Female leader

A maga’håga was the first born, high ranking (of the matua caste) female head of a CHamoru clan, a role inherited through her maternal lineage. Manmaga’håga (female leaders of a clan) and manmaga’låhi (male leaders of the clan) societal status and consideration varied, depending on the productivity of their clan’s land, ocean resources and manpower.

They represented the highest level of power and authority in ancient CHamoru society. Together they ruled their clan and with other clan leaders, ruled their village. Manmaga’håga were less visible than their male counterparts, but equally powerful in their own ways with their own familial obligations and responsibilities.

Clan members likewise had many duties toward her, treating her with deference and providing her many benefits. If the maga’håga was childless, her sister’s children inherited her title. Contemporarily, the wives of Guam’s governors have been referred to as Maga’håga. It will be interesting to see what titles are used for a female governor and her husband.

By Kelly G. Marsh, MA

For further reading

Kasperbauer, Carmen A. “The Chamorro Culture.” In Hale-ta’- Kinalamten Pulitikåt: Siñenten Chamorro; Issues in Guam’s Political Development: The Chamorro Perspective. 1st ed. Hagåtña: Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1996.

Political Status Education Coordinating Commission. Hale-ta’- I Ma Gobetna-ña Guam: Governing Guam Before and After the Wars. 1st ed. Hagåtña: Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1994.