Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Chamorro Press Releases

I felt like I've written a hundred press releases this year, most of them for the Independence for Guåhan Task Force, but plenty of others for the Chamorro Studies Program at UOG. I've been meaning to post them here just to easily archive them, especially for when I apply for promotion to UOG in the coming year. It is intriguing, because what made me think of this tonight, was a column written today by Paul Zerzan in the Guam Daily Post. It discusses how the Chamorro language is a dead language. It isn't very well-written and its argument is incredibly poor on almost all possible levels. Part of it hinges on him describing an anecdote whereby a Chamorro cultural event planned in 1993 was attended by only himself, therefore clearly proving the language being dead. What struck me as bewildering about this particular portion of his argument, was that on a regular basis I attend and organize (ko'lo'lo'ña gi UOG) Chamorro events that hundreds of people attend. Just last week we had a Chamorro Christmas event that more than 250 people attended. Last month we had two Chamorro language forums where more than 300 attended. The Chamorro language may be endangered, but it clearly isn't dead yet. Let my press releases from this semester, also be a record of this truth.


Puengen Minagof Nochebuena 2016

Chamorro Studies at UOG invites you to an evening of Chamorro Christmas celebration!
The Division of Humanities, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the University of Guam’s Chamorro Studies Program cordially invite the UOG and Guam community to Puengen Minagof Nochebuena, an evening of Chamorro cultural festivities connected to the holiday season. The celebration will take place on Friday, December 2, 2016 from 6 pm – 8 pm in the UOG CLASS Lecture Hall. 

The theme for this year’s Puengen Minagof Nochebuena is “Tiempon Krismas: Silibrasion i Estoria-ta gi Uriyå-ta” or “Holiday Season: Christmas Celebrations from Around the World.” The evening will include singing, bilen-making, the praying of a nobena and plenty of fina’mames (sweets). CHamoru language students will be making traditional Chamorro Christmas desserts such as boñelos dågu, but also offering a wide variety of boñelos options, including boñelos mangga, boñelos lemmai, boñelos aga’ and others. A Christmas skit featuring a live bilen is also planned, reminding us about the real spirit of this season.  

Please join the students on this evening and help them show off our CHamoru language skills and cultural knowledge, and to usher in the 2016 holiday season. For more information please contact: Michael Lujan Bevacqua at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com or via telephone at 735-2800.  


UOG Chamorro Studies organizing Inadaggao Lengguahen Chamoru
A chance for electoral candidates to show their support for the perpetuating of Guam’s indigenous language.

On October 10, 2016 the Chamorro Studies Program at UOG will be holding an Inadaggao Lengguahen Chamoru or a Chamorro Language Forum, where senatorial candidates in this year’s election will be speaking about island issues in the Chamorro language. The Inadaggao will last from 6 – 8 pm and be held at the UOG CLASS Lecture Hall. The public is invited to attend and share in this celebration of the Chamorro language. Refreshments will be provided.

Unlike other candidate forums this election season which are conducted in English, the Inadaggao Lengguahen Chamoru represents a chance to hear our candidates provides their opinions and ideas about the future of our island in the Chamorro language, which is an official language of Guam. Eight candidates in total, four from each political party will be present and will be asked questions in the Chamorro language and be required to respond in Chamorro as well. For those participating who are not fully fluent in Chamorro, they have been provided the questions ahead of time and are allowed to prepare their answers and read them in Chamorro during the forum.

In the past UOG’s Chamorro Language Program held forums of this type, most recently for the 2010 Senatorial and Gubernatorial elections. Students in Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua’s CM340 or Chamorro Culture class decided to revive the political forum due to their concerns that the Chamorro language, while once a vibrant part of island politics, is vanishing. The Inadaggao Lengguahan Chamorro is being organized by Chamorro Studies majors at UOG, who wrote the questions and will be coordinating the event.

The Chamorro Studies Program thanks the following candidates who have graciously agreed to participate in our efforts to perpetuate the Chamorro language and provide inspiration for our young people who are struggling to learn the language today:

Democrats: Speaker Judi Won Pat, Senator Tom Ada, Senator Rory Respicio and Senator Dennis Rodriguez.
Republicans, Senator Mary Camacho Torres, Wil Castro, Fernando Esteves and Eric Palacios.

For more information contact Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com.


UOG Chamorro Studies organizes second Chamorro Language Forum
Fino’ Chamoru na Inadaggao will be a chance for senatorial candidates to show their support for the perpetuation of the Chamorro language.

On October 10th, more than 220 members of the community gathered at the University of Guam to listen to four Republican and Democratic senatorial candidates discuss important issues in the Chamorro language. This event was Inadaggao Lengguhen Chamoru or a Chamorro language forum organized by students from the Chamorro Studies Program at the University of Guam. Inspired by the great success of the first Inadaggao, the Chamorro Studies Program will be organizing a second forum, Fino’ Chamoru na Inadaggao on November 1 from 6 – 8 pm in the UOG CLASS Lecture Hall. The public is invited to attend and refreshments will be provided.

This election season has been filled with forums, nearly all of which have been conducted in the English language. The Fino’ Chamoru na Inadaggao represents a chance for the community to hear their prospective leaders share their platforms and plans for Guam in the Chamorro language, which is an official language of the island. Candidates from both parties have been invited to the forum on November 1st.

At present Speaker Judi Won Pat, Senator Frank Aguon, Senator Nerissa Underwood and candidates Therese Terlaje and Louis Borja Muña have confirmed. All participating candidates will be given in the questions for the forum ahead of time. For those who are not fully fluent in the Chamorro language, they are encouraged to work with a fluent speaker to prepare their answers in Chamorro and read them during the forum.

In the past, under the leadership of Peter Onedera and Rosa Palomo, UOG’s Chamorro Language Program held forums of this type, most recently for the 2010 Senatorial and Gubernatorial elections. Students in Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua’s CM340 or Chamoru Culture class decided to revive the political forum due to their concerns that the Chamorro language, while once a vibrant part of island politics, is vanishing. The Fino’ Chamoru na Inadaggao is being organized by Chamorro Studies majors at UOG, who wrote the questions and will be coordinating the event.

For more information contact Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua at  mlbasquiat@hotmail.com.


UOG Chamorro Studies thanks senatorial candidates for their participation in Chamorro language focused forums

On October 10th and November 1st, the University of Guam Chamorro Studies Program organized two Chamorro language forums where senatorial candidates were asked questions about pertinent issues in the Chamorro language, and were encouraged to respond in Guam’s native language as well. More than 300 members of the community attended the two events to hear 8 Democratic candidates and 5 Republicans show their support for Chamorro language revitalizing by using it when describing their political platforms. These events were organized by Chamorro Studies majors and minors from UOG in order to help build awareness of the need to use the Chamorro language everyday and in as many ways as possible. As one Chamorro Studie major Joe Garrido noted, “Ta Faneyak kosaski Ta Tungo’!”

On October 10th, the first forum Inadaggao Lengguahen Chamoru was held with the following senatorial candidates participating: Senator Tom Ada, Senator Rory Respicio, Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Senator Marry Torres, Joe S. San Agustin, Fernando Esteves, Wil Castro and Eric Palacios. Due to the positive community response from the first forum, a second Fino’ Chamoru na Inadaggao was held on November 1st featuring the following senatorial candidates: Speaker Judi Won Pat, Senator Nerissa Underwood, Senator Frank Aguon, Therese Terlaje and Louis Borja Muña. The Chamorro Studies Program and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences wished to extend its gratitude to these candidates who took on the challenge of participating in a Chamorro language focused forum.

At the close of the second forum, UOG President Robert Underwood and pioneer in the contemporary Chamorro language revitalization movement reflected on the importance of these types of Chamorro language events. He noted that just a generation or two ago political meetings were almost entirely in Chamorro, “In pacha ayu na tiempo anai guaha miteng pulitikåt, anai dikike’ yu’, enterero gi’ Fino’ Chamorro…Hu gof hasso…giya Sinahåña, anggen guaha un miteng, guaha na biahi ma laknos todu siha i loud speaker, ya ma po’lo gi kada chålan, ya ti siña un eksåpa håfa ma såsangan…Manannok na mamdidok mamfifino’ Chamorro.” Educational events such as these and other activities taking place in the community as well as the university are essential in making possible a healthy and vibrant community of Chamorro speakers a reality. Biba Chamorro! Biba Fino’ Chamorro! Biba Guåhan!

Video of both forums will be posted today on the Youtube page Mumon Linhayan (http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWq0jE3_cjRWpI9vE3hWOCQ). This page is was created by UOG Chamorro Studies faculty Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Kenneth Gofigan Kuper who is a Ph.D. student at University of Hawai’i, Manoa. It is dedicated to Chamorro language revitalization projects.

For more information contact Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com.

Friday, December 02, 2016


It has been weeks now since the US presidential election ended. Recounts are taking place in certain states. Protests are still sparking in certain areas across the US. Basic political conventions continue to be challenged as Trump tweets constantly and thinks rarely. As Guam is often simply subsumed within the flow of American power and politics, it is easy to just sit and watch and imagine ourselves along for the ride. But just as President Trump means a great deal of uncertainty for the US in general, the same goes for Guam, albeit in our own particular ways. This is a great piece by Tom Maxedon from The Sunday Post which covers alot of group in terms of imagining what a Trump administration might look like. Things have changed somewhat since it was written last week, but most of it is still in place. I'm glad that he was able to attend the Trump Teach-In that we had at the University of Guam last month. As much of what I suggested during my presentation already seems to be coming true, or at least on the horizon.


The Presidential Apprentice: What a Trump Administration Could Mean for Guam
Tom Maxedon III
The Guam Sunday Post

Although Guam voters overwhelmingly chose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of nearly three-to-one in its Presidential Straw Poll on Election Day, the nation as a whole – by way of the Electoral College, at least – decided otherwise.

While voters here were mostly unsurprised by the ushering in of a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, the mood of the mainland was entirely different on Nov. 8 as Trump became President-elect and Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress. Continuing upon a pattern of shocking outcomes and highly irregular theatrics that have made this election cycle unlike anything seen in living memory, the businessman and reality TV host stunned pollsters and pundits of all political stripes who did not believe he could woo enough support to win following nearly 18 months of a steady stream of sharp rhetoric directed against religious and ethnic minorities, POWs, a Gold Star family, and a leaked recording of a lewd conversation in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.

Now that Trump will occupy the White House despite Clinton winning the popular vote by an estimated two million votes (the ballots are still being tallied), what will his presidency mean for Guam?

Delegate reaction

“I am deeply concerned about the election of Donald Trump and surprised that he won so many states,” said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo in a joint Sunday Post/89.3 KPRG-FM exclusive.

“He ran an extremely divisive campaign that appealed to the worst in us as a people, and not about our hopes for a better future,” she said. “Also, some of his foreign policy proposals during the campaign were concerning – especially those that weakened support for our allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific, or suggested we place nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula or in Japan.”

Congresswoman Bordallo, who was re-elected by defeating former Governor Felix Camacho by eight percentage points, said Trump’s hawkish stance on China is likely to result in continuing the efforts promoted by the Obama administration to realign Marines from Okinawa to Guam – a position she has championed for quite some time.

However, she is also concerned about other policy issues Trump will be asked to consider as they relate to Guam, such as “relief from the H-2B visa denials, reducing the impacts of Compact-Impact and providing adequate infrastructure funding, and the importance of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy.”

“His election already has impacts for the region as it is becoming clear that we will not be able to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement,” which both Trump and Clinton campaigned against. “Without TPP, China will have an opportunity to gain greater economic influence in the region,” Bordallo said.

H-2B visa issues

While Trump has not been explicit on his stance toward H-2B visas for immigrant workers, he generally ran a campaign fueled by promises to return jobs to Americans that have been lost to globalization, immigrants, and trade agreements – causing many in the Mariana Islands to fear even stricter rules on hiring temporary immigrant workers to fill roles in key areas such as construction and health care.

As a new cottage industry of Trump prognosticators attempts to divine which of Trump’s campaign promises and threats may actually come to be, some have pointed out that the president-elect himself has shown a predilection for hiring H-2B workers for his own projects – even while running for president and railing against low-wage immigrants taking jobs from Americans. However, rumors of Cabinet level appointments of anti-immigration hardliners like former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer suggest that H-2B visa obstacles might remain on the menu for Guam’s sectors overly reliant upon immigrant labor.

Trump teach-in

It did not take long for Independence Guahan and some members of the University of Guam community to host a seminar to discuss the impacts of a Trump presidency on the island.
Last Tuesday evening, Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua, professor of Chamorro Studies at UOG and chairman of the Independence Guahan Task Force, co-presented a “Trump Teach-In” with Victoria-Lola M. Leon Guerrero, the managing editor of the University of Guam Press. The session was held before a packed classroom of attendees at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Humanities and Social Sciences building.

“It’s hard to know what kind of president Donald Trump will be,” Bevacqua said. “Part of it is that he is objectively the most unqualified person to be elected president of the United States given the metrics that are usually used, where you are a government official who’s served the people or you are a military officer who led troops into battle.”

While Bevacqua also stated that President-elect Trump’s penchant for controversial statements and contradictory positions add to the mystery of how he’ll govern, most of his portion of the teach-in dealt with the brass tacks of what a far more conservative federal government might mean for Guam – such as who might be appointed to head up the Department of the Interior (DOI).

“The Department of Interior is one of the most important things we need to think about in terms of a Trump presidency,” he said. “They are considered to be the office that handles the Territories.”
“[DOI] is in charge of fish, buffalo, Native Americans, and Chamorros, for example,” Bevacqua said, alluding to the less-than-equal status of U.S. citizens residing in Territories. “So, in the United States’ calculus, a Chamorro’s destiny and island is equivalent to birds, lakes, and buffaloes. So, in their minds, you are the frontier of the U.S.”

Bevacqua feels this presidential Cabinet position is extremely important to Guam this time around is because one person rumored to be short-listed for the Secretary of the Interior position is former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

“We do know she is not particularly strong on environmental issues, and part of the reason she might want that post is to open up oil drilling in wildlife refuges,” he said.

Bevacqua did indicate that one potentially positive outcome of a Donald Trump presidency was the Republican Party platform that mentions “unfair economic restrictions on Territories, such as the Jones Act.”

Provisions relating to the Jones Act restrict the carriage of goods or passengers between United States ports to U.S.-built and flagged vessels, require at least three-fourths of the crewmembers to be U.S. citizens, and other measures that artificially inflates the cost of shipping goods to Guam and elsewhere – an expense that is then passed on to consumers.

“Republicans would be willing to undo those, and that could be a benefit for Guam because it’s one of the main reasons why things are so expensive here,” he said.

During her presentation, Leon Guerrero focused on President-elect Trump’s comments indicative of what she described as greenlighting “sexual assault on women” and frequent use of coded language implying the criminality or inferiority of non-whites on American soil.

“That to me is what’s scary and very frightening for our community, because this is who we’re dealing with – someone who really won’t see us as anyone who matters,” she said. “That’s not who I want my children to look up to.”

With respect to discrimination, Leon Guerrero’s sentiment was shared by many, including audience member Lasia Casil, who founded both Save Southern Guam and ISA Guam, an LGBTQ rights group.

“I’ve already started to see racist remarks within our own community and people posting on Facebook: ‘Run and hide gays and lesbians. Trump is our president.’ I’m feeling a lot of anxiety and bracing myself for a potential tsunami of conflict on our island,” said Casil.

While Trump himself did not say much during the campaign to incite anger among the LGBTQ community (in fact, he even courted them at points), his running mate and now Vice-President elect Mike Pence has a record of supporting anti-gay policy while governor of Indiana and a member of Congress.

China’s  “Guam Killer"

Guam certainly has reason to be concerned about China’s reaction to President-Elect Trump.
According to a May report published by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, “China is getting closer to deploying a new intermediate-range ballistic missile known as the DF-26 — or ‘Guam Killer’ — which could put American forces stationed on the western Pacific U.S. Territory at risk” in the wake of Washington’s Asia Pivot.

However, The Guardian stated just last week that “Veteran Pekingologists suspect the Chinese leadership [had] been secretly rooting for a Trump victory, wagering his elevation to the Oval Office would strike a body blow to their greatest rival.”

In that report, Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New York’s Asia Society, stated “it was Mao Zedong who said: ‘Without destruction there can be no construction’. And, if I interpret him correctly, Donald Trump is the suicide bomber of American politics.”
“He [Trump] wants to just bring the whole house down and start over. And I think that is quite tantalizing to China.”

Schell said Chinese president, Xi Jinping, praises the iconic Chairman Mao and a “key principle of Mao’s rule: ‘da nao tian gong’ – ‘make disorder under heaven’. I think Trump has every promise of doing that in America.”

Candidate Trump

In March, then-candidate Trump issued a press release recognizing former and current military personnel from the Territories and Commonwealths of the United States.

“Throughout the history of our nation, the patriotism exhibited by our brothers and sisters in the Territories … has often gone unacknowledged,” it read. “Year after year, these citizens quietly, without fanfare, send more of their sons and daughters per capita into the U.S. Armed Services than any of the 50 states. All Americans should stand in awe of this commitment to the service of our nation.”

“Unfortunately special interests have taken over our government and this has left the American people without voice. Hopefully, my candidacy and presidency will change that. No more will those who reside in the Territories or Commonwealths be ignored.”

In the release, candidate Trump also bolstered his stance with a commitment to appoint a Special Assistant to the President "responsible for day-to-day interaction with the Territories and Commonwealths.”

Local policymakers

Although island voters replaced seven incumbents in the Guam Legislature, Republican Senator Tommy Morrison was re-elected to another term on Nov. 8.

He was also troubled by the divisiveness on the campaign trail this election season. In exclusive comments made to the Sunday Post by email, he stated unequivocally that he firmly believes “discrimination of any kind has no place in BOTH major political parties – and anywhere near the White House. I believe that President-elect Trump and his administration need to do what they can in the months and years ahead to unite our country.”

Nevertheless, as a local policymaker, Senator Morrison supports “plans by President-elect Trump to appoint a Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee which will be responsible for reviewing all federal regulations affecting the Territories and Commonwealths.”

He stated such commitments are necessary to advance Guam's agenda in Washington, D.C., and expects “President-elect Trump and his administration will work closely with Governor Calvo and other elected leaders to move forward with efforts related to the Guam buildup” and other issues facing the island.

“I believe he will also work with us to address various challenges and issues pertinent to the Compact of Free Association between the U.S. and the FSM, as well as Guam’s political status and the Jones Act.”

While Gov. Calvo did not respond to requests to his office for comment, he serves as the co-chair for the Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee, which was announced by the Trump campaign in late September.

According to the announcement, “Mr. Trump and Governor Pence will meet with members of the committee and AAPI leaders to discuss growing concerns over educational opportunities, employment and the economy, which are of paramount concern to AAPI families across this nation. Mr. Trump understands the critical role Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders play in the growing and providing for an energetic economic base, which has been lacking over the past eight years of Obama/Clinton policies.”

Guam’s political status

While the main focus of the teach-in was to discuss the implications of a Trump presidency on Guam, the island’s political status was also widely discussed.

“Social media posts appeared all over Guam. Interestingly enough, not necessarily people saying they are going to move to Canada or any other country, but instead saying ‘shouldn’t Guam decolonize? Shouldn’t Guam become independent?,’” Bevacqua said, while showing screen shots on a PowerPoint presentation of such social media statements.

In his State of the Island Address earlier this year, Gov. Calvo shocked members of the Commission on Decolonization when he stated his desire to hold a plebiscite on Guam’s political status this past election. The Commission was not made aware of his desires prior to the announcement and they felt such a compressed timetable was unfair to properly educate and reach a consensus between both indigenous residents of the island who are the only citizens eligible to vote on the matter, as well as those Guam residents who were not born here but would be affected by the decision.

Leon Guerrero spoke critically at the teach-in of Gov. Calvo’s role as chair of the Commission on Decolonization.

“Having worked at the Legislature, the community doesn’t put a lot pressure on our own leaders and definitely not on Gov. Calvo, who [since the address] has done very little and now is doing nothing [regarding political status issues],” she said. “If he is in this position as co-chair and our community wants him to advocate in a certain way, then that is where we would want to apply pressure. He pushes Statehood. The chairperson’s role should not be to push for a particular status.”


President-elect Donald Trump made many promises of changes both big and small that he’ll implement during his first one hundred days in office – a trope echoed by his predecessors in recent times. On the whole, it is clear many of Guam’s residents and its elected officials expect him to offer more of the type of conciliatory remarks he offered following Clinton’s congratulatory concession phone call in the wee hours of Nov. 9.

Only time will tell if he follows through with the commitments to Pacific Island communities he outlined prior to his victory on the mainland. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Soldier Statistics

It remains a tragic, frustrating but also telling statistical anomaly that Guam has one of the highest concentrations of US veterans, but ranks amongst the lowest areas in terms of spending by Veterans' Affairs. A few years ago this led to the PBS program American by the Numbers flying out to Guam to do a documentary on what it is like to come from a place that signs up and serves in such high numbers, but does not translate into high levels of spending to thank those who have served for their sacrifices. I am not a patriotic person in any form really, and I do not take much pride in the high levels of military service Chamorros and Guam in general sign up for, but this poor treatment of our local veterans is something that anger and irritates me as well.

Below is an article that discusses an overview of the PBS documentary, which was titled Island of Warriors.


"Guam's Wounded Warriors"
by Marlon Bishop
July 6, 2016

Every July 21st, Guam celebrates Liberation Day, the American liberation of the island from the Japanese during WWII, with a huge, throw-out-all-the-stops parade. One after another, blocks-long contingents of Guamanian-American soldiers march.

Guam is a non-incorporated territory of the United States, like Puerto Rico. Although its residents can’t vote in federal elections, they can serve in the military — and they do, at rates three times the rate of any state. At least one in eight adult Guamanians is a veteran.
“Guam is very traditional when it comes to the military,” says Sergeant Gonzalo Fernandez, a recruiter for the National Guard. “In every village on Guam you’re going to find a big amount of people who served in the military. It’s a family tradition to do it.”

That tradition makes it an easy place to get people to sign up. Fernandez has won the National Guard’s “Recruiter of the Year” award three times in a row.

“I couldn’t couldn’t duplicate the success I had here anywhere else, because I’m not sure the people of those places are as patriotic as the people on this island,” says Fernandez.

Patriotism or Poverty?

At the Liberation Day parade, that patriotism is on display everywhere. Part of it may have to do with the military’s massive presence on the island. Guam is known as the “tip of the spear” in the Pacific. Thirty percent of the island is occupied by military bases.

University of Guam professor Michael Bevacqua says that he believes that beyond the façade of patriotism, something else is going on.

“Many Guamanians spend their whole life dreaming about the United States and about how cool it is and that you’re a big part of it. And then you go there and you find that people don’t know anything about you,” says Bevacqua. “I think Guam has this problem of feeling like they’re shut out of America so some people join to try and prove they are really part of the United States.”

Another major factor, Bevacqua says, is poverty. A quarter of Guam’s population is below the poverty line. For many Guamanians, the military is a way out.

“A lot of it has to do with the shininess and the niceness of the military. It seems like there’s this excess of resources,” says Bevacqua.

Coming Home

Whatever their reasons may be for joining the military, coming home presents soldiers with a new set of challenges.

Pacific islanders not only serve at the highest rates, they are injured and die at the highest rates too. Yet Guam ranked dead last in medical care spending per veteran by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, or the VA, in 2012.

In recent years, many servicemen and women have been returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with physical and psychological scars. Many say they have trouble obtaining the care they need.
On of them is Roland Ada, a 34 year-old who served two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. At his home in Guam, he scrolls through photos her took of carnage on the front lines.

“This is where the IED went off,” he says, pointing to a place on the screen. The scene is of a roadside bombing he witnessed in which several Iraqi men and children were killed.

“This Is My Home, I Want To Be Here”

Today Ada suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder because of experiences such as these.
“I still see those children once in a while,” says Ada. “That’s why I get drunk. So I don’t have to see them. When I get drunk it numbs everything.”

Some days, Ada feels incapable of even leaving the house. He says he has frequent thoughts of suicide. The first time was towards the end of his active service, while he was on base in Hawaii. Suddenly, while driving one night, he felt himself snap, and called his brother in a panic to talk him down.

“I was mad at the world, I was mad at everybody, I was mad at myself, and I never figured out why, really. That’s what scares me about myself. That when I get mad, those fleeting thoughts could become real,” says Ada.

Roland wants to get better. But, he says, he has been unable to find the intensive PTSD treatment he needs here in Guam. The nearest VA program offered is in Hawaii, eight hours away by plane.
“Sometimes I think about going back to the States and I would have a better opportunity and better care that I would here,” says Ada. “And it sucks because this is my home, I want to be here but I can’t get the help that I need. It’s not the help I want, it’s the help I need.”

Help On The Way?

The VA doesn’t operate a hospital in Guam. It did, however, open a new clinic for veterans in 2011.
Craig Oswlad, a VA official from Hawaii, responded to questions about Roland Ada’s claims about lack of PTSD services for veterans.

“We’re very concerned about hearing that from veterans. Over the last 20 years, we’ve been building a health care system in the Pacific to meet what we call unmet demand,” says Oswald. “All I know is that in an area like the Pacific, we’ve grown tremendously to help these people over the years. And we have future plans to go even further.”

A Problem Of Representation

Not everybody would agree with Oswald’s claims that things are getting better. Governor Eddie Calvo, the highest elected official on the island, says the U.S. Senate cut funds for mental health care for Guam two years in a row.

“Unfortunately some of the policymakers out there is Washington DC, maybe because of the distance that Guam is from the United States, have a cavalier attitude towards the citizenry out here Guam,” says Calvo.

“Of course it doesn’t help that we’re an unincorporated territory that has no vote in a Congress or a Senate and no vote for a president. It makes it that much more difficult to get our voices heard, either in Washington DC or to the American public.”

For Calvo, Guam’s lack of federal representation is the biggest hurdle in securing further resources for the island’s veterans.

Until those resources arrive, vets like Roland Ada may have to either leave the island for care of learn to get by on their own—and hope they make it out without hurting themselves or others. Ada knows his family is worried about him.

“Every night when I go out to shoot pool or when I go out to drink, I don’t want them to have to worry and think, ‘is he going to make it home tonight’,” says Ada. “The only thing that snaps me back to reality is thinking about my family.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fanhokkayan #3: The Museum Desert of the Real

The Guam Museum is open in Hagåtña. Well it is sort of and kind of open. The permanent exhibit text, which I have been helping write for several years now isn't complete, although a temporary exhibit about the history of the Guam Museum has been set up in the meantime. It is strange to have the structure, the physical building finished and mostly ready, but still the museum itself, the story or i hinanao-ta, that it is supposed to represent isn't quite ready. While going through some of my old files on my computer I noted (and was reminded) that Guam didn't have a museum for quite a while. I recall visiting the museum as a young child at the Plaza de Espana and also at Adelup, but for most of my life there has been no national museum on Guam. When my kids were first born, the museum was, interestingly enough just a little annex in the Micronesian Mall that few people even knew existed. The discussion over a museum has been underway for a very long time, although it pains me to think that some of the main people who are responsible for shepherding this project ahead, despite decades of government miasma have passed on.

The two letters below were written more than a decade ago, during the reign of Governor Felix Camacho. They were published in Minagahet Zine around the same time. If you are familiar with anthropology in the Mariana Islands, then the names of the two writers will no doubt be familiar to you.


The Guam Museum

Legacies are Built on Actions
By Professor Gary Heathcote

By Executive Order, the Governor declared the year 2005 to be Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura: Inina, Deskubri yan Setbisio (“The year of the Chamorro Language and Culture: Enlightenment, Discovery and Service”).   What better time than now to start taking serious, informed steps in the direction of creating the kind of museum and cultural center that would do Guam proud?!
Prior to the last election, I polled the Senatorial hopefuls on their positions and ideas about promoting, preserving and educating the public and tourists alike about Guam’s rich and distinctive histories and cultures.   It was heartening to receive replies and read thoughtful published responses on these issues from a number of candidates, including even a few who won.  I was particularly interested in what the candidates had to say about fund raising, since securing property, building infrastructure, designing and building needed facilities, hiring needed museum professionals, scholars, masters of  the arts, cultural traditions and oral history, and training needed para-professional staff will be - of course – quite expensive. 
The most substantive responses came from Senator Larry Kasperbauer and former Speaker Ben Pangelinan.  I learned that Kasperbauer had previously proposed that Japan and the United States jointly build a cultural center and museum for the people of Guam to, in part, “resolve the issue of war-time ill-treatment of our people.”   [Who shot that down?]   Pangelinan informed me that he was working on a proposal to “charter an NGO (non-government organization) to receive donations from state governments such as Spain, Mexico, Japan, etc., to assist in the financing.”   In addition, Pangelinan advocated “setting aside a portion of the Tourist Attraction Fund” to fund the construction of new facilities.    
I was hoping that, in the last days of the previous Legislature, a bill might be introduced  and passed that would incorporate some or all of the above ideas into it.  This did not happen.  Is any such bill being developed in the current Legislature, in this Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura?   Perhaps naively, I thought that the pre-election pledges and responses from the candidates were a good sign, as my short memory does not recall a recent election (1990 onward) where so many candidates articulated views on preserving and promoting Guam’s cultural and historical heritage.  
Further, where does the Governor stand on this subject?   What is his plan?   I hope and trust that the good Governor and Senators who feel passionately about the value and worth of Guam’s cultural and historical legacies will very soon work together (!?!?) and couple actions to their words.   I can think of no better legacy that they could leave to the people of Guam, during their time in office (short of “fixing” GMH, of course).  
Gary Heathcote (Assoc. Prof. – Anthropology, University of Guam)
Village of Yona


Hafa Dai Gary, 

My sincere apology for not making an effort in writing to you since the last time we met here at our museum on Sa’ipan. Although it has taken me this long to write, I have been keeping track on all your correspondences, visions, issues and concerns in preserving, protecting and promoting the history, language and culture of the Chamorros of Guam, and most especially, the need to re-establish the Guam Museum as stated in Chapter 83 of Guam Museum Act of 1992’ . Because of this matter, I thought maybe it is time for me to share my personal viewpoints coming from an indigenous perspective from up north.
However, before I begin airing my concerns and thoughts, I would like to share a brief historical summary of the CNMI Museum History and Culture for all my Chamorro brothers and sisters in Guam, visitors, general public and interested readers so that they have a glimpse on how our museum became about and where its future progress and hoped that by doing this, it will open the eyes and minds of Guam’s elected leaders to see and feel the importance in re-establishing the Guam Museum ‘as the official repository and custodian of historical artifacts in Guam,’ 

The CNMI Museum of History and Culture was officially created in 1996 upon signing PL 10-5 by the Commonwealth Legislature. Two years later on November 4, 1998, the museum opened its doors to the general public and visitors alike at the renovated "Old Japanese Hospital". This hospital was designed by Yasaburo Yamashita and built in the early 20’s and in 1926, it finally opened its doors for the general public. Funding for the construction of the hospital was made possible by Mr. Haruji Matsue, the King of Sugar, during the Japanese administrations and considered the most modern and up-to-date facility in all of Micronesia at that time. 

The present museum houses the administration and staff offices, a small gift shop, a workroom, staff and visitors restrooms and a permanent and rotating galleries in compliance with the American Disabilities Act. As the Museum’s Exhibit Curator, part of my duties and responsibilities is to conduct research on specific topic for upcoming exhibits as well as to design and construct display panels, glass casings, props, pedestals and other exhibit installations for the rotating gallery. While the rotating galleries changes every three months, the permanent collections are displayed in an historical chronology commencing from ancient Chamorro civilization or pre-contact period through the present day Commonwealth era. Displayed items at the museum ranges from two to three-dimensional objects from every period such as actual artifacts as well as replicated tools and other implements including prints from the Freycinet collections of 1819. Other articles on display included vari ous black and white photographs, various handmade crafts made during the Internment Camp period, the church bell of 1898 in honor of Luis de Medina, the bishop’s chair photographed in 1927 and amount other items are copies of the official Covenant documents, miniature and one-fourth models and other prototypes and many pre-war and war relics and other objects still stored at the collection curator’s office which we can’t display due to lack of space at the museum’s exhibit rooms. 

One of the special feature displayed recently is the 60th Commemoration Anniversary of WWII/The Battle for Saipan and Tinian which ended in August 2004. A number of WWII veterans were on island who participated on the 60th commemoration and one veteran everyone wants to meet was the Enola Gay pilot, Paul Tibbet. Also the museum is now featuring the Japanese era, entitled, "The Japanese Administration in the Northern Marianas: The Birth of the Industrial Period (1914-1941)" which is now part of the exhibit’s permanent display for Japanese tourist to learn more about their history outside Japan at that time. At the revolving gallery, the museum is now featuring the 20th Espicopal Anniversary in honor of Bishop Tomas Camacho and The Influence of Catholicism in the Marianas since the erection of the cross in Guam and establishment of the Spanish Mission in 1668 through the German and Japanese period and up to the pre sent era of all the Catholic churches in the CNMI.

We are proud to mention that the museum’s priceless treasures include various gold artifacts, Spanish silver and Chinese bronze coins, pottery vessels, canon balls and all sort of metal fragments recovered from Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a Spanish galleon that shipwrecked in 1638 off the southern coast of Sa’ipan and the prints from the 1819 French expedition to the Marianas by Louis Claude de Saules, Baron de Freycinet that our government purchased and the third irreplaceable historical piece is the Waherak Mailar, a traditional ocean-going Carolinian outrigger originally built on Puluwat Atoll in the 60’s. Another resent donation is Mr. Haruji Matsue’s personal album given to the CNMI people by Matsue’s only surviving son that we have yet to translate every page once we have the funding. Furthermore, as the museum continues to grow, we have yet to catalogue a vast collection of artifacts stored at the Collection Facili ty managed by Dr. Barbara Moir that leaves us no choice but to find other ways to expand the museum and that is exactly what is happening as I write this letter. 

Since its inception, the museum has grown to the point that our government is presently on the drawing board to construct a 3-storey, $10M modern facility right across Duty Free Shoppers or between Hafa Dai and Dai Ichi Hotels. Not only that this location is at a beach front property, it is the most ideal venue since the museum will be erected at a nearby ancient Chamorro burial site and a walking distance for all our visitors at all corners. Negotiation is still ongoing that it will also house the Historic Preservation Office, the CNMI Archives, the Council for Arts and Culture and the Humanities Council all under one roof. Once the new museum is completed and open its doors, the present museum will remain as is but a pre-war era of the Japanese era while the American Memorial Park under the National Park Service will soon open its ‘Visitors Center’ sometime in June of this year. This Visitor Center will house its administration offices, gift shop, indoor amphitheater asi de from its present outdoor amphitheater and the permanent exhibit will feature a small segment of the pre-war under the Japanese administration as part of its introduction leading to WWII/the Battle for Saipan and Tinian and ending in the Military Administration. Special features will include the Navaho Code Talkers, the 24th Regiment Infantry, the Anatahan Odyssey and other war related topics. 

Because of the importance of protecting, preserving and promoting the indigenous culture and history, the CNMI government has taken serious steps in making sure the museum(s) played an important part in our cultural heritage and history for the indigenous people and most especially for our visitors coming to the islands to learn our past as well as theirs. It’s very sad that Guam had at one time a museum called Guam Museum established back in the 50’s, if not mistaken, and I am very dishearten that up till this point in time, leaders of Guam has not taken any serious steps in implementing Guam Museum Act of 1992 which is mandated … "to promote increased understanding of Guam's geology, biota, prehistory, and contemporary culture… and that the Guam Museum shall act as the official repository and custodian of historical artifacts of Guam and to acquire, preserve, and make available for public viewing artifacts relating to the cultural and natural heritage of Guam and to fost er research on the artifacts in its inventory and shall disseminate the results of its research to the public through such media as public exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures and other public programs, and publications…" 

I read the 52 pages report, REPORT OF THE MUSEUM COMMISSION of December 2, 1991, and it is very sad nothing has been done up till this point in time. Hope something must be done and quickly to address this issue once and for all. 

Before I forget, about 2 years ago, an American lady who presently resides in Guam visited our museum and very impressed about our accomplishment. But you would not guess what she told me. She stated that it happened one day during lunch in the parking lot outside her workplace when a former Guam Museum staff approached her if she is interested in buying artifacts, prints, photos and other items in HER car trunk! She was speechless and could not believe what she was seeing! She declined to purchase and this calls for an investigation. 

Gary, you could share my summary and thoughts to the people of Guam. 

Noel Quitugua

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Setbisio Para i Publiko #32: Isao-hu Magahet Hunggan

If you were to ask me what type of music is my favorite, I will always say Chamorro music. It isn't really that I like every single Chamorro song, but I will purchase every single Chamorro CD or record I can get my hands on, in order to support one of the main ways that the Chamorro language persisted even during the generations which were quietly trying to silence it by not teaching it to their children. Chamorro musicians deserve far more support and credit than most people give them. They are, within recent Chamorro history, the ones who played the most significant, but unheralded role in keeping the language spoken and alive. While most families did not speak it to their children, collections of singers decided to keep using the language to make music, despite immense pressure to simply sing in English and Americanize the way everything else seemed to be going. Within that collection of musicians a few names stand out more than others. There are those who had their names on the albums and lent their voices to the task of ensuring that new generations would have a passing familiarity with the language they weren't learning in their homes. And then there were those in the background who were producing and helping them write their songs. Flora Baza Quan is one of those pioneers. I wrote the following mini-bio for her when she participated in the Chamorro Experience gi Fino' Chamorro lecture series in 2013:
Flora Baza Quan is a renowned Chamorro singer and songwriter who has been performing and recording for more than thirty years. Known affectionately as the “Queen of Chamorro Music,” Baza Quan is a pioneer of contemporary Chamorro music, lending her signature sound and vocal talents to perpetuating Chamorro culture.  Some of her recognized favorites include “Hagu,” “Puti Tai Nobiu” and “Hinasso.”

Flora first achieved fame by being the first Chamorro to win an international beauty pageant, when she won the title of Miss Asia in 1971.  She then went on to team up with other noted musical pioneers such as Johnny Sablan, Tom Bejado, and the Charfauros Brothers to help build the Chamorro recording industry we have today.

One thing that Flora is less known for, but she should nonetheless receive recognition is the oral history project that she conducted for Department of Parks and Recreation. She focused on different themes such as Life in Sumay or Sports History, but provided in-depth interviews of many individuals from our recent history who have long since passed on. For those who want to read up on topics like this, you can find her transcripts and video at MARC or at Department of Parks and Recreation. 
Amongst her songs, I like the usual favorites, such as "Hågu" which has even been taken up by the newest generation and was sung by Pia Mia, Inetnon Gefpå'go and other newer artists. But i mas ya-hu, from the days when I was still sitting at the dinner table in my grandparents' house torturing my grandmother to listen to the lyrics to Chamorro songs and help me decipher them, is this one below, "Isao-hu Magåhet Hunggan." The tune is update, it could very well be the first Chamorro Calypso or Reggae song. But the lyrics are intriguing to me, both simple but also featuring some poetic twists that I found fascinating when I was first learning the language. 


Isao-hu Magåhet Hunggan
ginen as Flora Baza Quan

Isao-hu magåhet hunggan
Ha bensihu tentasion chalan
An siña dispensa yu’ fan
Isao-hu magåhet hunggan

Anakko maloffan na tiempo
Obligasion-hu hu abandona
Famagu’on konto asagua-hu
Put minagof yan kompañia

I pasiando yan i minagof-hu
Umungak yu’ sasalåguan
Fehman magåhet sinetsot-hu
Ti hu hasngon este chumålan

Isao-hu magåhet hunggan
Ha bensihu tentasion chalan
An siña dispensa yu’ fan
Isao-hu magåhet hunggan

Kompañia, gimen yan minagof
Sen mångge yan na’malago’
Ha sodda’ yu hoben yan bråbu
Iknorånte yan impitosa

Håyi bai hu achaka
Amånu bai pega este na responsibida
Isao-hu pues bai aksepta

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Elouise Cobell is My Hero

After spending a week listening to the stories of Native Americans in Albuquerque and at the Indigenous Comic Con, my mind kept straying back to the story of one Native American woman, Elouise Cobell. As you can see from the articles below, she was a champion in recent Native American struggles to get redress and develop themselves economically after centuries of both abuse and neglect by the United States. She was just awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom although she passed away in 2011. I would have liked to have met her once and sat down and talked to her. What she and others accomplished in terms of suing the US Federal Government was inspirational on so many levels and largely unknown by the wider United States.


Tester Announces Elouise Cobell Honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom
November 16, 2016
Press Release

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today announced that Elouise Cobell has been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tester recommended Cobell earlier this year to receive the nation's highest civilian honor for her leadership and fight for justice for Native American families.

"Elouise Cobell was a champion for change and a fierce advocate for Native American families," Tester said. "Elouise has now joined some of the most influential Americans in our nation's history by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her legacy is guaranteed to live on for generations to come."

Cobell's case against the federal government was settled in 2009, thirteen years after it was originally filed in U.S. District Court. Cobell passed away just two years later in 2011. Tester attended her funeral.

The first distribution of Cobell payments was made to Native American families in 2013. Additional payments through the Department of the Interior's Land Buy-Back Program are ongoing, and to date, over $900 million in payments through the Buy-Back Program have been made to tens of thousands of Native American landowners for selling their fractional interests in land to their respective tribe.
As Treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation, Cobell also founded the first tribally-owned national bank located on an Indian reservation. The Blackfeet National Bank is now the Native American Bank and provides access to capital and financial services to more than 20 tribes across the nation.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that can be presented by the United States. According to the White House, the award may be presented "to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

In 2008, Tester recommended Crow tribal historian and veteran Joe Medicine Crow for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was honored by President Obama in August of 2009.


A Victory for Native Americans?
James Warren
The Atlantic
Jun 7 2010

Mistreatment of Indians is America's Original Sin, and the narrative is consistent. They lose their land, get portrayed as caricatures of social maladies, and are ripped off by the likes of Jack Abramoff. So it's no surprise that a tale with a very different ending, namely the righting of a horrible wrong affecting 500,000 Native Americans, proceeds with virtually no notice.

Indeed, you'd think that even Tea Party diehards should rally to this cause, given their anti-government and pro-property rights passion. They might even want to pay homage to the intrepid female accountant-turned-banker, who inspired one of the most fiercely litigated disputes against the federal government in history. But they likely won't. Who will? Not even many Indians believe that belated fairness is now on the way, given more than a century of government abuse and deceit whose undisputed facts strain credulity.

The facts are these: Following the House's approval, the Senate is considering whether to approve a $3.4 billion settlement of a 15-year-old lawsuit, alleging the government illegally withheld more than $150 billion from Indians whose lands were taken in the 1880s to lease to oil, timber, minerals and other companies for a fee. Back then, the government started breaking up reservations, accumulating over 100 million acres, giving individual Indians 80 to 160 acres each, and taking legal title to properties placed in one of two trusts. The Indians were given beneficial ownership but the government managed the land, believing Indians couldn't handle their affairs. With leases for oil wells in Oklahoma, resorts in Palm Springs, and rights-of-ways for roads in Scottsdale, Arizona, some descendants of original owners receive six- and even seven-figure sums annually. But the prototypical beneficiary, now poised to share in the settlement, is a poor Dakotan who struggles to afford propane to heat his quarters and has been receiving as little as $20 a year. More than $400 million a year is collected from Indian lands and paid into U.S. Treasury account 14X6039.

The story turns on theft and incompetence by the Interior and Treasury Departments, with culprits including Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the same Minerals Management Service now at the center of the BP oil spill fiasco. Over the past 100 years, government record systems lost track of more than 40 million acres and who owns them. The records simply vanished. Meanwhile, documents were lost in fires and floods, buried in salt mines or found in an Albuquerque storage facility covered by rat feces and a deadly Hantavirus. Government officials exploited computer systems with no audit trails to turn Indian proceeds into slush funds but maintain plausible deniability.

The lack of accountability is confirmed in the government's own reports and testimony dating to the early 20th century. Conclusions of "fraud," "corruption," "institutional incompetence," "deficiencies in accounting," "the accounts lack credibility," "multifaceted monster," "organizational nightmare," "dismal history of inaction," "criminal negligence," and "sorry history of department mismanagement," are found regularly between 1915 and the present. Congress ordered an accounting in 1994 but interior secretaries in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations were held in civil contempt for not forking over records. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Texas Republican nominated by President Reagan who oversaw the case for a decade, called the whole matter "government irresponsibility in its purest form."

I sat in Lamberth's courtroom in 1999 when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt both lost his cool and conceded that the government couldn't provide accurate cash balances of most accounts and that "the fiduciary obligation of the United States is not being fulfilled." But the dispute would not end, as the Clinton and Bush administrations fought unceasing adverse rulings in a case inspiring 3,600 separate court filings and 80 published decisions. No single case, including the antitrust action against Microsoft, has been as heavily litigated and defended by the government, say lawyers.

The government's chief nemesis has been Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, the accountant-turned-banker who in 1987 started Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank on a reservation. With a very small team of attorneys led by a Washington banking specialist, Dennis Gingold, her suit has inspired 3,600 court filings and 80 published decisions. Not even the antirust action against Microsoft was as heavily litigated by the government.

The historic resistance melded with an unsympathetic appeals court often overruling the dispute's two trial judges. It ordered removal of Lamberth, now the district court's chief judge, due to harsh language toward the government. Last year, it threw out a ruling by District Judge James Robertson, Lamberth's successor, that the Indians were owed $476 million, a pittance compared to the reduced, $48 billion they were seeking by then. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both urged settlement during the 2008 campaign.

A resolute Judge Robertson then hauled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and plaintiffs into his chambers last year. He made clear to one and all that, in light of the latest appeals court ruling, both sides had the choice between spending maybe another 10 years in court or trying to finally settle. The initial atmosphere was not necessarily conducive to harmony. Career government employees in the Interior, Justice and Treasury departments felt burned after years of being belittled by both the plaintiffs and Judge Lamberth. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs had minimal trust in the government. But political appointees in the Obama administration, including Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder, took their cue from President Obama's own support of a settlement. Dozens of meetings ensued, with the many prickly issues including how far back in time one would go to try to determine who should benefit.

Ultimately, Judge Robertson prodded what, given all the legal setbacks, is an impressive $3.4 billion deal announced in December. Ironically, before the recent congressional recess, the House approved the deal and Robertson announced his retirement, meaning District Judge Thomas Hogan becomes the third, and hopefully final, arbiter in the case. He would oversee a so-called "fairness hearing" in which objections can be raised.

There is inherent complexity in wrapping up. If the Senate approves, there will be a media campaign throughout Indian Country, including direct mail, newspaper and broadcast public service advertisements. Garden City Group of Melville, New York, which handled the major class action against Enron, will be claims administrator. It will get computer lists from the Interior Department, with the account information of perhaps 500,000 Indians and then doublecheck names and addresses. How good are the records? Nobody is really sure.

The $3.4 billion will be placed in a still-to-be-selected bank and $1.4 billion will go to individuals, mostly in the form of checks ranging from $500 to $1,500. A small group, such as members of the Osage tribe who benefit from huge Oklahoma oil revenues, will get far more, based on a formula incorporating their 10 highest years of income between 1985 and 2009. As important, $2 billion will be used to buy trust land from Indian owners at fair market prices, with the government finally returning the land to tribes. Nobody can be forced to sell. As for the winning lawyers, their take is capped at $100 million, actually low by class-action standards, though Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, an orthopedic surgeon, has groused about the fees.

The fairness hearing will be interesting since many Indians have a hard time believing they're not still being shafted. "This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling," writes a member of the Upper Midwest's Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe on a message board. He's not alone. Like a family victimized by homicide, Indians may never experience enough healing to truly recover. But, finally, as hard as it is for them to believe, there really may be some justice.


"Elouise Cobell is My Hero"
by Tanya H. Lee
Indian Country Today Media Network

On November 22, President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor to Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet. Her son, Turk Cobell, accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his mother’s behalf. “It is a very exciting day for all of our family who are here in Washington,” said Cobell on the morning of the presentation ceremony.

In 1996, Elouise Cobell became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging the U.S. government had failed to pass on to half a million individual American Indian landowners the royalties and fees they had earned under oil, timber and mineral leases negotiated and administered by federal agencies.
Cobell eventually won a $3.4-billion negotiated settlement on behalf of the plaintiffs, but the case dragged on for years, with the U.S. marshaling all of the considerable resources at its disposal to delay the court proceedings and avoid accounting for the funds, which probably totaled in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Ambassador Keith Harper, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, was a lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

“I cannot think of a person who deserves this more. She was a courageous soldier for justice. She spent an incredible amount of time and her entire spirit to ensure 500,000 individual Indians received a measure of justice. She knew it would not be perfect, but if she didn’t stand up they wouldn’t get anything. I am deeply honored to have worked with her,” said Harper, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
The Cobell Settlement, which included copy.4 billion in payments to the individual plaintiffs, a copy.9-billion land buy-back program to return individually-owned fractionated lands to the control of tribes and a scholarship program for undergraduate and graduate students, was signed by President Obama in December 2010.

Walter Lamar, Blackfeet/Wichita, is a former FBI special agent, deputy director of BIA law enforcement, and is currently president of Lamar Associates. He said: “Elouise Cobell saw a wrong and decided to step forward to do something about it. Always we have a choice to do something or do nothing, and doing nothing always offers no risk. Elouise knew early on that stepping forward to expose decades of the government’s gross mismanagement of our precious resources was going to take a personal toll, but she courageously pressed on.

“As the years went by, she was more vigorously attacked and still she continued the fight. The government fought to mitigate their devious behavior while the plaintiffs’ attorneys fought to demonstrate the true scope of the damage done. In the end some battles were won and lost by both sides, but at the end of the day it was demonstrated without question the government willfully pillaged the coffers on Indian country. In the end, thousands have received checks, thousands will be educated into the future, tribes’ land base will be strengthened and we have the satisfaction of exposing epic misdeeds—all because one determined woman made the choice to take courageous action. Elouise Cobell, may you rest in peace with the warriors of our nations.”

Cobell passed on in 2011, less than a year after the president signed the settlement and before any restitution had been paid to Indian people. By the end of 2015, nearly copy.2 billion had been paid out to individual Indians. According to a status report issued in November 2016, nearly $900 million had been paid out to purchase the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of fractionated land interests. Roughly $40 million has been paid into the scholarship fund.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, recommended Cobell for the Medal of Freedom. “Elouise Cobell was a champion for change and a fierce advocate for Native American families,” Tester said in a statement. “Elouise has now joined some of the most influential Americans in our nation’s history by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her legacy is guaranteed to live on for generations to come.”

Tester’s compatriot, Denis Juneau, Blackfeet, ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as Montana’s at-large representative in 2016. Had she won, she would have been the first Native American woman to serve in the House. Juneau said: “Elouise Cobell is my hero. Her toughness, perseverance and ability to steadfastly stand on the side of justice definitely makes her a woman warrior. Knowing Elouise is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom makes me proud to be an American Indian woman from the Blackfeet Nation.”

During Tuesday’s presentation of medals, President Obama said he chose as recipients those who have “lifted our spirits, strengthened our union and pushed us toward progress.” Cobell, he said, wanted for Indians the “equal treatment [that is] at the heart of the American promise.”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/11/23/elouise-cobell-my-hero-awarded-posthumous-presidential-medal-freedom-166553


Elouise Cobell, American Indian who led suit against U.S. Government, dead at 65
by T. Rees Shapiro
October 17, 2011
Washington Post

Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet tribal member who led a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 500,000 Indians against the Interior Department that yielded one of history’s largest government settlements — a payout worth $3.4 billion — died late Sunday at a hospital in Great Falls, Mont. She was 65 and had cancer.
The death was confirmed by Bill McAllister, a family spokesman.
Mrs. Cobell spent nearly 15 years advancing the suit, which was settled in 2010. It claimed that the Interior Department had stolen or squandered billions of dollars in royalties owed to individual tribal members, mostly in the West, in exchange for oil, gas and other leases.

Mrs. Cobell, an accountant who grew up on a reservation in Montana without electricity, a telephone or running water, was all too familiar with stories of the government’s mistreatment of tribes. She said the federal mismanagement of the land trusts dated from the 19th century and had contributed to a pattern that had left her tribe with high poverty and unemployment rates.

“The issue we’re dealing with,” she told the New York Times in 2004, “is the fact that we don’t know how much land we own, we don’t know what the resources are on that land because the government has gotten away with not reporting to the trust beneficiaries.”

The landmark settlement was ratified by Congress and signed into law last year by President Obama, who called it an “important step towards a sincere reconciliation.”

Eric Eberhard, an Indian law expert at the Seattle University law school, said there was “no doubt that Elouise Cobell changed the legal landscape when it comes to Indian law and the federal government’s trust responsibilities.”

He said Mrs. Cobell was “able to demonstrate in court that the mismanagement was profound — that, in some instances, monies which should have been credited to accounts never showed up.”

Mrs. Cobell served as treasurer of her Montana tribe and helped found the first Indian-owned national bank, where she spoke with Blackfeet distressed by the paltry income their acreage seemed to bring in from Washington.

By the time she filed the far-reaching lawsuit in 1996, she had grown convinced that the federal government was not moving swiftly enough to address problems with the land trusts.

Almost nothing had happened, she said, even though Congress passed a trust reform act in 1994, after a scathing report two years earlier by the House Committee on Government Operations called “Misplaced Trust: The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund.”

She thought that no action by the government would likely occur without legal pressure from Indian country.

Mrs. Cobell was aided over the years by foundation money. That included a “genius grant” of $310,000 in 1997 from the John D. MacArthur Foundation, which called Mrs. Cobell “an advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence whose work has inspired many Native American women to seek influence and leadership within their own communities.”

Mrs. Cobell traced the origins of her suit to 1887, when Congress passed the General Allotment Act. The legislation divided tribal-owned land into smaller parcels and gave the allotments to individual Indians.

The federal government placed the properties into a trust and leased the land to settlers. The royalties generated from logging, grazing, mining and oil drilling were distributed among the individual Indians and, after their death, to their descendants.

Investigations showed that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which managed the allotments and the revenue accounts, paid the Indian landowners erratically, if at all. For decades, some Indians were sent checks for as little as 8 cents.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Indian Affairs no longer possessed many of the documents that showed how much Indian land the government controlled.

At trial, several officials said some documents were shredded at a Hyattsville facility as part of the Interior Department’s routine house-cleaning. Other crucial records in an Albuquerque warehouse had to be destroyed because they became contaminated with asbestos and the deadly hantavirus from rodent feces.

Federal Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who oversaw the lawsuit, described the Interior Department in a 2005 court decision as a “dinosaur — the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago, the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind.”

Over the years, Lamberth held two secretaries of the interior, Gale Norton and Bruce Babbitt, as well as Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, in contempt for failing to address what the judge described as a dysfunctional system.

In 2006, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District took the rare step of ordering Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, removed from the case, saying he displayed strong bias against the Interior Department because of his harsh tone.

“That was a low point,” Mrs. Cobell later told the Associated Press. “We knew it would be hard to get a new judge up to speed. The government has all the money in the world, but we don’t have deep pockets.”

After 220 days of trial, 80 court decisions and 10 interlocutory appeals, the case was settled when the Interior Department agreed to the $3.4 billion deal in 2009. The settlement included $1.5 billion for Indians involved in the lawsuit and $1.9 billion to purchase fractioned land parcels and turn them over in whole to tribes.

“This is an historic, positive development for Indian country,” Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said at the time, “and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States.”

On Mrs. Cobell’s request, the government also gave $60 million to create the Indian Education Scholarship Fund for Indians to attend college and vocational schools.

Mrs. Cobell was awarded $2 million. Her lawyers received $99 million, a figure that struck many Indians as too high.

“The settlement isn’t perfect,” Mrs. Cobell said. “I do not think it compensates all for all the losses sustained, but I do think it is fair and it is reasonable. That is what matters: A fair resolution has been achieved.”

Elouise Catherine Pepion was born Nov. 5, 1945, on the Blackfeet Nation reservation in Montana, situated on the eastern edge of the Glacier National Park. Her Indian name was Yellow Bird Woman.
She spent two years at Montana State University before leaving to care for her mother, who was dying of cancer. In 1968, she left the reservation and worked as an accountant at a television station in Seattle before becoming the Blackfeet treasurer in 1976.

Twelve years later, she helped open the Blackfeet National Bank, which was the first national bank on a reservation and the first to be owned by an Indian tribe. Today, it is the Native American Bank and is owned by 26 tribal nations.

Survivors include her husband, Alvin Cobell of Blacktail, Mont.; a son, Turk Cobell of Las Vegas; a brother; three sisters; and two granddaughters.

In the years Mrs. Cobell’s lawsuit was in court, she spent much of her time meeting with Indians across the country to gather support. Many joined her cause.

“They stand up and cheer,” Mrs. Cobell told the New York Times in 2004, “because finally someone stood up for justice.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Statement from the Chamorro Tribe

There has been a small but determined movement to push Chamorros towards tribal/Native American status for a few years now. There are those who believe it to be the best or only path forward for the Chamorro people given the colonial frameworks they are ensnared by. The statement below is from The Chamorro Tribe itself, which has been advocating this in various forms for about a decade (as far as I can tell). This idea resurfaces every couple of years, usually when a politician decides to take up the cause as a way of providing a seemingly simple solution to a very complicated problem, namely decolonization. A few years ago Senator Judith Gutherz was advocating for it. This past year Felix Camacho in his race for non-voting delegate advocated the same thing. I am getting ready to catch a flight and so I can't talk much about this now. But in time I plan to write more. For now here is the statement of the Chairman of the Chamorro Tribe, Frank Schacher. It can be found on their website.


A Statement from the Chairman of the Chamorro Tribe 

One of the most important things that we can garner as a Native American Tribe is true U.S. Citizenship.  Right now, we are "Statutory Citizens", that means we received our citizenship through the passage of the Organic Act. The Organic Act is United States Code 48 Section 8A.

Unfortunately, Article 14 of the United States Constitution has never been amended to include citizenship of unincorporated territories.  The United States Constitution states there are only two ways to become a United States Citizen, you are either born a citizen or you are naturalized. You cannot be naturalized as a Statutory Citizen. Only certain Amendments of the Constitution and those Amendments that the Supreme Court recognize as being Basic Human Rights apply to us.

The only true way for Guam and the Chamorro people to get United States true citizenship, which means full protection and full Constitutional rights, is either Guam becomes a State, which is not going to happen because we do not have the population base and we are too far from the contiguous 48 States.

 The only other way for us to get Constitutional citizenship is to become registered as a native American tribe so that we as a people become incorporated to the United States and the Indian Naturalization Act would automatically Naturalize us, thereby, making us legal Constitutional Citizens of the United States and affording us all protections and rights under the Constitution of the United States and making us eligible for all types of benefits as well as giving us additional Constitutional rights, because Native Americans enjoy more Constitutional rights than regular Americans.  Native Americans have the Constitutional right to discriminate based on race to protect their culture, heritage and race. 

Throughout the history of our relationship with the United States we have been the victims of deceit, theft, subjugation, discrimination, abandonment, and slow, subversive, genocide. All under the United States policy of Benevolent Assimilation towards the Chamorro people of Guam.  

 While the majority of the Chamorro people of Guam enjoy thinking of ourselves as Americans, the truth is, we are not recognized by the Constitution as American citizens, nor do we enjoy the full scope of rights and protection under the Constitution.

 On August 1, 1950, Congress approved the Guam Organic Act and declared Guam to be an unincorporated territory of the United States (48 U.S.C.). This Act changed our political status as U.S. Nationals and granted the Native Inhabitants of Guam (Chamorros) statutory, unconstitutional citizenship.  This Act, is also a direct violation of Article 6 of the Constitution of the United States of America.  

As a colony of the United States, prior to the Japanese invasion, all military and civilian dependents, and all civilian contractors were evacuated from Guam in anticipation of the Japanese invasion. The Chamorro people were left to the mercy of the Japanese with just a token force of U.S. Navy personnel to surrender the island;

On December 8, 1941 Guam was captured by the Japanese. No words could ever fully describe the inhuman atrocities committed by the Japanese upon the Chamorros who had been abandoned;

The naval and aerial bombardment carpeting Guam for 21 days and nights by the United States preceding the reoccupation of Guam more than two-and-a-half years later killed more Chamorros than the Japanese did and caused irreversible ecological destruction;

The United States forgave the nation of Japan for the atrocities committed against the Chamorro people, without consideration of the Chamorro people or their land;

The Non-Self Governing Territory of Guam became a Trust Territory of the United States of America under Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations;

Chapters XII and XIII of the Charter of the United Nations provides for the establishment of an International Trusteeship System, the basic objectives of which, among others, are to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of Trust Territories and to promote their progressive development towards self government or independence;

Principle VI of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 of 1960, states that a Non-Self Governing Territory can reach a full measure of self government by: (a) emergence as a sovereign independent state; (b) free association with an independent state; or (c) integration with an independent state;

The United States of America is a signatory of the Charter of the United Nations;

On August 1st, 1950 the Guam Organic Act was approved by Congress, this Act was written by the Dept. of the Navy without any input, or approval from the Chamorro people of Guam;

The Chamorro people do not enjoy full, equal rights, and protection as Constitutional Citizens of the United States, under the Organic Act of Guam;

The Chamorro people of Guam have had over one third of their island unconstitutionally condemned by the United States; (click to view 1979 Land Docs. navy airforce land use plan.pdf and navy guam land use plan.pdf )

Chapter VIII "Equal Rights and Self Determination of Peoples" of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe's "Helsinki Accord," delineates that participating states will respect the equal rights of peoples and their right to self determination, acting at all times in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;

The United States of America is a signatory of the "Helsinki Accord;"

The Chamorro people of Guam have been exposed to radiation fall-out from atomic bomb tests conducted by the United States;

The Chamorro people of Guam where exposed to dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) for over two decades by the United States;

The United States military's use, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials, toxins, and contaminants within Guam without the free, prior and informed consent of the Chamorro people since World War II, including Agent Orange, Agent Purple, dioxins, heavy metals, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), continues to negatively affect Guam's people and land, and the effects of these hazardous materials, toxics, and contaminants within Guam remain undocumented, untreated, and unmitigated;

The incidences of cancer in the Chamorro people of Guam are far out of proportion to the incidences in non-contaminated areas, and nasopharyngeal cancer incidences far outweigh all other cancer incidences in Guam;

The combination of radiation exposure, chemical contamination, ecological destruction, and the uncontrolled introduction of invasive species of plants, insects, and animals has destroyed the Chamorro People of Guam's ability to sustain themselves through traditional means;

The formation of United States military installations and Federal preserves has restricted the rights of the Chamorro people from the harvesting of their natural resources;
Restrictions were placed on studying and perpetuating the history, culture, and language of the Chamorro people by the United States until Congress' enactment of the Organic Act in 1950;

Although the United States surrendered ownership of Guam upon ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, President George W. Bush recently ordered the establishment of the Marianas Trench National Monument. Thereby incorporating into the United States waters belonging to the Chamorro people.

These are but a few of the wrongs which have been and continue to be unjustly perpetrated upon Chamorros.


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