Island leaders challenge social discourse on Guam's political statusWritten by Timothy Mchenry
Guam - Not long removed from a controversial decision from a district court judge ruling that the guidelines for Guam’s plebiscite are unconstitutional, a familiar movement has taken front and center with voices of old and new sparking discussion on Guam’s relationship with the United States government.
Cathy McCollum is maga'håga of Nasion CHamoru, an activist group that fights for land return, decolonization and rights of the CHamoru people. She offers her reaction to the latest news that the federal government could sue Gov Guam over the CLTC Act. The CLTC act was created to return land back to displaced Chamorros.
"This needs to continue. Our Chamorro people first. Before any other outsiders that come into our island and say hey I want land but what about the ones that have been dispossessed of their property? What about those that are in need of some kind of property where they can build a home and establish a family? What about those people? Are we gonna forget that just because Dave Davis won his case? It’s not over," says McCollum.
The latest news regarding the CLTC hits a chord with some of the older activists, including McCollum who fought for the implementation of the program.
"I’m just wondering, are our leaders going to go and say ‘oh before we do this law are we going to get department of justice approval?’ Are we going to get congress' approval? That sets us back some more. And what are we here for anyway? Why did they put the rule for our Chamorro people to rule our island but yet we can’t move forward? And I’m sure that's the intentions in their mind, to be a Chamorro first before being an American," she adds.
McCollum does have hope. She looks to the younger generation to wake up and pick up the mantle started by earlier groups. One of the younger individuals fighting for Guam’s independence is Dr. Michael Bevacqua. Dr. Bevacqua is a co-chair, along with Victoria Leon Guerrero, of the Independence for Guam task force.
"The United States has basically just said if you want to decolonize you have to follow our rules. That can’t be decolonization. That can’t be. That's just an extension of colonization. If you say ‘yes you can have your self-determination but you have to do it the way we want to do it.' That means you're not self-determining," says Bevacqua.
To Bevacqua, the latest move by the DOJ further illuminates the pressing need for a substantive conversation about what Guam's identity and her place in the world should be.
"The Chamorro Land Trust Act was created and even after it was created into law it took a long time and several protests to get it actually implemented and functional. And it was created to address certain historical injustices and so for the United States, then now, to possibly come in and say this is unconstitutional, it just compounds the injustice, [the law] and the program was created to deal with," says Bevacqua.
But Bevacqua and McCollum share the same message: the recent events, while expected, should spark and sustain conversation among the island's people to finally determine Guam’s place in the world.
"It’s not a time to mourn. It’s not a time to lament. It’s a time to organize. It’s a time to search your soul and find your courage. Find your conviction," says Bevacqua.