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CHamoru language fighting for survival

Updated: Feb 18

Guam business sector tasked to get involved in revitalizing indigenous language

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

In 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner raised an alarm over the disappearing languages belonging to indigenous people.  

“Linguists estimate that we are living in a time of mass language extinction, with a language going extinct every two weeks,” the UN said.

The CHamoru language is facing a similar fate, prompting the local language commission to beef up its efforts to restore and revitalize Guam’s indigenous language by extending the responsibility to other groups.

The new effort involves the business sector, according to I Kumisión i Fino’ CHamoru.

“Extending CHamoru into future generations also means extending it into all dimensions of our lives— economic, cultural and educational,” said Dr. Robert Underwood, a member of the commission’s board of directors. “Finding new ways to use CHamoru beyond schools and museums is the surest path to its survival.”

Based on UNESCO's definition of endangered languages, CHamoru is listed as "vulnerable."

On Feb. 9, the commission announced its first Kompetensia Kometsiu: Inácha’igen Mes CHamoru.

“This is an exciting opportunity to celebrate our cultural leaders in the private sector and encourage our local business to take on the mantle of authentically and appropriately promoting the language, culture, and knowledge of the CHamoru people,” the commission said in a press release.

The commission has invited all businesses, including hotels, restaurants, banks, stores, car rental and night clubs to enter in any of the three award categories: cultural ambiance, Fino’ CHamoru and events.

“As we expand the Kumisión’s work into the business sector, it felt natural to build partnerships with leaders of cultural entrepreneurship,” said Dakota Camacho, special projects coordinator at the Kumisión.

 “We're always excited to support projects that perpetuate our culture and most of all our language," said Shana Guzman, president of International Distributors, which is a key sponsor.

“Giving culturally meaningful prizes can be an effective way to perhaps further our participants' understanding, exposure &/or passion for all things Chamorro as well as support the very local businesses that choose to put language and culture first. We want to give back to them," she added.

judges include Teresita C. Flores (Kumisión), Jimmy Teria (Kumisión), Sumåhi Bevacqua (Kumisión), Joe Quinata (Guam Preservation Trust), Pika Fejeran (Cultural Entrepreneur), Melanie Mendiola (Guam Economic Development Agency), Shana Guzman (International Distributors) and Dee Hernandez from the Guam Visitors Bureau.

“Thanks to our co-sponsors GVB and International Distributors, awards will include specialized carvings, gift cards to the gift shop at Sagan Kotturan CHamoru, and other incentives," Camacho said.

The top three winners for each category will be promoted by the Kumisión throughout the year on their public-facing channels, the commission said.

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