First reburial ceremony held in a decade

Jeremy Cepeda plants nyorok at the burial site. Photo by John O’Connor / Variety

MEMBERS of Guam’s archeological and historical preservation community attended a reburial ceremony held along Dandan Road in Malojloj yesterday.

The 10 sets of ancient remains, which were unearthed during the Dandan Road widening project in 2010, were laid to rest in a monument dedicated to their memory.

Aaron Sutton of the Department of Parks and Recreation Guam Historic Division said archeologists overseeing the excavation at the time expected to find the remains, which were eventually transported to the Guam museum where they had been sitting for a year.

GHD was the company that managed the construction project on the site. Sutton said organizing the reburial ceremony was also part of GHD’s responsibilities and that the company had begun working on it around the time the remains were transferred to the museum.

“We got the mayor’s office involved and we’ve been dealing with (the State Historic Preservation Office) to make sure that we follow their requirements,” Sutton said.

He also said construction on the monument was completed as far back as the beginning of 2011.


“(The monument) was totally overgrown when we started preparing the ceremony so we had to have someone come in and clear the vegetation,” Stutton said.

David DeFant, principal investigator of the archeological research firm SEARCH, said the remains likely belonged to ancestral Chamorros living during the Latte Period between 1000 A.D. and 1670 A.D.

Paying respect

Jose Garrido, historic preservation specialist of the Guam Historic Division of the Department of Parks and Recreation, delivered opening remarks in Chamorro during the ceremony.

He reiterated the story of the individuals whom the remains belonged to, which was also immortalized in a plaque on the monument. “What we’re doing here today is we are completing our responsibility,” Garrido told Variety.

Accompanying him was Jeremy Cepeda, who represented the I Fanlalai’an Oral History Project. Cepeda conducted the ceremony of respect for the ancestral remains.

During the ceremony, Cepeda sang a song in honor of his ancestors. He also planted an orange blossom, or niyoron, in front of the monument as an offering as well as some betel nut. “I gave that as a personal gift from me to them,” Cepeda said.

Terri San Nicolas attended the ceremony with her family. San Nicolas said she grew up in Malojloj and lives in the area now. She came to pay respect to what she believed was her ancestors. “I was shocked when I heard this,” San Nicolas told Variety. “It’s good for the young generation, for our kids, and we’ll let them know these are our ancestors.”

Inarajan Mayor Doris Lujan and Speaker Judith Won Pat also came to the ceremony.

More reburials needed

DeFant said there were many more remains that needed to be reburied. “Next to Ypao Park there were 45 burials excavated over 10 years ago and reported over 10 years ago and still haven’t been reburied,” DeFant said.

He added that hundreds of remains from excavations in Matapang Beach Park, the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge and all over Tumon have not yet been reburied.

DeFant noted that this ceremony marked the first reburial in 10 years. “I would say there are likely a thousand or more skeletons that are currently waiting for some sort of reburial,” DeFant said.


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