Labor Day march being organized in support of CHamoru self-determination

INVITATION TO MARCH: Elyssa Santos, right, adjunct instructor of Guam history at the University of Guam, shares her thoughts on the topic of self-determination during a press conference held at Java Junction in Hagåtña Thursday to invite the public to Fanohge: March for CHamoru Self-Determination which will be held on Sept. 2. Recently retired University of Guam President Robert Underwood, second from right, listens. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

The organizers of the Fanohge: March for CHamoru Self-Determination on Labor Day held a press conference Thursday morning to explain their goals and invite all island residents to join them in a peaceful demonstration of support of Guam’s political development.

“CHamoru self-determination has a long, historical, moral and legal basis,” said Robert Underwood, the recently retired president of the University of Guam and former Guam delegate to the U.S. Congress.

The march is set to take place on Sept. 2. Participants are asked to gather at 8 a.m. in front of the governor’s complex at Adelup.

The plan is to walk up to the U.S. District Court and back to Adelup.

“We want to demonstrate,” said Dr. Underwood, “in the full meaning of that word – demonstrate – that the community of Guam should embrace CHamoru self-determination and that the elected officials of this island should continue to support its fulfillment.”

The demonstration is being held in the wake of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding Guam District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s decision striking down the Guam plebiscite law as unconstitutional because it is race-based and in violation of the 15th Amendment.

"Part of the rationale for this event is the recent affirmation of the Dave Davis case in federal court. This and other forms of federal interference threaten to erase the connection of CHamorus to their native homeland," the organizers stated in a press release.

The plebiscite would have asked "native inhabitants of Guam" if they prefer independence, statehood or free association with the United States. Guam's plebiscite law does not offer status quo as an option.

The Leon Guerrero administration and Attorney General Leevin Camacho have not said whether they will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court or follow another path toward self-determination.

“The Davis case is a catalyst,” said Underwood. “It has reinvigorated interest and brought some of us into action who have been dormant for a while.”

The charter of the United Nations obligates the United States “to advance the cause of non-self-governing territories under their control,” said Underwood. In the case of Guam, he said, the United States “has failed to do so.”

Underwood was joined by five other members of the community who also urged community support for the demonstration.

“Think of the March as an event in which everyone agrees on the need to move forward,” said Joni Kerr, an assistant professor at Guam Community College. “We just haven’t agreed on the destination, but we all lose if we stay put.”

David Lotz, a member of the Guam Review Board for Historic Preservation said: “it is very disappointing that the United States, a country that prides itself on democracy, has ignored the sovereignty of the indigenous people of Guam.”

UOG history and CHamoru studies student Jesse Chargualaf said “the right of self-determination has been kept from CHamoru people for hundreds of years. On this island, it is they who have been colonized and it is they who have had their sovereignty stolen.”

“If you hesitate to attend this event because you don’t feel you know enough about self-determination here is an opportunity to learn,” said UOG instructor Elyssa Santos. “If you feel like you don’t belong, you do.”

Michelle Voacolo of Micronesia Climate Change Alliance said the march “is an opportunity for the community to come together and help amplify the voices of CHamoru people in what they want for their future.”

Underwood said he understands the controversy and the misinformation that surrounds the issue of CHamoru self-determination.  

He called on “all the people of Guam to join us, not to divide the community, but to unite it.”