Women Rising: Indigenous Resistance to Militarization in the Marianas Archipelago


Graduate student Sylvia Frain examined how indigenous women nonviolently resist the invisible and visible sexist and environmental politics of everyday and expanding militarization by the United States in the Marianas Archipelago.

As “protectors and defenders” of their families, communities, and natural environment, CHamoru and Refaluwasch women employ digital, legal, political, and spiritual resistance, according to Frain. Their strategies are based and sustained within ancient matriarchal systems and matrilineal genealogies and are shared across the new media platforms: Change.org, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Written as a form of academic activism and created in solidarity with others writing and working for decolonization and demilitarization, this thesis was designed as politically engaged qualitative resistance research. Five examples of resistance from Guå’han (Guam) and five examples from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are explored.

This thesis argues that the US reinforces and relies on imperial ideologies and the “protector/protected” narrative to justify everyday and expanding militarization. This ideology and narrative are being fulfilled through the continued political status as insular areas “belonging” to the US while expanding militarization is justified through the Pacific pivot foreign policy carried out by the US Department of Defense in the name of national security. The invisible and visible sexist and environmental politics of everyday and expanding militarization manifests in the communities “along the fence-line” and within the “support economies” that surround military installations.

The resistance, however, is much more complex than the local population versus the US government and military. The Marianas Archipelago has the second highest rate of US Force enlistment, and the residents are considered a “patriotic” population who hold US citizenship. These intricacies are addressed throughout the thesis with the women articulating that they are not “anti-military” or “anti-American.” Instead, their resistance is based on the premise that both the US federal government and the US Department of Defense must address unfulfilled commitments and abide by previous agreements.

Finally, the aim of this research as resistance is to contribute by creating and disseminating open, public, accessible, shareable, understandable, and informative scholarship. Organized as a hybrid thesis, Frain incorporates academic and new media publications.

In a time of US political uncertainty, women in the Marianas Archipelago continue to resist in solidarity with others across the globe. This thesis is one snapshot of “women rising” in the Marianas Archipelago: “fanohge famalåo’an” and “fan’tachu fama’lauan” in CHamoru.