More ancestral remains await final resting place

David DeFant

LAST week’s reburial of remains found during the 2010 widening of Dandan Road marked the first reburial in a decade, but there are many more remains awaiting their chance for a proper resting place.

According to David DeFant, principal investigator for the archeological research firm Search, approximately 1,500 sets of remains await reburial. These remains are being stored at private archeology offices, at the Guam museum for safe keeping or given to developers for storage.

DeFant said most if not all ancient remains are found as a result of private and government construction projects. He added that an executive order in the 1990s stated that the developer or government agency responsible for disturbing the remains is responsible for reburying the remains with accordance to guidelines set up by the Department of Parks and Recreation Historic Resources Division.

Construction sites

DeFant cited a number of burials recovered from various construction sites. He counted 360 burials unearthed during the construction of the tower for Guam Hotel Okura. About 200 burial sites were uncovered during the Tumon infrastructure projects. Another 200 burials were discovered during the Marine Corps Drive sewer project and 50 burials during the construction of Hotel Santa Fe Guam. The Ylig Bridge and Agana Bridge projects uncovered 50 burials each and the SandCastle project in Tumon unearthed 20 burials.

DeFant said that of the sites mentioned, the Tumon infrastructure, Agana Bridge, Marine Drive sewer and Ylig Bridge projects were government undertakings. Many burials had been awaiting reburials since the 1990s. Burials from the Marine Corps Drive sewer project have been waiting since 1992. Burials from the construction of Hotel Santa Fe and the Tumon infrastructure project have been waiting since 1998 and 2002 respectively.


However, DeFant said negotiations are underway for the reburial of remains found at Ylig Bridge.

The current lack of reburials has been a point of contention for the Guam Historic Preservation Office. A law enacted on May 29, 1992 tasked the Department of Parks and Recreation to establish a Chamorro shrine – called Nåftan Mañaina-ta – for the reburial of ancestral remains recovered from various burial sites throughout the island and accumulated by the Guam Public Library.

But the development of the monument has led nowhere and DeFant said he did not believe any source of funding was ever identified.

“There was discussion of including the Nåftan Memorial in the new museum but that didn’t go anywhere. The owners of a cemetery on Cross Island Road once offered to donate land for the memorial but that didn’t go anywhere either,” DeFant said.


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