Finaisen put Iya Hagåtña

Every week I get at least one request for an interview, several requests each week for information related to Guam history or the Chamoru language. Sometimes the requests can become a bit much, as I'm not able to get back to everyone. And sometimes I've responded to people close to a year later (ai lokkue'). But if I had more time I would respond to everyone I could, since the knowledge that I have or have access to, is useless unless there are ways it can get out to others. 
After I gave a guest lecture in an English rhetoric class last year, one of the students contacted me asking for some help on understanding Hagåtña and its contemporary and historical place in Guam. I appreciated her wanting to know more about a village that most everyone takes for granted nowadays on Guam. So I wrote up responses to her 8 questions. Here they are below.
1. What makes Hagatna unique from other villages? 
What makes Hagåtña unique is that because it was elevated t…

Håle' Kumunidåt Roundtable Series

Next Friday, February 21st, from 4:00 - 5:30 pm, Senators Kelly Marsh-Taitano and Jose "Pedo" Terlaje will be holding the first of their public safety roundtable series called "Håle' Kumunidåt: Social Science Solutions to Drugs, Crime and Other Problems." 

Over the past year, the senators have attended many public safety forums and hearings and there has always been a consistent theme from police officers, social workers and others; these issues are complex and have deep roots. To tackle them the island has to use multi-prong well-informed approaches, and the Håle' Kumunidåt roundtable series hopes to provide a space for developing somme of those ideas. 

The first roundtable will focus the questions, "How did we get here? What what can we do next?" and we'll be hearing from historians, social workers, political scientists and mental health specialists. The public is invited to attend at the Public Hearing Room of the Guam Congress Building or yo…

Fanohge Famalao'an 2020


The Parting Glass

When my son Akli'e' and I played Assassin's Creed Black Flag (Åttelong na Bandera) together, we were both touched by the game's ending ballad, "Parting Glass," a famous Scottish farewell song. Even after I stopped playing it years ago, we still find ourselves singing to it in the car and referencing his favorite line from the song "for want of wit." Este uno gof ya-hu na huegon bideo. Ya hu hasso gi finakpo' annai makånta este na kånta, kulang tumåtanges yu'. 

Over the years when we sing this song, my kids and I eventually added in our own Chamoru lyrics for it. I've pasted them below. 
As I reflect back on the year that was 2019; the love, the pain and everything in between, this song was a beautiful way to bid it adios.

The Parting Glass
Of all the money there ere I had I spent it in good company
Put todu i salape’ ni’ hu chule’ I manabok-hu hu gaståyi
And all the harm that ere I done Alas it was to none but me


The Festival of Pacific Arts and Cultures takes place in a different island in the Pacific every four years. This is considered to be the most important event in the Pacific in terms of culture and regional solidarity. It is a chance for each island to showcase their own culture and artistic expression, while meeting with others across the Pacific. 

Recently there has been some negativity in Guam around FESTPAC 2020 and the idea of the Government of Guam funding 100 delegates to travel there. There is a significant amount of misinformation floating around, which is unfortunate, since it threatens to tar this important event. 

To learn more about the value of FESTPAC and its role in Guam’s cultural renaissance and movement for decolonization, Independent Guåhan is holding a Teach-In on the topic on Thursday, January 16th at 6 pm at UOG HSS 106.

December 1941

Retellings of Guam history focus heavily on the end of the World War II on the island, and de-emphasize the start of the war. It is like this for some obvious and some less-obvious reasons. As I've written about before, where you place the narrative locus for these 32 months of Chamoru history will heavily affect what type of lessons or ideas emerge. If you focus on the end, the triumphant American return, where the Japanese are defeated and Chamorus are liberated from tyranny, the lessons seem pretty clear. American power and benevolence and propensity for liberation and democracy spreading. Chamorus become attached to the US and its history through that ending, as an object of their grandeur or their exceptional excellence and virtue.

But if we switch the story's focus to the beginning things get much more complicated. We see at the beginning of war, an island where Chamorus trust the US to tell them the truth, to keep them safe, but they also understand in an important way…

Okinawa Blues

Since 2010 I have traveled to Okinawa just about every year. Usually I have gone with my friend Ed Alvarez. We first travelled to Okinawa together in 2012 to present at a number of conferences focusing on issues of demilitarization, indigenous rights and also decolonization. Ed was the Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Decolonization and had made some important connections to academics and protest groups. One of my goals at some point is to write an academic article about the ever-evolving conversation in Okinawa about decolonization and political status. It is fascinating and often goes far beneath the radar, as most focus on the demilitarization and anti US base protests. But since I have been traveling there, I have regularly heard the makings of a decolonization conversation. When I say this, I don't mean it looks the same or sounds the same, or takes the same shape as Guam's. I mean that for Okinawa, which faces a number of fundamental and structural issues ab…