Explore more photos of the 3rd Marianas History Conference here.

The third Marianas History Conference was held in Garapan, Saipan September 1-2, 2017. The conference, featuring 36 presentations on Marianas History, had originally been scheduled for September 4-6, 2015. Unfortunately, Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan August 2 and the conference had to be postponed.

The conference was held at the Fiesta Resort and Spa, hosted by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council. It was organized by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, University of Guam, and Guampedia.

The steering committee was led by Rita P. Nauta, Guampedia’s managing director, and Frankie M. Eliptico, the NMI Humanities Council board chairman. Steering committee members were Eulalia V. Arriola, Rosanna P. Barcinas, Dr. Michael Clement Jr., Don Farrell, Dr. Anne P. Hattori, Shannon Murphy, Scott Russell and Dr. James P. Viernes.

Keynote presentations were given by Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder, Dr. Carlos Madrid and Julian Aguon. Not all of the presentations were provided for this e-pubication. However 18 are provided by the authors here.

The conference was sponsored by Bank of Guam, IT&E, Guam Preservation Trust, DFS, JC Tenorio Enterprises, Lollipops, Docomo Pacific, Triple J, Saipan Shipping Company, United Airlines, and Moylan’s Insurance.

About 200 people attended the conference.

Guampedia produced this e-publication. It is presented here in a series of three booklets. The first is the conference overview and schedule as well as the keynote presentation by Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder. The second booklet includes eight presentations on Ancient Marianas History and Early Colonial History. The third booklet includes nine presentations on World War II, Recent History and Genealogy.

Paper titles and abstracts


Indigenous Revisionism

By Laura M. Torres Souder, PhD

Who has the right and responsibility to challenge conventional/colonial historiography? Indigenous historians do! For too long, the only written accounts of Marianas history were offered by those who toed the line of “great men, great deeds.” This so-called official documentation of indigenous lived experience marginalized indigenous people to the point that history became the story of what other people did in their own homeland. It is time indigenous people bring the invisible out of hiding by becoming their own storytellers. This presentation aims to share lessons from Souder’s own journey as a CHamoru historian. It draws on current manifestations of how indigenous people of the Marianas have begun to reconstruct social reality in writing and creative works. Ultimately, the goal of Indigenous Revisionism is to redirect indigenous historical narrative and place indigenous ancestors as the primary actors in a collective historical experience. Read keynote address here.

Ancient Marianas History

Two Approaches to Marianas Rock Art: Culture History and Anthropology

By Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson, PhD

Within Micronesia, the southern Mariana archipelago stands out for the quantity and variety of its rock art, images painted and incised on the dark walls of caves and rock shelters. The small images colored red, brown, black and white have attracted scholarly and popular attention for decades. Most archaeological accounts of these sites take the historical narrative form, about events in the CHamoru past. This approach to the archaeological record serves an important function, affirming the legitimacy of CHamoru identity. Anthropological archaeologists have a different purpose and “identity”: explaining cultural variability, locally and globally, as scientists. Both approaches generate stories but the anthropological framework involves stories that are subject to empirical test, while the structure of culture histories precludes direct falsification and encourages ad hoc accommodation, or complete ignoring, of inconsistent findings. Both approaches co-exist but have different implications for understanding prehistoric rock art in small scale, nonliterate societies generally. Read paper here.

Naton Beach Site, Guam: A Look Back in Time

By Cherie K. Walth

Excavation at Naton Beach Site on Guam resulted in the recovery of the largest sample of Pre-Latte burials, as well as a large sample of Latte period burials. Today’s talk will discuss key elements regarding the social, cultural, and genetic aspects of the two groups. Genetic information is suggested from the characteristics on the dentition. Social and cultural aspects of the two groups are indicated by characteristics of the dentition and by mortuary patterns. Similarities in the positioning and placement of the individuals suggests a similar world view. Horizontal social positioning indicates that both groups are primarily kin based with the Latte having some residence based groups. Vertical social positioning, or status, suggests some individuals had a higher status. There is much yet to learn from these data including a better idea of their relatedness on a local and regional scale. Read paper here.

Archaeology and Questions about Cultural Origins in the Mariana Islands

By Mike T. Carson and Hsiao-chun Hung

Any framework of cultural history must build from a starting point of when people first lived in the Mariana Islands, what happened during that time, and then what occurred over the next several centuries until modern historically recorded times. Here we clarify the archaeological dating of first cultural presence in the islands at 1500 BC if not slightly earlier, and we summarize the evidence about what people did at that earliest time period. Next, we consider briefly about the extended archaeological record leading up through historical accounts of the late 1600s, specifically considering what aspects of cultural origins have persisted or have changed through time. This review concentrates on the contributions from archaeology, although other studies have offered supporting narratives. Read paper here.

Archaeological Data Recovery of Parcel 004-1-52, San Antonio, Saipan

By Dr. Boyd Dixon

During 2014 and 2015, the former US Coast Guard Loran station at Afetna Point in San Antonio on southern Saipan was recorded and subsurface remains excavated by Cardno GS Inc. archaeologists for N15 Architects and Honest Profit International Limited (HPIL). Seventy years earlier on June 15, 1944, the location was called Yellow Beach 2 and 3 by the US Marines and Army infantry braving Japanese artillery to establish a beachhead. Before the arrival of Spanish missionaries almost 300 years earlier, Afetna Point was one of many Latte Period hamlets and villages scattered up and down the western lagoon, from Agingan Point to Makpi Point. Archaeological lab work conducted on-site during 2017 yielded a complex record of this long history, from Latte Period burials, cooking features and stone or shell artifacts, to Japanese war casualties and a concrete munitions magazine, to American combat weapons and unexploded ordnance (UXO), to post-war US Coast Guard buildings, and lastly to a modern boxing rink and fruit stand on Beach Road. All excavated remains are now in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Museum of History and Culture awaiting reburial and interpretation on-site after Historic Preservation office (HPO) review of the final report. Read paper here.

Indigenous Adaptive Resistance in the Mariana Islands: Rethinking Historical Eras

By Dr. David Atienza

This paper is part of an ongoing research project that seeks to analyze indigenous adaptive resistance and cultural continuity during the Spanish colonial enterprise in the Mariana Islands. In doing so, Atienza will bring out evidence of cultural continuity and transformation, and what might be questioned as a compartmental and externally driven understanding of the history of the archipelago and its islands. Read paper here.

Early Colonial History

Commercial Activity in the Marianas in the 1890s

By Omaira Brunal-Perry

In the 1890s, commercial activity in the Marianas was focused around the importation of goods from Manila and other commercial ports in Japan. Goods were brought in by just a few ships. The regulars were two English merchant ships. The 130-ton Esmeralda under the command of Captain John Harrison and eight crew members, and the schooner Saipan, who’s Captain was J. McGinness. These two ships were constantly busy loading coconut copra from the Marianas to be sold in China and Japan. In 1892, J. McGinness at the age of 38, died in Yokohama, Japan. In his testament, he named his only heir, a 4-year-old girl whose mother was a native of Saipan, but the girl was in the custody of don Felix de Torres y Diaz, a resident of Hagåtña. This paper presents the issue of an inheritance from a foreigner to a minor from Saipan and the commercial activities exercised by a few residents in Hagåtña. Read paper here.

HMS Centurion’s Anchors and Tinian Harbor

By James R. Pruitt

When Commodore George Anson visited Tinian in 1742 in HMS Centurion, halfway through his famous circumnavigation, he changed the way the island would be viewed by the English-speaking world. His account of the island as a lush paradise, published in 1748 ad re-published in navigational treatises, made Tinian a prime layover spot for those ships that would not find a friendly harbor in Guam. This account of a tropical paradise was overshadowed by the disaster that almost struck the ship and crew. A storm parted both of Centurion’s cables, and blew it out to sea for 19 days. Although Anson swept for these anchors, they were never recovered. This article examines the legacy of Anson, HMS Centurion, and its time at Tinian, then discusses an archaeological survey on two anchors found in Tinian Harbor that are believed to be those lost by Centurion on 22 September 1742. Read paper here.

The 1856 Smallpox Epidemic And Depopulation In Guam: How To Create A Marianas Narrative

By Jane Mack

1856 was a milestone year in Marianas history because a smallpox epidemic killed roughly half of Guam’s CHamoru population. The accounts of mid-19th century life in the Marianas reside in Spanish government and church records, and in foreign visitors’ logs, memoirs, chronicles and correspondence. This paper examines known facts and shares information learned through participation in the Northern Marianas Humanities Council’s 2015 history research workshop. It also examines historiography in the context of absent native voices. It finds that indigenous agency and responses to impacts on daily life, family structure, language, faith, and culture are under-reported or missing from the record of this epidemic. While further analysis, comparative language study, and genealogy research may yield new insights, historical fiction writing could also be useful in creating an inclusive Marianas narrative. Read paper here.

World War II History

Mobilization and Perspectives by the Japanese Army on Japanese Civilians and Local People during the Pacific War in Saipan and Tinian

By Yumiko Imaizumi

How did the Japanese Army emerge into a military government operation in Saipan and Tinian prior to the war? What were the perceptions of the Japanese Army about the Japanese civilians and local people and their sense of loyalty to Japan? This paper will attempt to examine, analyze and interpret some of the actions and rationale of the Japanese Army in terms of these two questions and focus on: 1) wartime conscription of Japanese civilians, 2) compulsory evacuation for Japanese nationals only, in principal, and 3) military requisition of facilities and mobilization of the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushikikaisha organization, personnel, farmers and laborers. Based on civilian survivors’ recollections and Japanese archives, this study shows how the Japanese Army and the South Seas Government tried to make the Northern Marianas, especially Saipan and Tinian, a logistical base and experienced grand war in the 1940s by utilizing civilians’ daily lives for the battle. Read paper here.

Military Actions regarding Rota in World War II

By Dave Lotz

While not invaded by the forces of the United States in the summer of 1944, the fourth largest of the Mariana Islands was not ignored by the opposing forces of the Japanese Empire and the United States. Air, sea, and submarine efforts impacted Rota. On the island the Japanese forces adjusted their defensive strategy to reflect the realities of the failure to previously stop the invaders on the beaches of the three invaded Mariana Islands. Previously, Rota was utilized for the invasion of Guam in December 1941. An examination of archival documents, published books, oral histories, and cultural resource surveys results in this contrasting wartime experience on one of the southern Mariana Islands. Read paper here.

Karst Defenses – The History, Archaeology and Heritage of World War (WWII)

By Julie Mushynsky and Fred Camacho

During the Japanese Period in the Pacific (1919-1945), the Japanese military, themselves or by using civilian labor, modified natural caves and excavated tunnels for use during World War II (WWII). Little is known about these sites despite their existence across the Pacific. Based on the data gathered from a study to record and analyze caves and tunnels in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands this article argues that caves and tunnels, referred to here as “karst defenses” are a particular type of site that warrants more historical and archaeological attention if we are to fully understand WWII in the Pacific. This paper provides an overview of how the authors are studying these sites and what they can tell us about the history, archaeology and heritage of WWII. Read paper here.

Recent History

Marianas Sinahi: A Prestigious Enigma

By Judith S. Flores, PhD

A crescent-shaped pendant carved from the thick hinge of the giant Tridacna clam shell is a prestigious and popular body adornment for contemporary CHamorus of the Mariana Islands. This paper outlines the history of the sinahi in contemporary times, from its revival from obscurity in the 1990s to its role in the development of CHamoru nationhood and identity. Yet, this object is rarely noted in historical documents, and archaeologists have not reported finding it associated with burials. What was its function in ancient CHamoru society? The value of the object is significant in terms of labor and skills needed to make it. Who made them, and why weren’t the objects observed by early explorers and missionaries? What were they used for? Where are they now? Read paper here.

From Exotica to Erotica: Historical Fiction or Fictional History in Mariana Islands Novels, 2012-2017

By Anne Perez Hattori, PhD

For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Pacific novel referred to works by Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Michener, and other Western writers. More recent decades have seen the emergence of indigenous novelists, led by the likes of the late Epeli Hau’ofa of Tonga, Albert Wendt of Samoa, Sia Figiel of Samoa, and Patricia Grace of Aotearoa New Zealand. Indeed, fictional works written by natives about Pacific Islands south of the equator have proliferated over the past 40 years.1 The same, however, could not be said of our region, the near-absence of Micronesian novels in Pacific Literature classes across the region attesting to this lacuna.2 Since 2012, however, more than 10 novels have been published that feature the Mariana Islands, the CHamoru people, and our indigenous culture. These novels make heavy use of island landscapes, CHamoru legends, and Marianas history, sometimes as mere backdrops in their storylines but other times as key ingredients in their plots’ unfolding. This brief paper, firstly, summarizes some of these novels in the hopes that local readers might be inspired to seek them out and read what others are writing about our islands and culture. Secondly, this work analyzes some of the ways in which these novels represent CHamoru culture and history – at times exotically and sometimes erotically. Thirdly, this project evaluates the historical accuracy of the novels, assessing the degree to which the stories fairly and ethically represent the actual historical events around which their plots revolve. Read paper here.

Tides of Change: Mechanistic vs Organic Models of Education in the Northern Marianas

By Galvin Deleon Guerrero

Since the Trust Territory administration, the history of education in the Northern Marianas has been characterized by a steady Anglo-Americanization of formal schooling in the islands. This trend is rooted in the industrial model of American education that arose at the turn of the 20th century to meet the workforce needs of the country’s growing industrial economy (Zhao, 2009). That mechanistic model of education persists into the 21st century, despite new models of more organic learning that have emerged in the new millennium (Osborn, 2005). As opposed to mechanistic models of education that are standardized, hierarchical, and competitive, organic models are more personalized, engaging, and collaborative (Robinson and Aronica, 2015). Sharing some preliminary research towards a doctoral dissertation, the author will discuss the steady mechanization of education in the Northern Marianas, contrasting that mechanistic model with organic models of education that are not only emerging in 21st century pedagogy, but are also embedded in indigenous cultures. Read paper here.

How Do the People of Guam Understand Historical Injustice? The Beginning of the Commission on Decolonization and Color-Blind Ideology

By Reo Nagashima

The CHamoru indigenous rights movement developed in the 1970s in Guam, raising concerns about reverse discrimination against non-CHamorus, such as white or Asian Americans. Some have claimed that CHamoru rights may be unconstitutional, as violating the principle of color-blindness that is held to be anti-discriminatory. The backlash against CHamoru rights has been growing since the Rice v. Cayetano decision of 2000, which ruled unconstitutional the Hawaiians-only voting restriction for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). There have been conflicting views concerning historical injustices resulting from American colonialism in the Pacific Islands, including Guam and Hawaii, as well as similar injustices in the continental US itself. This paper will examine how color-blind ideology has affected the people of Guam, and has encouraged some to disregard the historical injustices perpetrated on the CHamoru people; focusing on discussion concerning the political status plebiscite, from 1997 to the early 2000s, from the establishment of the Guam Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of CHamoru Self-Determination to a few years after the Rice decision. Read paper here.

The Contextual Reality of the Present-Time for the People of the Marianas: CHamorus and Carolinians

By Dr. Dean Papadopoulos

Water can cut a large piece of rock out of a mountain – Old Man By The Sea – not because of its strength, rather because of its persistence (Author Unknown). A culture’s survival, that is a people’s survival is based on the same variables that allow some species to survive while leading other species to their demise: adaptation. Adaptation to current changes in the people who come and leave the community; adaptation to the laws that can uproot a whole segment of society and, at other times, open the doors of opportunity for still other groups; and, adaptation to the technological advances that find their way into the economy that require further education, beyond the 12th grade. Adaptation allows a people to thrive and survive. Read paper here.


Finding Apolonia : A case study in assembling Direct, Indirect and Negative Evidence in the search for her parents

By Jillette Torre Leon Guerrero

In Guam, many families do not know much about their ancestors who lived in the early 1800s. One significant event that may have contributed to this situation was the worldwide influenza pandemic in 1918-19. Brought to Guam on board the military transport ship the USS Logan, the “Spanish Flu” killed over 6% of the island population. The very young and the elderly were especially vulnerable. Because of the high rate of mortality in the elderly, it has been said that over 80% of those who spoke Spanish perished because of the epidemic. For today’s elderly, it is not uncommon for Guam residents to not know who their great grandparents were. For those who do, they know very little about their lives. This was the case with Apolonia Ada. This paper explores the challenges of researching elusive ancestors. Read paper here.

Conference e-Publications


Ancient Marianas and Early Colonial History

Part 3: World War II, Recent History and Genealogy

More on the Marianas History Conference