Primitiva Muna and daughter Guasali Pearl at the Ritidian lookout
The Prutehi Litekyan-Save Ritidian supporters, bearing candles and protest signs navigated the bumpy jungle path to the Ritidian lookout point. If they were lucky, they missed stepping in the red fire ant colony found there.
For months many of those on hand have protested the planned military firing range complex during demonstrations at the Guam governor’s office and the front gate of Andersen AFB. They’ve taken their cause to public hearings at the Guam Legislature, which has supported their position and they’ve been collecting signatures on a online petition, which is quite direct.
“We, the Guam-based group Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, are a direct action group dedicated to the protection of natural and cultural resources in all sites identified for DOD live-fire firing training on Guam. We oppose the establishment of any military firing range and align our efforts with other regional movements working to prevent environmental degradation and destruction on sacred and native lands. Our work promotes the continued pursuit for return of ancestral lands.”
Said Sabina Perez: “We come together in times of need and I appreciate that you’re here today. You came of your own volition and that means a lot, which means that your are leaders of your community and we’re going to need you to continue to lead those around us. I would like you to send your intentions. This is a land that has so much history. It is the last stand against the Spanish people. Litekyan means a place of stirring and I hope that it’s stirring our community for good reasons.”
This totally eclectic Sunday gathering touched all the bases of how to express opposition, from music to straightforward opposition to the military’s decision to site the range complex here.
Sabina Perez: “We come together in times of need and I appreciate that you’re here today. You came of your own volition and that means a lot, which means that your are leaders of your community and we’re going to need you to continue to lead those around us. I would like you to send your intentions. This is a land that has so much history. It is the last stand against the Spanish people. Litekyan means a place of stirring and I hope that it’s stirring our community for good reasons. Breathe in the air, breathe in the spirits. The spirits are here with us today and we want to honor them.”
Olympia Terral delivered a thousand year old Sanskrit chant: “Let us gather ourselves in the presence of the spiritual light that propels our vision. Meditate on that luminosity.”
Bob Bevacqua works in the summer as a National Park Service ranger, sometimes at Ritidian: “I know the area well. I planted trees here. I fought invasive species here. I counted birds here. I walked the beaches looking for turtle tracks. I know this to be a place of great beauty and great value to future generations of people on this island and I urge you all to whatever you can to protect it.”
Guam Senator Fernando Barcinas Esteves had a Chamorro word for the occasion: Kahulo' (wake up) “That the resources of this island don’t belong to the people that have made Guam their home, that we don’t get a say. Wake up.”
So far, there’s been no indication of change to the plan to begin construction as soon as February. Kelly Marsh-Taitano said the general feeling is that it’s only weeks before the “irrevocable” part of the project—bulldozing remaining pristine limestone forest within the Northwest Field site—would begin. But even if it starts, she’s not giving up.
“Even if construction does start, which we would hope to prevent that, we would continue. This does not end with the construction of Tailalo’ because, as people have mentioned, this is an ongoing issue. We need to make a stand now when we are down to the last five percent of our pristine limestone forests, when we are down to our last official Marianas Fruit Bat colony. We’re down to our last handful of these resources. We have fishers that go out and use those seas. Even though the military is saying that it is a net negative footprint, taking away access to several square miles for up to 75 percent of the year. That is a taking. It is absolutely not honoring the net negative commitment.”