Along with the rest of the world, Guam has been experiencing its own climate of change. As graduates transition from one stage of their life to the next, as new candidates run for public office, and as the leadership of long-held positions in the Church and in higher education have changed and will change, these significant haligi or pillars are reorganizing how our island moves forward. If you find yourself on the campaign trail with candidates, bidding farewell to classmates and teachers, or just celebrating achievements, remember that we must further fulfill and act on these accomplishments. Our goal should be to move beyond complacency with outcomes that are something we will just have to “deal with.”
As leadership shifts positions are filled, and as we manage our future, we must ask ourselves, is our community serious and equal participants in these processes? Or an afterthought that will fade when emotions have been spent and the storm of social media posts die down. People may scare you and say that our sakman is sailing into uncharted waters but remember, it is this very ocean that has brought us here, provides for us, and gives us the best means of passage. As much as we get nostalgic for the past, we cannot go back nor can we continue to be lukewarm in what we know is just. Unpleasant or not, let us continue to speak truth to power, for it is one of the only weapons that can deliver good change. I’m proud to say that our worldview, language and heritage is not only viewed as something that has earned the privilege of inclusion, but has become the basis for which we understand ourselves in relation to others around the world.
A great example is that during this past professional development for Chamoru Studies, the department announced its initiative to eliminate Chamoru Month and instead extend events and competitions normally compressed in March to all months throughout the year. It was an inspiring moment and very heartwarming to see and listen to teachers give impassioned testimonies in support. This is a powerful gesture, a transformative one for our island that I believe builds on UOG’s renaming of the academic semesters from Fall and Spring to Fanuchånan and Fañomnåkan. Efforts like these unlock a certain relationship to our island and reminds us that we are not detached nor devoid of this land, ocean, and its people. We are conscious of the space we occupy, the unique environment in which we live and legitimize the distinct knowledge of the people here.
Not too long ago, the terms globalization, being “cultured,” success, and modernization meant that you must hang up your Pacific way of life, language and put it away for a while. That it’s only for the home and family, and that it will not help you get ahead. I’d like to tell you that who you are, your history and your language have everything to do with all facets of your life. Feel free to wear it all hours of the day, all year around.
These gestures may seem small but speak volumes to those of us who are trying to make sense of our island and its people, and to what extent is our ownership of it. We can cultivate this, ignite it, and witness a burst of pride in ourselves and how far we have come. It is from these gestures where we begin to understand our cultural significance, and take steps to safeguard our home and quality of life. Individuals who can speak beyond generalizations, who embody the profound knowledge and background of our region understand the unmistakable passion and gravity behind what has led to these transformative initiatives. I hope we gain leaders that can genuinely support and sustain these movements. Let’s continue to catch this current and sail in its direction. A direction that is powered by our knowledge and fully recognizes it as the defining component in moving forward.
Andrew Gumataotao is a Chamoru teacher at George Washington High School. He is a member of Independent Guåhan organization. You can send feedback at email@example.com