If you live in Guam but are not CHamoru, what is your settler responsibility to these lands and people as a non-indigenous inhabitant? Have you ever thought about this? Do you even see yourself as a settler? These are important, and yes, somewhat difficult and tense questions to ask yourself. But, are still important questions. As I have been taught to understand indigeneity and indigenous claims to ancestral lands, if you cannot trace your genealogy to the lands you live atop then you are a settler - no matter how long you and your family have been inhabiting these spaces. As my mentor Haunani-Kay Trask has said many times when discussing Hawaiian indigeneity, “If Hawaiians have a pre-contact, pre-invasion historical continuity on their aboriginal territories - that is, on the land that had been ours for two thousand years— ‘locals’ do not. That is, ‘locals’ have no indigenous land base, traditional language, culture, and history that is Native to Hawaiʻi…Only Hawaiians are Native to Hawaiʻi. Everyone else is a settler” (Trask, 2000). So, if non-CHamorus who often claim to be local to Guam, possibly calling themselves “Guamanian” but who are not CHamoru have a role to play in achieving an independent Guåhan, what is it?
As a (white) settler to Guåhan, I think it is imperative that all settlers, not just the white ones, begin to educate themselves about how CHamoru history has been written and how it continues to be omitted. Beyond our own ethical responsibility to learn more about the indigenous space we currently inhabit - through the lens of CHamorus - we also need to question why indigenous understandings of history are deleted from “official” U.S. histories? Do you remember learning anything about Guam while sitting in your high school history classes back in the states or even here in Guåhan? If the answer is no, then you need to ask yourself: what is lost and what is gained when us settlers are not taught to more critically engage with more holistic understandings of history and geography? If the answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself: through whose perspective did you learn about Guam? Was it another settler, non-CHamoru person?
U.S. colonial education, then and now, looks to institutionalize a very particular worldview, a perspective that enjoys patting itself on the back while discussing the “progress” it provides around the world - all the while erasing counter-narratives that indigenous peoples continue to bring forth. Does the local educational system promote ideas of self-determination or self-government, helping children to imagine new possibilities for the future? Or is it more of a educational system, which disconnects youth from their surroundings and simply regurgitates U.S. history and dogma? Education is something that is supposed to empower the youth. Are there ways that by just copying American models and history, the island is eradicating the possibility for imagining what an independent Guåhan might truly look like?
Honestly, it is truly shocking how devoid settlers are from conversations regarding decolonizing Guåhan. It is our settler responsibility, living here, to get educated not just about the colonial history of Guam, but also, what it means to be living atop indigenous lands and among indigenous people seeking to self-determine their future. Local schools teach that the U.S. represents democracy, freedom and liberty. Our role can be to push for the manifestation of these things locally through decolonization. Us settlers need to listen without interrupting, participate in a critical dialogue without dominating the conversation, and create stronger solidarities with the CHamoru community while being comfortable taking a backseat.
I support an independent Guåhan even without the “right” to vote for Guåhan’s self-determination for many reasons, but especially, because I believe none of us, growing up on the continent or Guåhan, have ever received an elementary or high school education that values indigenous histories and possibilities for decolonization. Just as CHamoru history and culture are in many ways not privileged here (except in March), in the U.S. the same thing happens with Native American communities who have also been deprived of sovereignty. Struggles to protect places like Pågat, Litekyan, Pågan and Standing Rock are all seeking to break down colonial narratives and push indigenous peoples towards greater control over their destinies and natural resources. An independent Guåhan would not only do this, but also, promote the valuing of all voices and perspectives, not just that of the colonizers - and that’s something I would be proud to be part of.