Indigenous rights advocates: Chamorros are NMI’s only true indigenous people

PEACEFUL PROTEST: Indigenous rights advocates Raymond Quitugua, Herman Tudela and Godfrey Mendiola hold a peaceful protest in Susupe across from the Guma Hustisia on Tuesday. Photo by Richelle Ann Agpoon/For The Guam Daily Post

Indigenous rights advocates Raymond Quitugua, Herman Tudela and Godfrey Mendiola of Rota displayed inverted U.S. and CNMI flags during a protest Tuesday in Susupe across from the Guma Hustisia.

They said they are protesting the U.S. and CNMI governments’ failure to address their concerns.

Mendiola said the U.S. and the CNMI should acknowledge that the only indigenous people in the Mariana Islands are those who have lived in the Northern Marianas and Guam for more than 1,000 years.

"We are entitled to our belief and our heritage,” he said. “The American government should not take away our heritage. ... I am a CHamoru, and we have lived here in our Marianas for more than a thousand years. We are the true natives of the Marianas."

They also insist that the mwar on the CNMI flag is not a Carolinian icon.

Matua Council for Native Chamorro Advancement President Liana Hofschneider, in a statement, said: "It has been more than 40 years since the signing of the covenant to decolonize the natives.”

But she said full and complete self-determination cannot be achieved if the CNMI government is “focused on party politics, economic self-fulfillment and cultural celebrations for the Carolinians instead of what's important for the continued survival of natives.”

She said the natives of the CNMI do not include those originally from the Caroline Islands.

"This is a grave misinformation and an intentional disinformation … that is what Mr. Quitugua is seeking the CNMI government to address," she said.

Hofschneider said she has also tried to “educate and properly correct the misinformation in the government,” but “they refused to acknowledge their grave mistakes … that are a grave injustice to the native inhabitants, the native CHamoru. I feel that they (have) refused (to correct their mistakes) because it's too inconvenient to make it right for the natives. And bottom line, that it does not support their political and personal economic prosperity.”