Male leader

A maga’låhi was the first born, high ranking (matua) male head of a Chamorro clan, a role inherited through his maternal lineage. Manmaga’låhi and manmaga’håga (female 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 Chamorro society. Together they ruled their clan and with other clan leaders, ruled their village. Maga’låhi had many familial obligations and responsibilities, such as ensuring the clan’s basic needs were met and managing clan affairs.

Clan members likewise had many duties toward him, treating him with deference and providing him many benefits. Incapable maga’låhi could be replaced by a maternal brother or nephew. Contemporarily, the governors of Guam, who have all been male so far, have been referred to as maga’låhi.

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.