Guam Residents Call for Peace 08/16 06:15
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) -- The threatened missile attack by North Korea on Guam
has prompted calls for peace from the island's indigenous people, who are weary
of yet another conflict after enduring centuries of hostilities.
About one-third of the U.S. territory's 160,000 people identify as Chamorro,
the indigenous group that is believed to have migrated to Guam from Indonesia
and the Philippines an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 years ago. It is believed to be
one of the world's first seaward migrations.
They have since endured colonization by Spanish settlers, bloody skirmishes
during World War II and a steady escalation of American military presence on
the island. An expert on Guam says it would be "disastrous and tragic beyond
words" for the island's indigenous culture if it were targeted in a war between
the U.S. and North Korea.
"These islands are the home of the Chamorro people," said Michael Lujan
Bavacqua, an assistant professor of Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam.
"Literally our bones are buried in the soil."
Chamorros have their own traditions, including open ocean navigation of the
kind recently highlighted in the Disney animated movie "Moana" and a Roman
Catholic religious heritage introduced by colonizers and missionaries. The
Spanish influence began after explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the island
in the 16th century.
Some Chamorros gathered at a peace rally this week to try to teach the world
about their struggle to protect their ancestors' land, assert their rights as
indigenous people and pursue some form of self-governance.
Some women wore traditional floral head crowns called mwarmwars. Some men
wore loincloths and traditional carved jewelry around their necks. One person
blew a shell trumpet, as a summons to rise up.
"It's a call to stand in solidarity not just Chamorro people of this land,
but for people all over the world because peace for Guam means peace for the
world," said Monaeka Flores, 39, an artist and lawmaker's aide. "If anything
should happen here, that's going to be a global war. It's a call to respect
the people. And respect the land and to stand in solidarity with us."
The battle for Guam between the United States and Japan during World War II
almost completely destroyed Hagatna, the capital city. Not much effort was made
to restore during the post-war years.
"You have erased the historical connections of these people. You have
destroyed what they have been walking through for centuries," Malia Tony
Ramirez, a historian with the Guam Department of Parks and Recreation, said of
the three-week battle.
The military's buildup of bases after the war destroyed more historical
sites, he said, as did the development of hotels and resorts.
The Chamorro name refers to descendants of the initial people who settled on
Guam and smaller, neighboring islands in the Marianas island chain. The U.S.
took control of Guam in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. The Navy ruled the
island until Japan took control in 1941. The U.S. installed civilian leadership
and granted citizenship to Guam residents in 1950.
Today, some Chamorros and others on Guam want the island to be independent
or perhaps establish a "free association" relationship like some of its island
neighbors have. The free association island states allow the U.S. exclusive
military access to their land and waters while their citizens have the right to
live and work in the U.S.
Adrian Cruz, an activist and chairman of the Free Association Task Force,
said the Chamorro language and traditions have kept his people together for
4,000 years. He said Chamorros will be fine regardless what happens, just like
they were during World War II and under the Spanish.
"The Chamorro people are resilient people, and we will survive," Cruz said.