CHamoru women discuss island issues at UN

SPEAKERS: A delegation of six CHamoru women testified before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the United Nations on Wednesday, Oct. 10 (EDT). From left: Julia Faye Munoz for the Diablo Valley College Pacific Islands Students Association, Ana Bordallo for Famoksaiyan, Leilani Rania Ganser for Reed College, Alaina Arroyo for the University of San Francisco Pacific Islander Collective, Tiara Na’Puti for Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice, and Samantha Barnett for Independent Guåhan. Photo by Ann Brigid Rania

A delegation of six CHamoru women testified before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the United Nations on Wednesday EDT. They highlighted the militarization of the territory and advocated for the right of the indigenous CHamoru people to self-determination.

Alaina Arroyo, for the University of San Francisco Pacific Islander Collective; Ana Bordallo, for Famoksaiyan; Julia Faye Munoz, for the Diablo Valley College Pacific Islands Students Association; Leilani Rania Ganser, for Reed College; Samantha Barnett, for Independent Guåhan; and Tiara Na’Puti, for Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice; spoke before the committee on topics ranging from the island's health issues to militarization.

“It was incredibly powerful that each of the delegates was a young woman. It was an indescribable experience speaking in front of so many powerful people about a subject that is so deeply personal,” Ganser told The Guam Daily Post.

According to a U.N daily briefing on the meeting, Barnett described herself as a native CHamoru woman speaking on behalf of organizations that advocate for Guam’s future as an independent nation.

“My people are doing everything that we can to protect our right to self-determination within the legal system of our administering power, which is only proving its intention to justify continued colonial dominance over our island,” Barnett said during her testimony.

For her part, Arroyo called for the liberation of the CHamoru people from the United States. She said the military is destroying Guam’s sacred sites.  

Na’Puti, according to the U.N. briefing, asked the Special Committee on Decolonization to dispatch a U.N. visiting mission to observe the situation on Guam. She said the live-fire training range directly threatens an ancient and sacred land that will be adversely affected by the expected military buildup.

Munoz’s testimony focused on the threat of military contamination to the territory’s present and future health and well-being. She said the U.S. military’s creation of Superfund sites has contributed to mass pollution on Guam and in the surrounding waters.

According to the U.N. briefing, Bordallo said, “She is ready to move forward from the nuclear-testing activities that have poisoned Guam’s natural and physical bodies and from 500 years of colonialism.”  

Ganser, in her testimony, mentioned a U.N. report finding that it is often more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict zones.

“Because gendered violence against CHamoru women cannot be separated from the racism and colonialism pervasive in American society, solutions and responses to gendered violence on Guam must also address anti-colonialism, especially in the case of state-sponsored violence,” she said.

Voice in international discussions

“Territories like us need a voice in international discussions. When the United Nations was founded, around one-third of all the people in the world lived in a non-self-governing territory. Each of those nations who listened to our testimony today have before been where Guam is now,” Ganser said.

Ganser said the presentations at the U.N. Fourth Committee were timely.

“I, as well as the rest of the delegation, think it's a beautiful and powerful coincidence that we began speaking today as arguments in the Davis v. Guam appeal began. And personally, as a diasporic Chamorro, it meant the world to me to feel like I was doing the right thing for my country and my Famalao'an Chamorro,” Ganser said.

The six women presented testimony during the 73rd Session of the Fourth Committee in New York. The committee meetings started on Oct. 4.