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One Archipelago, Many Stories

In 2011 a group of like minded people from the Mariana Islands decided it was high time to have a Marianas History Conference, one that focused specifically on the history and experiences of the people of all the Mariana Islands. The initial group of organizers, led by Scott Russell of the Northern Marianas and Rosanna Barcinas of Guam, met in August and came up with the theme, “One Archipelago, Many Stories,” which highlighted the deep and rich history of the Mariana Islands as well as bridged the political division of the archipelago–a division that exists today.

Since 1898, Guam has been an unincorporated territory of the United States; the Northern Marianas are former possessions of Germany and Japan. More than 100 years and two world wars later the islands are all part of the US now, but still two separate political entities.

The Marianas History Conference is co-sponsored by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Guam Preservation Trust, the University of Guam and Guampedia. The conference encourages a broad collaboration on the part of archeologists, historians, social anthropologists and those with less academic but more general interest in the Marianas. It calls on the combined efforts of those in Guam and the Northern Marianas to tell the many stories and engage the people of this archipelago.

1st Marianas History Conference: “One Archipelago, Many Stories”

The first conference, “One Archipelago, Many Stories,” was held in Garapan, Saipan on 14-16 June 2012. The keynote speakers were Fr. Francis X. Hezel, SJ, founder of Micronesian Seminar in Pohnpei, and Dr. Robert A. Underwood, President of the University of Guam. In addition, Fr. Eric Forbes, OFM Cap., gave a special presentation on the role of history in our community. More than 50 researchers, scholars and professionals submitted 46 papers and six posters from countries around the globe. About 200 people attended the conference which was held at the Fiesta Resort. A post-conference e-publication of the different papers and posters was made available on the Guampedia website. (Click here to read the publication).

A roundtable discussion on the administration of public policy in the Marianas was held on the first day of the conference to initiate dialogue among key organizations on Guam and the NMI that use public funding to study, interpret and disseminate Marianas history. A movie night was also part of the schedule for viewing films related to Marianas history, and a round-the-island tour of Saipan’s historic sites followed the conference on June 17.

2nd Marianas History Conference: “Integrating Our Narratives”

The second conference, “One Archipelago, Many Stories: Integrating Our Narratives,” was held at the University of Guam in Mangilao, Guam on 30-31 August 2013. Dr. Keith Camacho from the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles, and Dr. Anne Perez Hattori, Department of History, University of Guam, were the keynote speakers. Dr. Robert Underwood presented an “endnote speech” at the banquet held at the end of the conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Tamuning. Fifty-six papers were presented at the two-day conference which was held on the UOG campus with about 250 people attending. The conference proceedings are also available online at Guampedia.com. (Click here to read the publication).

3rd Marianas History Conference: “Milestones in Marianas History”

The third Marianas History Conference, set for Susupe, Saipan on September 4-6, 2015 was regretfully cancelled after Typhoon Soudelor passed directly over Saipan on August 2 causing widespread damage on the island.

There were to be 57 presentations with the theme “Milestones in Marianas History” during the two and a half day conference. The conference was also to include a half day panel discussion on local responses in the Marianas to the Department of Defense’s plans to the military buildup from the perspective of several civil society organizations which have emerged since 2006 to oppose these plans.

As the conference could not be immediately rescheduled 10 of the people who were to present their work offered it for an e-publication, now available here. The papers presented include an introduction and one of the keynote presentations from Dr. James Perez Viernes as well.

Here is a link to the 2016 ePublication of select MHC3 Papers.

Conference Details

The Marianas History Conference covers a full range of topics associated with the archipelago’s history. Papers and posters are submitted under the following general categories:

  • Ancient History (including the results of archeological research)
  • Early Colonial (17th – 18th centuries)
  • Late Colonial (19th – early 20th centuries)
  • World War II; Recent (post-war)
  • Oral History and Genealogical Research

The conferences saw participants not only from the Marianas but also from Japan, Korea, the United States, Germany, Australia, Spain, Great Britain and New Zealand. The conference organizers encourage a diverse group of participants, including student scholars. Historians, archeologists, anthropologists, economists and ethnic studies scholars from around the world who have done research in or on the Marianas have participated in the conference.

Funding for the first conference in Saipan was provided in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Northern Marianas Humanities Council and the Guam Preservation Trust. Funding for the second conference was provided by sponsorships from the Guam Preservation Trust, the University of Guam, the Guam Visitors Bureau, the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, the Bank of Guam, the Guam Department of Chamorro Affairs, and the Office of Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz. The Guam Fisherman’s Co-op also had sponsored a welcoming reception on 29 August on the beachside of the Paseo de Susana in Hagåtña.

The third Marianas History Conference was to be co-sponsored by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Guam Preservation Trust, the University of Guam and Guampedia Foundation. The e-publication itself was paid for by the University of Guam, Northern Marianas Humanities Council and Guampedia.

The theme, “One Archipelago, Many Stories,” suggests that history wears many different faces. But the corollary is equally true: that the multiple tales revealing different facets of the archipelago need to be woven into a single story. This is, after all, the challenge of doing history. Different perspectives must be taken into account, and at the end they should tell a story that is accessible to the people of the Marianas. As keynote speaker of the 1st Marianas History Conference, Fr. Fran Hezel, stated in his address,

“In the end, history is for the people—not just for the archeologists and historians. History is supposed to give people a deeper understanding of themselves. In finding our roots we discover ourselves….New sources become available, new themes emerge, and finally a new audience with their own interests and questions must be addressed…If history starts with curiosity about the past, it ends in service to our people.”

Fr. Francis Hezel, SJ
14 June 2012
Garapan, Saipan, CNMI

Earlier MHC ePublications
1st Marianas History Conference E-Publication

2nd Marianas History Conference E-Publication