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Richard F. Taitano

Micronesian Area Research Center An appeal for recognition of chamorros as an indigenous people Presented to the united nation’s fourth committee on decolonization


Dr. robert a. underwood October 1998

An online publication of the Micronesian Area Research Center University of Guam

An Appeal for Recognition of Chamorros as an Indigenous People Presented To The United Nation's Fourth Committee On Decolonization New York, New York, October 7, 1998

By Robert A. Underwood Guam Delegate To The United States Congress Mr. Chairman, Members of the Fourth Committee on Decolonization, Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives and participants, Today, I stand and appeal to you on behalf of the people of the island of Guam. Today, in the presence of this committee and in the community of nations, we look to you to exercise justice and fairness. We seek recognition as an indigenous people who are continually overlooked and sometimes opposed by US representatives. We ask that you give favorable consideration to the stand-alone resolution on Guam and support the inclusion of language recognizing the role of the Chamorro people in Guam's decolonization process and support for a UN Delegation visit to Guam. One hundred years ago, our island was introduced to the ideals of United States democracy. Our newly acquired democracy entailed an expansion and acceptance of a different way of life. We learned about a government responsive to its constituents, the rule of law, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. We were placed on a path by the world's emerging super power. Our people were cautious yet accepting, and the ideals taught to us were fed slowly, spoonful by spoonful. We were newborns in this experiment of democracy but, unlike a newborn we were already an experienced people. The Chamorro, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, have a history dating back more than four thousand years. Our ancestry reflects a people that had mastered traversing the seas and cultivating the land. We were autonomous and our communities existed without war, disease or famine. We had a developing culture and a developed political and social system. Our young respected their elders and the elders took on the responsibility of bestowing our traditions so that the youth would never forget their origins. Our people are quick learners and resilient by nature, traits which have been passed on for generations and throughout each Administering Power's interaction with the Chamorro people. The colonizers have come and gone, but Chamorros have remained steadfast in their viability as a people. Admittedly Guam, like any other non-self governing territory, assimilated some customs and habits from it's administering powers. The ancient language of the Chamorro people has many Spanish influences and we have many historical/cultural ties to the

Hispanic World. More recently, the majority of our youth speak English perfectly and their attire and addiction to McDonalds and television sitcoms are obvious signs of America's western influence. However, our culture has survived and our elders are still passing the stories of our past. We continue to exist. Former Israeli Prime Minister, the Honorable Abba Eban once said, "History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." After being informed that the Fourth Committee on Decolonization would consider a stand-alone resolution on Guam, I was gratified that Guam's process with the United Nations was finally coming to fruition. Our investment to educate other nations of the promise given through the Treaty of Paris to a small Pacific island, to exercise their right to self-determination was being recognized. The barriers raised by US representatives may have run out, allowing the wisdom and justice of the Guam Resolution to surface. As many of you are aware, each time the case of Guam is presented, the United States has decided that their own domestic laws, their own sense of democracy, their own view of how to conduct elections supersede this process. This has been clearly stated by US representatives at the United Nations whenever the cause of Chamorro selfdetermination is advanced by a representative from Guam. This position is disrespectful of indigenous rights and fails to understand the unique history of Guam. The United States government has a responsibility under the Treaty of Paris to help advance the civil rights and the political status of the people of Guam. Their opposition is a direct violation of their obligation under the Treaty of Paris and their objections and effort to circumvent the purpose of true decolonization. Since 1668, the people of Guam have been the wards of a foreign landlord. That is more than 300 years of colonialism... There are cries from the US Congress calling for, "self-determination" for the East Timorese, the Basques, the Roma, the Kurds, BosnianMuslims, the Northern Irish Catholics, the tribes of the Western Sahara and many more. The irony of ironies is that the US representatives have denied the very fundamental rights to fellow Americans, rights that are routinely supported in other areas and in proclamations regarding indigenous peoples. Even more disturbing is that the United States turns its head away from the political development and accomplishments of Guam over the past one hundred years. The people of Guam are fully engaged in the processes of government. We have been able to vote for our local representatives since the ‘1950s’, chosen our Governor since the early ‘1970s’ and voted for our Delegate to the US Congress since the mid - 1970s. We embrace our privileges and it reflects at the end of each Election Day when it is recorded that more than 70 percent of the electorate participated. You cannot find this level of voter participation in most districts of the United States. We are not rebellious but we are committed. We seek to continue our political development in harmony and cooperation with the United States. Our process of decolonization should include the United States and we wish for this to occur. Likewise,

this process that we began with the United Nations should not be dismissed. We encourage the dialogue to continue but we also need recognition of the reality that Guam is politically mature, that our rights should be recognized and that decolonization should be brought to closure for the indigenous people of Guam. Abraham Lincoln said, "No man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent." We look to the Fourth Committee to act with wisdom and justice in their decision on Guam's stand-alone resolution. We hope that recognition of our rights to self-determination will lead to the eventual decolonization of Guam in a free and unfettered way. It is not a complicated matter. On behalf of the people of the non-self-governing island of Guam, Dangkolu na si Yu'us ma'ase.

An Appeal for Recognition of Chamorros as an Indigenous People  

Presented to the United Nation's Fouth Committee on Decolonization by Dr. Robert A. Underwood, at the time, GuamDelegate to the United State...