Milestones in Marianas History

The third Marianas History Conference, set for Susupe, Saipan on September 4-6, 2015 was regretfully cancelled after Typhoon Soudelor passed directly over Saipan on August 2 causing widespread damage on the island.

There were to be 57 presentations with the theme “Milestones in Marianas History” during the two and a half day conference. The conference was also to include a half day panel discussion on local responses in the Marianas to the Department of Defense’s plans to the military buildup from the perspective of several civil society organizations which have emerged since 2006 to oppose these plans.

As the conference could not be immediately rescheduled 10 of the people who were to present their work offered it for an e-publication, now available here. The papers presented include an introduction and one of the keynote presentations from Dr. James Perez Viernes as well.

Paper titles and abstracts

Para Fan Dandan Siha (They Will Play Music)

By LeaAnn Acfalle

This presentation will focus on the indigenous Chamorros of Guam, particularly the post-WWII music scene in Guam with an emphasis on the present day music scene. With numerous genres, local bands, and a vast music scene. This presentation will analyze Dr. Michael Clement’s work on how the post-WWII music scene has shaped the present day music scene. I will attempt to cover various musicians’ relations to Guam music staples and their evolved style, and will focus on common problems today’s musicians face. These include consequences of legislation on gig opportunities, and other factors that make it difficult for today’s musicians to make a livable career of music in Guam. Read paper here.

Fakmåta i Hinasson Håya ~ Awakening the Indigenous Mind: Sound Writing on the Acoustemologies of Hinasson Håya in Guåhu Guåhan and the Sound Potential of Contemporary Chamoru Performance Ritual

By Dåkot-ta Alcantara-Camacho

In this paper, I argue performative sovereignty as framework for understanding indigenous performance on the stage and in everyday life. Sovereignty in the indigenous context draws from centuries long legal and political disputes over land, language, and culture in which indigenous peoples assert the right to self-determination in both western and indigenous systems. The conversation over sovereignty and indigenous subjectivities has recently been troubled by scholar Vince Diaz, who argues for a specifically pacific notion of subjectivity linked to the long history of deep water navigation. In this paper, I will put forth mina’lulok and fangahåyan as Chamorro formulations of sovereignty to demonstrate the political possibilities for expanding the navigation analytic further. Further, I will draw a star-map between theories of performativity in Chamoru, Anishanbeg, Indigenous and Western epistemologies to deepen strategies for indigenous performance. I will re-work Butler’s concept of performativity as citation, to empower the indigenous systems of power often neglected as operating in a perceivably dominant western World. Through the (re)citation of Chamorro practices and knowledge systems, this paper will explore the creative methodologies of Guåhu Guåhan, my latest performance work, as humanifesto, life statement, and performance. Read paper here.

Trongkon Niyok A Symbol of Settlement, Survival, Sustainability and Self-Determination for the People of Guahan

By Moñeka De Oro

For any people living in the tropical or subtropical regions of our planet, the coconut tree is an invaluable source of vitality. The niyok, or coconut in Chamorro, is sustenance for most Pacific islanders. It is the tree of life. The very first peoples to come to the Marianas some three thousand years ago brought the Niyok with them on their canoes. Since then, the plant has housed and nourished our people through drought, famine and war. On Guahan today, the local community has neglected the niyok’s uses and a nasty invasive species has threatened its survival. Using the multidisciplinary lens of cultural ecology and indigenous story telling, this article will first examine the role of niyok in the Chamorro peoples’ initial settlement of the remote western pacific archipelago. There is a wide breadth of indigenous knowledge surrounding the innumerable uses of niyok that has enabled the survival and progress of Chamorro people. Celebrating this knowledge is the second goal of this research endeavor, which will also show how efforts to perpetuate our culture and sustain our resources are acts of self-determination. Much like what is needed to realize decolonization, protecting our vital resources requires an immense educational campaign and achievable action plans at the community level. The final goal of this article is to critique the current response to Guahan’s rhino beetle infestation and to provide solutions that will protect the niyok for the island’s future generations. Read paper here.

An Archaeological Study of the US Coast Guard Loran Station in San Antonio, Saipan, 1944-1978

By Boyd Dixon, Todd McCurdy, and Richard Schaefer

The remains of the US Coast Guard Loran Station in San Antonio, Saipan were recorded by Cardno archaeologists for N15 Architects during 2014. Seventy years earlier in November 1944, construction began of the Loran Station during World War Two, first built with six Quonset huts and smaller support structures near the antennas above the shoreline. The transmitting station was paired with Loran stations on Orote Point and Cocos Island on Guam. It was later rebuilt further from shore with three concrete structures, signal power building, barracks, and mess hall plus antennas, flagpole, and a basketball hoop. It was still manned by the US Coast Guard after the towers suffered damage during Typhoon Jean in 1968. The facility was rehabbed in 1969 until decommissioned in January of 1978. Local resident memories and online information from former Coast Guard members are compared to the archaeological remains studied by Cardno to chronicle the Loran Station’s role on Saipan over time. Read paper here.

The Spanish Reduccion’: Minimizing the Power of Chamorro Women

By Judy Flores, PhD

Women had significant freedom and power in ancient Chamorro society, and seemed to be among those with the most to lose by converting to Christianity and its dogma of submission to male authority and lifelong monogamous relationships. Historian Francisco Garcia specifically points out in 1681 the subjugation of Christianized women to their husbands, “Whom they recognize as their head and superior” as being a triumph of missionary influence. This paper reviews historical accounts of the power of women and how Spanish missionaries worked to convert the traditional power structure while converting the natives to Catholicism. Read paper here.

Chamorro Origins and the Importance of Archaeological Context

By Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson, PhD and Joanne E. Eakin, MA

Archaeologists and geneticists have begun to collaborate in studying Pacific Island population origins and past social and biological relationships with other groups. Chamorro origins have been part of this research, yet models based on contemporary genetic data have been limited by incomplete archaeological information. Unwarranted assumptions borrowed from linguistics have further compromised these efforts. Our paper corrects these assumptions and provides the appropriate archaeological context for building better accounts of Marianas population history.

The archaeological context includes the islands’ prehistoric mortuary chronology. Human interments are not associated with the earliest human presence in the Marianas. The earliest burials, which were found at the Naton Beach Site in Guam and dated to approximately 2,500 years ago, did not occur until 500-1000 years after groups of marine foragers arrived in the Marianas archipelago. To understand Chamorro origins, we explore the implications of this very long “mortuary gap” between initial human presence and the first known cemetery at Naton. We also show how genetic and other detailed analyses of the burials from Naton can help elucidate the complex population history of the Marianas and other Pacific Islands. 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 that 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 that 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.

World War II American Intelligence of the Mariana Islands

By Dave Lotz

With the loss of Guam to the United States in December 1941, intelligence of the Mariana Islands swiftly became critical toward winning the war with Japan. The scope of gathering intelligence significantly expanded as the reorganization of the Pacific intelligence command structure occurred. Pre-war intelligence efforts were sparse, but contributed towards portraying an accurate assessment of the enemy on the islands while opportunities were seized both in the field and in academic institutions to provide essential information for combat situations and subsequent navy administration of the islands. The presentation will include pre-war intelligence while emphasizing the wartime accumulation of information on the Mariana Islands by the US Navy and how it was organized and presented to users along with current uses of the resources collected. Read paper here.

The Abandonment and the Inevitable: The Final Three Months before the Japanese Invasion of Guam in World War II

By Daniel Owen

In 1938, after a review of the island’s defenses by Rear Admiral Arthur J. Hepburn, USN, the Joint Board of the Army and Navy decided to abandon Guam to the enemy. It had determined that Guam defenses were inadequate against a major Japanese attack. Accordingly, all military dependents were removed from the island in October 1941, two months before the Japanese attacked and took control of Guam. No mention was made of the military’s intentions regarding the civilian population. Had the US military built a defense the Japanese invasion would not have resulted in the tremendous loss of civilian and military life. Needless to say, the evacuation of islanders who may have wanted to avoid the ominous conflict between warring nations was never considered. Read paper here.

Hurao Revisited: Hypocrisy and Double Standards in Contemporary Histories and Historiographies of Guam

By James Perez Viernes, PhD

Maga’låhi Hurao stands out as one of the leading figures in history employed in contemporary anti-colonial struggles in Guam. The maga’låhi has been documented as having mobilized two thousand warriors in an effort to oust Spanish Catholic missionaries from the Marianas, and for his delivery of an inspirational speech of resistance whose impact reverberates well into the present. Hurao’s famous speech has been published in multiple languages, is posted in places of prominence in modern Guam, and has even been delivered on the floor of the US Congress. His image is proudly displayed in a variety of places, from the walls of the Guam International Airport to t-shirts and bumper stickers throughout the island. He is a bona fide symbol of contemporary Chamorro pride and the ongoing quest of Guam’s native people to reclaim, in various forms, the sovereignty it lost many centuries ago. Read paper here.

MHC3 ePublication

Download epublication here.

More on the Marianas History Conference

The Marianas History Conference Overview
2012 1st Conference Papers
2013 2nd Conference Papers
2017 3rd Conference Papers