The Nation

‘Biba Guåhan!’: How Guam’s Indigenous Activists Are Confronting Military Colonialism

As the federal government tries to expand its control of the island, the CHamoru are ready to rise in resistance.

Read the full piece in The Nation

Co-reported with Sophia Perez

A CROWD FORMED ON A DAMP FIELD overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was Labor Day morning in Hagåtña, the capital of Guam, and the mood was both celebratory and defiant as residents gathered to show support for the local indigenous community, the CHamoru. It had been a frustrating summer for the CHamoru on the island: Activists had reignited a campaign to claim some political power from the United States, the island’s administering authority. But with the US government in the process of annexing more of their land, they had made little progress. So they summoned this crowd—more than 2,000 people—to voice their discontent, express solidarity with one another, and demand “CHamoru self-determination.”

As the demonstration commenced, activist leaders and CHamoru elders took to the stage to denounce imperialism and call for island unity in the face of repression. CHamoru youth blew kulu shells and danced in grass garb. Families unfurled Guam flags and raised signs declaring support for the movement. Then, everyone marched.

They started at Adelup Point, by the beach where US forces retook Guam from the Japanese during World War II. They proceeded down Marine Corps Drive, built in that invasion’s aftermath, which runs through the island’s capital and connects the two US military complexes that now occupy nearly a third of Guam’s land. They passed the Naval Hospital, one of the first facilities the US government established after it wrested the island from the Spanish empire in 1898.

Finally, they ended their march at the District Court of Guam, where, today, a US-appointed judge passes verdict on whether island residents are properly following federal laws—laws passed by legislators and signed by presidents for whom they’ve never been allowed to vote.

Surrounded by tokens of US colonialism, the demonstrators made their message clear: As the federal government pushes to expand its control of their island, they are ready to rise in resistance.


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