Last September more than 2,000 people joined the Fanohge: March for CHamoru Self-Determination. It was a momentous event that showed that there is broad support in the community for the CHamoru people’s right to self-determination.
CHamoru self-determination is not tied to any particular political status, but is simply the principle that the CHamoru people have the right to express what they would prefer for their island home and also be treated with dignity and respect in their island. After several centuries of colonization and political marginalization, self-determination is an issue of restorative justice and righting the wrongs of the past.
The process of decolonization has long been delayed by federal interference, most notably the Davis case, which has confused the issue, giving the appearance that CHamoru self-determination is an issue of constitutionality and not about human rights and justice. More than a century ago, the United States made a commitment to the CHamoru people to assist in their political development and the U.S. reaffirmed this commitment by placing Guam on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.
The recent refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the government of Guam’s appeal in the Davis Case is not the end of this process. As the Fanohge March last year reminded us, this issue is one of local justice, a conversation amongst all of those who call Guam their home, about the type of community we will be looking ahead. It is one in which, despite federal indifference and interference, those who are the island’s elected leaders, must continue to lead.
In hopes of reminding our elected leaders of the need to address this longstanding issue of local justice, 36 nonprofits, organizations, and networks collaborated to become the Fanohge Coalition. Last month, we wrote a letter to I Maga’hågan Guåhan, all 15 members of I Liheslaturan Guåhan and Guam’s current non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. In this letter, the coalition called on them to affirm their support for the right of the CHamoru people to self-determination.
In response, I Maga’hågan Guåhan Lou Leon Guerrero, Speaker of I Liheslaturan Guåhan Tina Muña Barnes, Sens. Kelly Marsh, Telo Taitague and Therese Terlaje, all wrote statements expressing their full support. A survey was provided to the remaining 11 senators asking for their stance. The remaining 11 senators all answered “hunggan,” affirming their support.
At present, despite several letters, emails and calls, Congressman Michael San Nicolas is the sole elected leader of Guam who has not affirmed his support for the rights of the CHamoru people.
As the election season begins, the Fanohge Coalition intends to continue engaging with current elected leaders, as well as prospective candidates, on the importance of CHamoru Self-Determination. We emphasize that this issue is not for the CHamoru people alone, it is something that sets the stage for our entire island’s future political development. Protecting and exercising this fundamental human right is an important and essential first step in our island’s political betterment.
Joni Quenga Kerr, Guam Community College Ecowarriors; Nolan Flores, University of Guam Political Science Student Association; and Maria Sol Marques, I Hagan Famalao’an Guåhan; are members of the Fanohge Coalition.