“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Sometimes we forget how American the quest for self-determination really is. This past week, two major events on our island took place which should have pleased the Founding Fathers.

The 4th Marianas History Conference was held at the University of Guam on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

Then, on Labor Day morning, the “Fanohge: March for CHamoru Self-Determination” took place.

The clamor ebbs and rises

“Here we go again,” some might say with a hint of exasperation. The truth is, those of us who believe in the inalienable right of a people to determine their governance, i.e. the CHamoru people of Guam, have not let go of this quest. Clamor ebbs into quiet then rises into uproar from time to time – but the quest remains so long as this self-evident truth is unresolved.

The Preamble to the American Declaration of Independence clearly outlines the path.

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

We want to separate from our colonial status

What do those of us who pursue the quest for CHamoru self-determination desire? Simply this: To separate from our colonial status as indigenous people and to self-determine our separate and equal political station. For some, that means independence, for others statehood, for many it calls for free association. Whatever the end, a CHamoru-only vote is the means. Why is this so difficult to comprehend and support? Why is this so difficult to embrace by those whose rights to self-determination have been realized by their ancestors or people in their respective homelands?

Nation-building is an arduous and daunting process. It is often misunderstood and labeled as anti-American. The truth is, there is nothing more American than to dismantle the apparatus of colonization – at least in its originating preamble as a country.

Conference keynote speech set the tone

Many of the papers presented at the Marianas History Conference challenged prevailing historical interpretations of significant events in Guam’s history and the experience of the CHamoru people through time. The opening keynote by CHamoru scholar Tina DeLisle , titled “History in a Time of Desecration: Counter-Commemoration as Anticolonial Practice” set the tone for exploring counter-narratives about Magellan, i tiempon Españot, our relationship with the Philippines, militarization, the Japanese experience, indigeneity, language revitalization and protecting indigenous intellectual property, displacement and persistence, literature and revolution. It was an intellectual banquet serving both comfort food for thought as well as some new recipes unfamiliar to our discourse.

Many conference-goers joined Fanohge march

Many of the conference-goers were among those who rolled out of bed the next morning and made their way to Adelup to join what looked to me like several thousand marchers of all ages, origins and political persuasions including our Maga’håga, our Speaker and other members of the Legislature. The children of Hurao and familiar faces from Guam’s business, economic, educational and multi-ethnic landscape gathered to call on our Saina for guidance and to stand strong. What a way to set the mind straight, kindle cultural pride and reaffirm relationships. What a way to collectively demonstrate, with voices raised and a gigantic flag leading the march to the District Court building, that colonization has no place on this beautiful island, homeland of the Taotao Tåno’. The rallying cry, Fanohge CHamoru put I Tano-ta” could not have been more eloquent.

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