as evidence of Spain’s repressive stance.

Catalonia, which has its own language and culture, is an important engine of the Spanish economy. Independence aspirations have built in recent years over a host of social and economic grievances.
Those tensions grew as Mr. Rajoy and Catalan leaders talked past one another, turning the kind of dispute that might have been defused years ago into a full-blown constitutional crisis.

The rising uncertainty and the threat of declaring independence have already prompted hundreds of companies to relocate their headquarters outside Catalonia, further straining the unwieldy separatist coalition that holds a majority of the seats in the regional Parliament.

Hard-line secessionists want an abrupt and unilateral rupture with the central government in Madrid, while conservative and more moderate separatists are increasingly worried about the economic consequences for Catalonia.

Luis de Guindos, the Spanish economy minister, told Parliament on Thursday that the relocation of Catalan companies was “only an appetizer of what could happen if independence was confirmed — something that the government will not allow.”

Mr. Puigdemont sent his latest letter after an emergency meeting of his conservative party late Wednesday, during which lawmakers gave clear support for not withdrawing the declaration of independence, according to local news reports.

Still, secessionism has divided Catalonia. Separatist parties won control of the regional Parliament in 2015, but with only 48 percent of the vote.

Núria Marín, the Socialist mayor of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the second-largest city in Catalonia, just southwest of Barcelona, said on Thursday that politicians on both sides should take the blame for plunging Catalonia into a crisis.

“I believe that with threats on the part of one side or the other, we won’t now solve this situation,” she said. “We are sadly seeing that companies are leaving while we are sending letters to one another.”
Whatever the government decides on Saturday, the Catalan crisis is set to drag on: Mr. Rajoy would need approval from the Senate before intervening in Catalonia.

Mr. Rajoy’s governing Popular Party has a majority in the Senate, and Podemos, a far-left party, is the only major opposition group that is opposed to using Article 155 in Catalonia. Instead, Podemos has suggested that Spain should hold a nationwide referendum over Catalonia’s future statehood.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, said Thursday morning that “Spain can’t appear to be like a banana republic that has problems of democracy.” He added, “We don’t want to threaten or repress Catalonia, but we want to convince Catalonia that Spain is a collective project that is worth it.”



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

UN Report Back

Independent Guåhan to host United Nations Report Back Event, Provide Updates on Recent Historic Trip

For Immediate Release, October 23, 2017 — Independent Guåhan is hosting a Report Back on October 26 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration Room 131. At the forum, a group of delegates, who recently traveled to the United Nations in New York, will provide updates on their testimonies and meetings concerning Guam’s decolonization.

Independent Guåhan organized a group of twelve members and volunteers, who petitioned the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee) at their annual meeting to discuss the situation in Guam. This trip was especially historic, because the Commission on Decolonization also sent a strong delegation — Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, Senator Telena Nelson and Dr. LisaLinda Natividad all testified before the 4th Committee. Senator Fernando Esteves attended the 4th Committee meeting and joined both Commission and Independent Guåhan members in several days of meetings with ambassadors and representatives from a dozen independent nations and other non self-governing territories.

Independent Guåhan organized presentations about Guam at several universities in the area including Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers University and Barnard College, where both members of Independent Guåhan and the Commission on Decolonization were able to talk with diverse groups of students and professors about Guam’s quest for decolonization.

Both IG and Commission members will share their experiences in New York at the Report Back. A short video documenting the trip will also be shown and a complimentary compilation of the testimonies delivered at the UN will be disseminated at the event. Independent Guåhan’s involvement in this trip to the UN trip was made possible through generous donations from supporters of Guam’s decolonization in the Marianas and the United States. 


Monday, October 23, 2017

My Testimony Before the UN Fourth Committee


Testimony to the Fourth Committee of the United Nations
From Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D.
Co-Chairperson, Independence for Guam Task Force
October 3, 2017

Buenas yan håfa adai todus hamyo ko’lo’ña si Maga’taotao Rafael Ramirez Carreño i gehilo’ para i kumuiten Mina’Kuåtro, gi este na gefpå’go na ha’åni. Magof hu na gaige yu’ guini på’go para bai hu kuentusi hamyo yan kuentusiyi i taotao Guåhan put i halacha na sinisedi gi islan-måmi. (Hello to all of you on this beautiful day. I am grateful to be here now so that I can speak to you, in particular H.E. Rafael Ramirez Carreño, Chair of the C24, and speak on behalf of the people of Guam about recent events that transpired in our island home.)

My name is Michael Lujan Bevacqua and I am a professor of Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam. I am also the co-chair for the Independence for Guam Task Force, a community outreach organization tasked with educating our island about the possibilities should we at last achieve self-determination and become an independent country of our own. I have testified before this body once before in 2007 and I have provided interventions as an academic and expert on affairs in Guam to the Committee of 24 in its most recent regional seminars in Ecuador (2013), Nicaragua (2015 and 2016) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (2017).

Today I will discuss the ways in which the administering power of our island, the United States has not faithfully sought to fulfill its sacred trust to assist Guam and in particular its indigenous people the Chamorros, on a process towards decolonization. This has manifested most prominently around the administering power ignoring resolutions and calls from the United Nations to refrain from implementing immigration and militarization policies in their territories that would likely become impediments towards meaningful decolonization.  

Guam has been a territory of the United States for 119 years now and on the list of non-self-governing territories for 71. The administering power’s policies have continually delayed, deferred or minimized efforts by local activists and the Guam government to make progress in this regard. As we come to the close of the Third International Decade of the Eradication of Colonialism, it is more important than ever that the administering powers be willing to work with their territories, other nations and the UN to bring about an end to this wicked period of human history. This can only happen if administering powers are willing to cooperate and also recognize that certain policies delay or inhibit these efforts.

Calls by the UN on administering powers to not pursue particular immigration or militarization policies in their territories represent one of the guiding principles of he UN. Namely that international cooperation and restraint in the name of peace and the protection of the most foundational rights that humans have come to recognize and cherish, must take priority over narrow national interests. Should administering powers implement policies that increase the number of settlers in a non-self-governing territory or increases its military presence, it creates the conditions by which that same administering power will resist fulfilling its sacred duty to support decolonization. It may claim that such a process cannot happen because of new populations that have settled in the non-self-governing territory or because of the role the territory now plays in its strategic interests.

Guam has been used as a port of entry to the United States since World War II and in that time tens of thousands of migrants from Asia and other islands in Micronesia have made the island their home. In 1946 when Guam was listed with the UN by the US, the population of the island close to 20,00 with 90% being Chamorro. Today Chamorros have become a minority and now represent 37% out of a total population of 166,000.

All on Guam, Chamorros included are proud of the multicultural tapestry that our island has become. We do not begrudge anyone who came to Guam seeking a new or a different life. But the government of the administering power has recently come to use the diversity of the island as a means of depriving the Chamorro people of their basic human rights. In the past year federal courts and agencies have begun to try to erase the rights of Chamorros in their own land. This began in March when a federal court ruled that any decolonization plebiscite must include the participation of all US citizens on island, even if they have only been on the island for a few days or weeks. Current Government of Guam law had sought to limit participation in this non-binding albeit important plebiscite to native inhabitants. The Government of Guam is currently appealing this decision in US federal courts. 

Secondly, just this past week the Government of Guam is being sued by the US Department of Justice in an attempt to eliminate a Guam program meant to provide land to landless Chamorros. This program, the Chamorro Land Trust was created as an attempt to fix the injustices created when the US military displaced thousands of Chamorros in the years following World War II. In both examples the US government claims that these activities or programs violate the US Constitution and that the only rights allowed in Guam for Chamorros are those determined by the US Congress.

The problem with this position should be apparent to anyone, even absent any legal training.  In general, a process of decolonization that must follow the rules of the colonizer is not decolonization: it is an extension of colonization. It is a transformation of colonization into a seemingly different form, while protecting the same structures of power and inequality.

A similar situation has emerged in terms of Guam’s military value to the US. Since WWII the island has been referred to as Fortress Guam, an unsinkable aircraft carrier, the world’s largest gas station and most recently The Tip of America’s Spear. With current proposals to transfer US Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and the construction of new training areas in cultural and environmentally treasured sites, the US has been keen on sharpening its spear.

Taking advantage of Guam’s non-self-governing status, the US enjoys Guam’s harbor, airways, location and proximity to Asia, without the people having any representation in the halls of Congress or these stories chambers at the UN. It is part of Guam’s strategic value to the US, is that it has no voting politicians to meddle or foreign governments to interfere.

The position of the United Nations on this issue has always been clear, but is scarcely reported locally in particular territories or something acknowledged by the administering powers themselves. In its resolutions, military increases or strategic military importance should not be considered as reason to not decolonize territories, but this is generally used as an excuse to delay or deny action. We can find this point made in their numerous resolutions on the Question of Guam, such as this one from 1984:

The General Assembly of the United Nations “Reaffirms its strong conviction that the presence of military bases and installations in the Territory  [of Guam] could constitute a major obstacle to the implementation of the Declaration and that it is the responsibility of the administering Power to ensure that the existence of such bases and installations does not hinder the population of the Territory from exercising its right to self- determination and independence in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

UN Resolution 1514 (X/V) in 1960 called upon all colonial powers to assist their colonial possessions in moving towards decolonization. It does not mention specifically military bases or military training. But by 1964 the United Nations had begun to notice that in non-self-governing territories like Guam, the colonial power’s military controlled a great deal of resources and had a great deal of sway over the destiny of the colonies. Since 1965 the United Nations has approved numerous resolutions calling upon all administering powers (including the United States) to withdraw their military bases as they represent series obstacles to the exercising of self-determination by colonized peoples.

Bases help to enable to colonial power to see an island like Guam, not as a place in need of decolonization and redress, but as a strategically valuable piece of real estate, one necessary for the projection of military force and the maintaining of its geopolitical interests. Military facilities help colonial powers to deemphasize the inalienable human rights of colonized peoples and instead focus on the instrumentality and necessity of controlling their lands. Current proposals by the administering power to expand their training areas and in the process destroy or cut off public access to environmentally and culturally rich locations are exactly the type of activities the United Nations has long cautioned against.

In light of recent threats to Guam from North Korea, we must also recall that the United Nations has long called upon member states such as the US to refrain from using their colonies in offensive wars or aggression actions against other nations as could lead to retaliation against the people in the colony and could also potentially make enemies on behalf of the colony when it achieves decolonization.

Community members in Guam have regularly informed the US Department of Defense about these concerns and the way their attempts to increase their military presence on Guam affect the basic human rights of Chamorros. But as with most concerns related to the United Nations and decolonization they have chosen to wash their hands of this and argue they have no responsibility or obligation in the matter.

The most compelling evidence for why military value and militarization negatively impacts decolonization efforts can be found in this building and this body. Namely the flags of those countries from Micronesia that can be found here and those that cannot. Guam’s strategic military value has long affected what we can and cannot get from our administering power. For decades the members of the Trust Territory of Micronesia negotiated with the United States, a process that led to the formation of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and three nation-states that have seats at the United Nations: the Republic of Belau (Palau), the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. The United States did not allow Guam to participate in similar negotiations as its strategic value to the United States as a base, has consistently led to a denial of this basic human right.

The more the US increases its presence, the troops it moves, buildings it constructs and vehicles it stations, the less likely it is to take seriously its obligation, its sacred trust to faithfully assist the colonized people through their process of decolonization. The more it militarizes, the less likely it is to take seriously its own alleged ideals of liberty, democracy or freedom.

In conclusion, I offer the following two recommendations.

1. Considering the escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, which continue to put the people of Guam's lives at risk and a lack of meaningful engagement from the United States in Guam's decolonization process, it is imperative for the United Nations to send a UN visiting mission to Guam as was requested by Guam Governor Eddie Calvo in a letter dated August 1, 2017 to Chairman Ramirez Carreño. The UN must use its influence to engage the United States in Guam's decolonization process in a way that ensures genuine decolonization and cooperation. 

2. We offer our support of the draft resolution on the Question of Guam and ask that this body approve it in full with the inclusion of language specifically condemning the serious, irrevocable damage that the administering power is planning in the Northern part of Guam to build facilities and firing ranges for U.S. Marines. The U.S. intends to destroy over 1,000 acres of limestone forest, prevent access to an incredibly significant historic, cultural and sacred site, and will contaminate the island's largest source of drinking water for their military interests and without our consent. This threatens our natural resources and the health of our community and violates international law and our human rights. We urge you to take a strong position against these destructive plans. 

Si Yu’us Ma’åse para i tiempon-miyu.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Adventures in Chamorro #3

Through my Facebook page and this blog,  I often share what I refer to as “Adventures in Chamorro.” Gof takhilo’ i lenguahi-ta gi lina’la’-hu. Much of my work is dedicated to the revitalization of the Chamorro language and for my two children, Sumåhi and Akli’e’, from the days they were born I have only spoken to them in Chamorro. As such, in both work and the home, my life is filed with lots of interesting and hysterical Chamorro language moments. These are what I refer to as our “Adventures in Chamorro,” named for the adventure we take every day trying to talk about the world around us in the Chamorro language. Every couple of months, I would also share some of them in my Guam Daily Post columns. Here are some that I shared in my column published on August 17, 2016.



Adventures in Chamorro #266: The other day Isa (i nobia-hu), the kids and I were walking along the beach and looking up at the moon. It was a crescent moon, which many people translate to "sinahi" today. I prefer the word "chatgualafon" for crescent moon (and several other meanings), but the increasing prominence of sinahi has to do with the renewed use of the symbol in jewelry made from hima (giant clam shell). While gazing up at the crescent moon each of us mused in Chamorro, what it reminded us of. For Isa the moon was "un chinalek," or a smiling mouth. For Sumåhi she saw "un apå'ka na galaide'," or a white canoe. For me, it reminded me of "un gasgas na papåkes," or a clean fingernail. For Akli'e', the moon reminded him of "un mansåna" or "un aga,'" an apple or a banana. We all laughed at him as I said, "Siempre ñålang hao lahi-hu." (My boy you are definitely hungry)



Adventures in Chamorro #263: We've been playing the horror-action game Resident Evil 6 at the house for the past few weeks. Sumåhi and Akli'e' are scared to death of the game, which focuses on fighting and surviving against hordes of zombies. But both enjoy watching me play and struggle, screeching and yelling obscenities in Chamorro. Here's one of our exchanges, during one level when I had reached my fear limit and didn't want to continue on with the level.

Akli'e': Ayugue zombie! Paki gui'! (There’s a zombie! Shoot him!)

Miget: Åhe', mungga yu'. (No, I don’t want to.)

Sumahi: Hunggan! Sigi sigi mo'na! (Yes! Forward! Keep Going!)

Miget: Åhe', ti malago' yu. Ya-hu este na kuatto. Bai hu såga' mo'na guini. (No, I don’t want to. I like this room. I will stay here from now on.)

Sumahi: Ti siña un cho'gue enao! (You can’t do that!)

Miget: Oh hunggan bei gof cho'gue este. Bei fanhåtsa guma' guini ya ti bei dingu este na lugåt ta'lo. (Oh yes, I can totally do this. I’ll build a house here and I will not leave this place again.)

Akli'e': Lao håfa para na'-mu? (But what will you eat?)

Miget: Bei fanorder pizza kada diha. (I’ll order pizza.)

Sumahi: Ya hafa para un cho'gue anggen i zombie muna'na'i hao iyo-mu pizza? (And what will you do if a zombie is the one bringing it to you?)



Adventures in Chamorro #262: This is a short story that Sumåhi shared with my CM202 class at the University of Guam. There is a moral to the story. Enjoy!

Guaha kabåyu gi lancho. I na’ån-ña si Lothar.

Guaha sapble-ña. Lao ti gof kalaktos.

Gi unu na ha’åni, ha fa’nu’i i ga’chong-ña un chiba ni’ atmas-ña.

Gof malago’ i chiba i sapble.

Ayu na puenge annai mamaigo’ si Lothar humålom i chiba ya ha såkke’ i sapble.

Annai makmåta si Lothar ha hungok na mambururuka todu i ga’ga’ gi lancho, ma sodda’ i chiba måtai gi cha’guan.

Sa’ ha kekånno’ i sapble.



Adventures in Chamorro #257: I am not a fan of dragonfruit, but Isa loves to buy them at the store. When the kids and I saw them the other day, even though Sumåhi adores eating them we still had fun trying to figure out what they most resembled in appearance. For my part I said they were kulot lila na bomban frutas, or purple fruit bombs. Sumåhi went with the more menacing moniker of chada' birak, or monster eggs. Akli'e' had the most imaginative and disgusting description when he said they are kulot lila tåke' na guihan, or purple poo fish.



Adventures in Chamorro #255: In July I took a family who hadn’t been on Guam in over 20 years on a hike to Hila’an (known to most as Lost Pond). Meggai na latte guihi yan gefpå'go na lugåt para muñanagu. Kada manhånao ham guatu hu estoriayi i famagu'on-hu put i "sikretu na hula'" guihi, sa' guaha ma såsangan na i lugåt ha chuchule' i na'ån-ña ginen i sen dångkolo' na hula' siña un sodda' guihi. Gi fino'-ñiha i famagu'on-hu, "Ayu i Hila' Puntan!" (ginen i estorian Fu’una yan Puntan).



Adventures in Chamorro #254: The Jamaican Grill commercials are back playing before some movies in Guam theaters. In the ad, a group of animals, such as a fish, a chicken, a pig and a cow all sing a very catchy tune where the virtues of the restaurant's "serious food" are extolled. While watching the commercial we all found ourselves singing along mindlessly, until Sumahi stopped me and grabbed my arm saying "Nangga!" When I asked her what was the matter she said in an enlightened manner, "Gof båba este! I ga'ga' siha, ma kombidida hit para ta kånno' siha!"

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Takae Village Residents Visit Guam to Share Their Story of Struggle

Okinawa Activists on Guam to Share Struggles and Support Community’s Request to Halt Construction of Marines’ Range at Northwest Field 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (October 23,2017 – Hagåtña)  A community collective comprised of members of Independent Guåhan, Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice, Fuetsan Famalao’an and the University of Guam’s Women and Gender Studies Program are collaborating to host a week-long visit with a group of grassroots activists from Okinawa called No Helipad Takae Resident Society.  


The No Helipad Takae Resident Society is committed to protecting their village, which is the location of the Yanbaru Rainforest, the main source for fresh drinking water in Okinawa and home to thousands of endemic species, many of which are listed as critical or endangered.  In 1957, the U.S. military began using the Northern Training Area in the Yanbaru rainforest as a jungle warfare-training site for U.S. troops.  For two generations, local villagers have struggled with the challenges of living near a sprawling military installation, including the discovery of massive amounts of abandoned ordnance, exposure to Agent Orange, sound pollution, and heavy military traffic.  

Under the 1996 Special Action Committee (SACO) agreement, the governments of Japan and the U.S. agreed to revert 51 percent of the Northern Training Area to the civilian community, with the condition that six new helipads be installed on areas surrounding the Takae district. Local residents were alarmed by the plan for the construction of the helipads, which are located near homes and one elementary school.  The Takae community adopted two resolutions to prohibit the construction of the helipads; however, construction began in 2007 and is now complete.  For the past 10 years, members of No Helipad Takae Resident Society have organized peaceful protests against the helipads. 

The members of the No Helipad Takae Resident Society are calling for the closure of the Northern Training Area.  “In Takae, Okinawa, our worst fear has been realized.  In the early evening of October 11, a U.S. military helicopter crashed in Takae.  Such an accident cannot be tolerated,” expressed Yukine Ashimine, a member of No Helipad Takae, who is on Guam this week . “Our lives continue to be threatened.  We cannot live safely. To secure our human rights and to save our rich natural resources for the future, we strongly call for all U.S. bases to be removed from Okinawa and for no further live fire training ranges to be built on Guåhan.” 

The Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice (GCPJ) stands in solidarity with the No Helipad Takae Resident Society, recognizing that Okinawa has born the brunt of U.S. militarization in Japan. “We have worked in concert with activists from Okinawa since the signing of the accord in 2006 between the governments of the U.S. and Japan to move U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guahan,”  said Coalition President LisaLinda Natividad. “Our communities suffer so many of the same problems to include toxic contamination, land dispossession, and crimes committed by U.S. service members. We collectively stand against militarization as we strive for a peaceful world.”     

Independent Guahån also expressed solidarity. “We are sincerely grateful that the women of the No Helipad Takae Resident Society are here on Guam to convey their stories and struggles to our community, as we are potentially positioned to face the same struggles with the relocation of Marines to Guam,” said Independent Guåhan Educational Development and Research Chair Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero.  “We stand in solidarity with them, as they are here in solidarity with us and with our own efforts to protect Litekyan and work toward the empowerment of our people through decolonization. We appreciate the parallels in our efforts to oppose the destruction of our natural environment, the contamination of our Northern Lens Aquifer, and the fight for the protection of our ancestral homelands and historic properties.”

The collective, along with the members of No Helipad Takae Resident Society, are hosting two free public events this Monday and Tuesday. The details are as follows: 

Monday, October 23, 2017, 6 - 8 p.m., University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall
The documentary film Takae, the Forest of Life, which details the hardships the Takae community faces in protecting nature and life in Okinawa, and their collective struggle to demilitarize their home, will be screened followed by discussion.   

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 6 - 8 p.m., University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall
A public forum on the historical connections of U.S. militarization and resistance efforts in Guam and Okinawa will be held. The Panel will include:  Dr.  Catherine Lutz of Brown University; Dr. LisaLinda Natividad of the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice; Sabina Perez of Prutehi Litekyan; and Yukine Ashimine and Ikuko Isa, with translator Mizuki Nakamura of No Helipad Takae Resident Society. Dr. Vivian Dames of Fuetsan Famalao’an will  moderate. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

History within the Chamorro Context

Rlene Santos Steffy published the article below during the summer as part of her iTintaotao Marianas feature series in The Guam Daily Post. I was honored to be included amongst so many other older and more esteemed activist and scholars. I conducted several long interviews with Rlene, some focusing on history and others on political status. I was surprised by her chosen route for this article, focusing on my learning the Chamorro language and my relationship to my grandparents. I was surprised, but not disappointed. The quote that she used at the start of the article is very much what I continue to feel about my Chamorro identity. Namely that if not for my grandparents, I wouldn't have much of a Chamorro identity and probably wouldn't speak Chamorro or care as much about the fate of the Chamorro people.

Reading this article made me sen mahålang for my grandparents. I miss them every day, everytime I use the Chamorro language. Kada fumino' Chamorro nina'siente yu' triniste put i tinaiguen-ñiha. Lao bei hu sungon ha' i piniti, sa' guaguaha meggai para bai hu cho'gue. Ma irensiåyi yu' ni' este na guinaiya para i tinaotao-ta.

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Michael Lujan Bevacqua: History within the CHamoru context
by Rlene Santos Steffy
The Guam Daily Post
June 5, 2017

"Any sort of CHamoru feelings of consciousness or identity that I have, it comes from my grandparents." - Michael Lujan Bevacqua

Editor's note: This the 12th in Rlene Steffy's iTinaotao Marianas feature.

He wears a mustache and a full beard, his long, curly hair pulled back into a bun or ponytail most of the time. He dresses in a T-shirt, shorts and Birkenstock sandals all the time, and that includes to work. In fact, that's what attracted him to be a professor at the University of Guam – modeled after a former professor who dressed that way to teach his class. Michael? That's right, he's the activist who talks about nothing except decolonization and independence for Guam — Michael Lujan Bevacqua.
However, there is something that he also speaks to and that's history in the sense that it brings light on how souls lived and how you can appreciate the past through speaking CHamoru.

"Any sort of CHamoru feelings of consciousness or identity that I have, it comes from my grandparents. Although I lived some in the states and other parts of the world, when I lived on Guam I always lived with my grandparents. And it wasn't until I lived with them for 10 or 15 years of my life, that I really began to appreciate them — in a CHamoru context.

"My mom doesn't speak CHamoru, my grandparents spoke CHamoru to each other, and my grandfather was a blacksmith and he talked about passing it on to his kids but his son had not taken it on, and he didn't think that any of us – his grandsons – would be capable of it, so he preferred to pass (his knowledge) on to others."

So, when Michael attended UOG, he signed up for a foreign language class, and took Spanish, and when he was done with that and about to take Spanish 2, one of his aunts said, "Why are you taking Spanish? That's really stupid."

Michael paused and thought about what she said, then replied, "You're right it is kind of stupid." She defended her statement by saying, "You should take CHamoru, you're CHamoru," and Michael said, "Okay, I'll take CHamoru instead. I wonder what that's going to be like?"
He took CM101 with Peter Onedera.

"I was so lost — cause you know, in my grandparents' house, there was not even cursing in CHamoru so I didn't even know what laña' (expletive) meant. I would hear other people say it and I wouldn't know what it meant. I thought it was a Tagalog word or something. So, in that class I was like, so lost but it was good because every day I would come back from class and I would talk to my grandparents and I'd be like what is this word? And, they would laugh at the way I pronounced it, but my grandmother (Elizabeth de Leon Flores Lujan), who is the most beautiful soul in the world, she loved it."

Michael improved his CHamoru lessons through his grandmother's patience and help, and passed CM101. He decided to take CM102, and went to his grandmother.

"'Grandma, I actually want to speak CHamoru, now. It's like fun. It's a really cool language, you know. Will you promise to speak to me in CHamoru only, from now on?'

"She was so ecstatic. She was so excited about that because Grandma was really somebody who loved the CHamoru language. It was what she grew up with, you know, the language that she experienced most of the world with, I mean, her family had been part of the group that translated parts of the Bible for the Baptist Church. So, she really loved language. And even up until the day that she died, she was taking Bible stories and translating them into CHamoru, just for herself and, she said, for her grandchildren and great grandchildren."

Michael said she told him, 'I'll teach you CHamoru now and this is like me giving back — after what was lost — this is me giving something back.' She was apparently referring to not teaching her children to speak CHamoru. So, while he had one grandparent lamenting what appeared as a mistake, Michael said, his grandfather (Joaquin "Jack" Flores Lujan) was not happy with his new interest, and Tun Jack cracked jokes at Michael's attempts to engage him.

"My grandfather was not a supporter, (and) he cracked jokes all the time. I'd speak CHamoru to him and he'd be like, 'Ah! Is that Indian… håfa, what is that,' and I'd be like, 'Hey Grandpa, ayuda yu' (help me), ayuda yu', and he'd be like, 'Ah, can't you just take Japanese instead, you know, and you can get a job in Tumon and make some money.'

Michael would strengthen his position, "Ah, Grandpa you speak CHamoru every day. You and Grandma speak CHamoru all the time. I want to speak CHamoru so I can hang out with you guys. He's like, 'No, no, no.' And then he'd joke and say, 'You know what, speak Tagalog instead. Why don't you go and take Tagalog classes,' and he would joke, 'There's so many Filipinos now, soon everybody's going to speak Tagalog. You'll get ahead.'"

That first year of learning how to speak CHamoru put Michael on a totally different life course.
"Tun Jack eventually came around, because he realized that I was speaking CHamoru and he was speaking CHamoru to me. It was funny because I'd always take him around to his events stuff, like displaying things, or like CAHA or artist meetings — and one day, somebody came up to him and said, 'Hey Mr. Lujan, gof maolek fumino' CHamoru i yo'-mu grand." And, he was like, 'Really?' And, I was sitting there and he said, 'Yeah, I'm so proud of him! I'm so proud of him. Yeah. Huguan.'"
From that point on, Tun Jack paid attention to Miget's CHamoru.

"He would go to everyone and he would say, 'Hey fino' CHamoru-yi si Miget. Fino' CHamoru-yi si Mike, he wants to speak CHamoru. Speak CHamoru to him, his CHamoru is always different than mine, but speak CHamoru to him.' He still always makes jokes, but now he always speaks CHamoru to me."

Joaquin Flores Lujan was a pre-war blacksmith and built a shop at his home, and he and Miget would speak CHamoru when at the shop together.

"He really likes that so I feel so blessed that my grandmother helped me on this path, because it connected me in ways (with them) that would never be possible otherwise."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Statues Along the Slippery Slope

The Department of the Interior is the closest thing the US has to an explicitly colonial office. It is an office that overseas Native American tribes, the insular territories and also has obligations to deal with the freely associated states in Micronesia. It is for this reason probably the most interesting and exceptional place within the entirety of the US federal government. But this mandate is its least important function and one that matters very little in terms of general US interests or imagining. Overall its role in terms of managing national parks and providing oversight to resource extraction is far more visible. It is for this reason that in the general debate that is taking place within the US over Confederate monuments and attempts to whitewash and minimize racist and immoral parts of America's past, the Department of Interior enters the debate, not in terms of the Confederacy itself, but the way that certain heroes of American history, also participated in projects of Native American genocide. The Secretary of the Interior under Trump weighed in on the issue saying that taking down Confederate monuments on behalf of African Americans and their sense of justice, would then lead to Native Americans undertaking similar attempts. What the Secretary doesn't seem to understand, be aware of, or care about, is that Native Americans have been doing that for decades.

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Trump's Interior Head: If We Take Down Confederate Statues, American Indians Will Complain Next
by Chris D'Angelo and Dana Liebelson
Huffington Post
10/10/17

WASHINGTON ― Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says that if Confederate monuments are taken down, there’s no telling how far America might go —Native Americans could call for the removal of statues commemorating leaders who orchestrated violence against their ancestors. 
“Where do you start and where do you stop?” Zinke asked in an interview with Breitbart published Sunday. “It’s a slippery slope. If you’re a native Indian, I can tell you, you’re not very happy about the history of General Sherman or perhaps President Grant.”
William Sherman was a Union general during the Civil War who later used the military to force American Indian tribes to move to reservations. He wrote in 1868 that, “the more I see of these Indians the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.” 
Former President Ulysses Grant covertly provoked an illegal war with Plains Indians, as Smithsonian Magazine reported, and also presided over the mass slaughter of the buffalo, a culturally significant animal that was also a major resource for many tribes. 
Zinke, who oversees the country’s national park system as head of the Interior Department, told Breitbart that the Trump administration will not remove any monuments from federal land, including Confederate monuments. “When you try to erase history, what happens is you also erase how it happened and why it happened and the ability to learn from it,” Zinke said.
But Zinke’s remarks seem to ignore the fact that Native Americans have already been calling for the removal of monuments that commemorate white supremacy and historical figures who committed violence against indigenous people. 

Many Confederate monuments were erected long after the Civil War had ended, not to honor those who fought, but to promote a “white supremacist future,” as University of Chicago history professor Jane Dailey told NPR. “The proper place for this history is in a museum,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told HuffPost. 
In Zinke’s home state of Montana, Native American lawmakers have called for the removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers that they say stands for “segregation, secession, and slavery.” 

Last month, representatives of several tribes also gathered in Gardiner, Montana — the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park — to petition the government to change the names of two park features named after historical figures: Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, who helped lead a massacre of more than 150 Native Americans in 1870, and Ferdinand Hayden, who once wrote that “unless [Native Americans] are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits they must ultimately be exterminated.”  
In blasting the removal of Confederate statues, Zinke is echoing President Donald Trump, who remarked in August, “You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” 
Critics say Zinke’s latest statement about American Indians is dismissive and misses the point of efforts to remove Confederate statues in the first place. 
“He seeks to sidestep the initial issue and casually mentions American Indian complaints as a reason why the Confederate statues should stay,” Candessa Tehee, former executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, told HuffPost. “His comparison is like saying one wrong move justifies another.” 
Zinke is “acting as an apologist for Confederate monuments that make no effort to present a balanced and informed view of history,” said David Hayes, the Interior Department’s deputy secretary under President Barack Obama
“The National Park Service rightly prides itself in providing an accurate and balanced view of America’s historical sites,” Hayes added, pointing to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama and the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana.
“The National Park Service doesn’t always get it right. But for many years, it has recognized its special obligation to responsibly present our nation’s history,” Hayes said. “Abdication of this responsibility with simplistic rhetoric ... is, at best, unbecoming to the Interior Department and the National Park Service.”
Zinke is obligated to appreciate, preserve and explain American history, Hayes added.
The Interior Department did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Zinke’s relationship with Indian Country has been rocky. In 2014, when he was running for a Montana House seat, he drew fire for saying the problem of unemployment on local reservations stemmed from a “dependence on the government.” Tribal representatives accused Zinke of promoting stereotypes about Native Americans and of lacking empathy and historical awareness
When Zinke was sworn in as Interior Department head in March, he vowed to champion indigenous communities. He said “sovereignty should mean something” and that “Indian nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve.” Some Native Americans say they are hopeful about his policies, even as he has pushed a proposal that would slash the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget more than 10 percent and cut $64.4 million from Indian Affairs education programs
In August, Zinke revised the agency’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, which aims to address the widespread problem in Indian Country of land fractionation, a threat to tribal sovereignty. The sudden change meant dozens of tribes were cut out of the program entirely. A former Interior official told HuffPost at the time that there was no consultation with tribal leaders about the new strategy.
Zinke has suggested that Trump consider establishing a new national monument in Montana’s 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area, a site the Blackfeet Nation considers sacred. But he has also recommended shrinking or otherwise weakening at least 10 existing monuments that safeguard natural resources, according to a leaked copy of the report Zinke submitted to the White House in late August. 
Among the monuments Zinke sent to Trump’s chopping block is Bears Ears National Monument, 1.35 million acres of protected public land in southeastern Utah that is home to thousands of Native American archaeological and cultural sites. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group of five tribes, condemned Zinke’s recommendation as a “slap in the face.” 
It says a lot about Zinke that “he’s willing to go to bat for monuments to Confederate generals”— but not those that protect sacred Native American sites, said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.

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