It is high time that there be granted to the people, respectful, loyal and devoted to the great American nation, the same rights that have been granted to the different states, territories and possessions, and we censure no one although we be the last to be remembered and granted our rights. Our ideals are realized by giving that which by right should be granted, that is to say, the defining of the status of the Chamorro people, in a word, that we may know whether we are to be members of the American people or their servitors…

– Tomas Calvo Anderson, First Guam Congress, 1917

To start with, we are greatly handicapped by our inability to communicate directly our desires to the American Congress through a representative…Nevertheless, we have been hoping, and still do hope that our prayer will eventually be answered. For more than a quarter century we have been under the American flag, but neither as citizens nor as aliens. If we are neither aliens no[r] citizens, what are we?

– Ramon Sablan, 1925

The Chamorro people have a deep seeded feeling of loyalty and affection for the United States of America and they heartily wish to see no other flag than the Stars and Stripes fly over their island home. They firmly believe that no other country could or would give them the protection and blessings of good government that they are now receiving. Their highest ambition and their greatest desire is to be granted American citizenship.

– Agueda Johnston, 1926

Colonial status by definition is undesirable…A community of citizens who are satisfied to maintain a child-parent relationship with a mother country, and who blindly accept external authority are stunted in their growth. Where is their pride? Where is their innate sense of dignity?

– Frank Lujan, Chair, Political Status Commission of Guam, 1973

No political status of Guam which does not proceed from an act of self-determination by the Chamorro people alone is valid. Chamorro self-determination is neither an idle point nor do we make the point contentiously. It is part of [a] growing awakening in Guam that will not be stilled.

– Hope A. Cristobal, OPI-R Response to the Guam Commonwealth Act, 1987


In the CHamoru culture, as in many other Pacific Island cultures, elders (mañaina) are held in high regard and treated with deep respect. Individuals grow in status because of their age and experience as keepers of traditions, customs, genealogy, history, landholdings, and family secrets. We recognize that those before us (manmofo’na), still guide us today (pa’go), and will continue to lead us into the future (para mo’na). These intergenerational relationships are key to centering a CHamoru worldview and cultural practice. A clear demonstration of this is how CHamorus pay respect to their elders when greeting them. Children sniff their saina’s slightly raised hand (‘nginge) or kiss their cheek while referring to them as “Ñot” or “Ñora” and receive their praise and blessing, or “Dioste ayudi,” in return. This seemingly simple interaction conveys deep cultural meanings. People know their place and the occasions when such displays are appropriate. This exchange is oftentimes reciprocal; The older person confers a blessing on the younger one, each recognizing the value of the other.

In this section, Fanoghe CHamoru honors the mañaina whose contributions have paved the way for contemporary activism in the quest for self-determination. Let us listen and learn from these elders’ perspectives to understand how they saw their actions and how their efforts have helped bring us to where we are today.

Why US Citizenship?

Early efforts toward CHamoru self-determination emphasized the community’s treatment by the US government under the US Naval Administration. During this period, a long list of appointed naval officers served as governor. These governors had complete executive, legislative, and judicial authority over the island and its people. With the lack of checks and balances in place for the governor and the complete absence of democratic rights for the island’s people, the Naval Government is likened to an autocratic dictatorship. Using the language of democracy and US Civil Rights and seeing US citizenship as a route to accessing these rights, CHamoru leaders initially pursued self-determination by advocating for US citizenship.

Grassroots Movements: A Historical Perspective

Political change often occurs through movements which develop from the grassroots—people from within a community who advocate and mobilize others around a shared issue. In Guåhan’s efforts for self-determination several grassroots organizations were formed and historically have been instrumental in bringing awareness to CHamoru identity and cultural preservation.

PARA-PADA was formed in the late 1970s from the merging of two activist groups: the People’s Alliance for Responsible Alternatives (PARA) and the People’s Alliance for Dignified Alternatives (PADA). Led by Dr. Robert Underwood, PARA was founded in 1978 to challenge the English-only policies of the Pacific Daily News. They also succeeded in promoting the use of CHamoru language signage in public places. PADA was an organization which contested the draft constitution written by the 2nd Constitutional Convention as it did not address CHamoru political status and contained other deficiencies regarding immigration control and dealings with the US military and the Department of the Interior. PARA-PADA was unique because it presented an Indigenous CHamoru point of view regarding issues of Indigenous rights and Guåhan’s political status. Many of their members were CHamorus who were highly educated and willing to speak out.

In 1981, PARA-PADA was reorganized into the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights (OPI-R), which focused on CHamoru self-determination and Guåhan’s political status. OPI-R took the stance that the right of self-determination belonged specifically to the CHamoru people because it was the Indigenous people of the island who held a special and extensive historical relationship to the land. Through the 1982 plebiscite and discussion of the Guam Commonwealth Act, OPI-R continuously pushed for the rights of Indigenous people. They even brought their message to the United Nations.

Another important grassroots organization is Nasion Chamoru. Founded in 1991 at Latte Stone Park in Hagåtña, Nasion Chamoru comprises a number of different family-based groups connected through a commitment to the CHamoru people and to the protection of their lands, culture, and rights. Their message and actions challenged and shocked many island residents but also had a significant effect on the consciousness of the CHamoru people. They appealed to the landless and “less powerful” within CHamoru society. Through their language and dress they embraced their connection to ancient CHamoru ancestors and used civil disobedience to protest and bring light to issues of land, the military, and self-determination.

Guåhan’s Banners

Seals and flags are important symbols of organizations, communities, and nations.

The Guåhan Seal is an oval outlined in red that tapers and comes to two pointed ends. This shape resembles a slingstone, a weapon skillfully wielded by the ancient CHamorus. Included in the seal are the Hagåtña River which empties into the sea, graced by a lone coconut palm and a flying proa. The distant cliff along the horizon references Puntan Dos Amantes (Two Lover’s Point), named for the legend of a romance between two lovers who, rather than be separated, tied their hair together, and leapt to their deaths. These specific aspects of CHamoru culture symbolize the courage, perseverance, and prowess of the CHamoru people. “Guam” is printed across the middle of the seal in bold red letters.

The seal is the centerpiece of the Guåhan Flag. The flag itself is a deep blue encased on all sides by a red border. Today, Guåhan flies this flag together with the flag of the United States. 

The Guåhan flag made its first appearance on 6 July 1917 when it was formally received by the Guåhan Cadets at a parade on behalf of the people of Guåhan. It was first raised on 4 July 1918 in Hagåtña. A dark blue field was added with the Guåhan Seal in 1930, and the following year, Governor Willis Bradley designated it the Island Flag of Guåhan. In 1948, a red border was incorporated into the design.

Jones Act

Many of Guåhan’s problems were not resolved with the passage of the Organic Act of Guam due to federal laws which impede and/or restrict the island’s economic growth. One of these federal impediments is the “Jones Act.” The Act “requires shipping between US ports to be conducted by US-flag ships” (Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School). The special interests protected by the Jones Act are not shared by Guåhan. Given its proximity to neighboring Asian countries than to the US mainland, there are times when foreign-built and foreign-owned vessels offer Guåhan merchants better service at lower freight costs. However, Guåhan merchants are prohibited from using their services as a result of the Jones Act. This in turn inflates the prices of goods purchased by the people of Guåhan on a daily basis. Despite efforts by local leaders to secure certain exemptions for compliance with the Act, such efforts have yet to be successful. How might self-determination impact Guåhan’s shipping and economy?

Exhibit items

  • American Bicentennial 1776 - 1976 bell. Peter Diaz collection.
  • Tea infuser with Guam Seal (side view)
  • Tea infuser with Guam Seal. Peter Diaz collection
  • Silver teaspon with Guam Seal on the end of the bamboo handle. Peter Diaz collection..
  • Silver bracelet with Guam Seal (Full view). Peter Diaz collection
  • Silver teaspon with Guam Seal on the end of the handle. Peter Diaz collection..
  • Guam Seal Pin. Peter Diaz collection
  • Serving Tray with handles, dated Xmas 1920, plus set of 4 wooden coasters with Guam Seal. Peter Diaz collection
  • Handle of men’s dandy cane with Guam Seal (detail). Peter Diaz collection
  • Decorated hat band, by Jill Benavente for Ed Benavente. Seed beads, nylon cord, Hima (giant clam), rosalind seed, Spondylus and cat’s eye shell. Julie "Jill" Benaventer collection.
  • Decorated hat band. Seed beads, nylon cord, Hima (giant clam), rosalind seed, Spondylus and cat’s eye shell. Julie "Jill" Benavente collection
  • Photo of Ed Benavente
Eddie “Ed” L. G.  Benavente participates in a Hawaiian sovereignty protest in Hawai’i. Benavente’s hat band, featured in the exhibition, was made by Julie “Jill” Quichocho Benavente. Activist, educator, and fighter for CHamoru self-determination, Ed Benavente was also a former Maga’låhi for Nasion CHamoru.  He and his wife Jill Benavente, a celebrated master carver and activist,  dedicated many years of their lives to founding and building Sagan Kotturan CHamoru on Oka Point, Tumon. Independence Guahan collection
  • Guam Seal lapel pin. Catherine Flores McCollum collection
  • Mwarmwar, made by Jill Benavente. Cocount shell, plastic, hibiscus fiber and silk. Kerri Ann Borja collection
  • Sinahi pendant, made by Roque Blas, Jr.. Giant clam (hima). Kie Susuico collection
  • Hair pick, made by Jill Benavente. Marlin bone, Spondylus shell and nylon cord (full length). Victoria Leon Guerrero collection
  • United Nations Petitioner Identification tags (2 pieces). Victoria Leon Guerrero collection
  • To Wear Freedom. Just before testifying in 1995, UN security approached Hope Alvarez Cristobal and asked her to remove the small Guam flag she wore on her red suit jacket.  She submitted to the request but put the flag back on right as she testified. She is seen in this image sitting with members of OPI-R, Ron Rivera, wearing his signature hat, and Ron Teehan, wearing a Guam flag pin on his jacket. Courtesy of Hope Alvarez Cristobal
  • Video still of the arrest of CHamoru rights activist Angel Santos for trespassing on federal property in 1993. Guam Museum collection
  • 25th Anniversary Guam Liberation Commemorative coin, featuring Father Duenas (1969). D. Tolentino collection
  • 25th Anniversary Guam Liberation Commemorative coin, featuring As the Phoenix Rises (1969). D. Tolentino collection
  • 10th Anniversary Guam Liberation commemorative stamp. Guam Museum collection
  • Carlos Camacho-Kurt Moylan Inaugural Ball pendant (1971). D. Tolentino collection
  • Carlos Camacho-Kurt Moylan Inaugural Ball pendant (1971). D. Tolentino collection
  • Guamâs Draft Commonwealth Act. Senator Pilar Lujanâs copy. Monica Guzman collection
  • Bordallo-Taitano A New Day for Guam; 1970 Gubernatorial Campaign song and speeches. 45 Record front cover. Guam Museum collection
  • Draft Commonwealth Act. Guam Museum collection
  • Official announcement by the Guam Commission on Self-Determination. Guam Museum collection
  • Territory of Guam Voting Information booklet-front cover. Guam Museum collection
  • The Guam Constitution. Signed by President Jimmy Carter, 1976. Guam Museum collection
  • Unincorporated. Published by Humanities Guåhan, P. 2. K. Escudero collection

Fanohge CHamoru Put I Tano-ta: Charting Our Collective Future