THE QUESTION OF GUAM - GUAHAN
By: LIZA BAZA
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION
June 21, 2011
Hafa adai (greetings), buenas tardes Your Excellency Mr. Chairman Carrion-Mena and Vice Chairman Mosquera, kushe Vice Chairman Davies, sa’eeda Rapporteur Ja’afari, and distinguished members of the Special Committee on Decolonization. I join our friend from Okinawa and my fellow Guam contingent in expressing our sincere thanks “nifee deebiru’ yan “un dangkulo na si Yu’us ma’ase” for accommodating our respective schedules and allotting each of us an opportunity to participate in this forum.
I am Lisa Baza, a psycho-therapist in public service. I respectfully submit testimony on behalf of Conscious Living, a non-profit holistic wellness organization and our president Clare Calvo, who is a part of this contingent today. It is the mission of Conscious Living to promote holistic wellness, body, mind and spirit.
We come before you today with health disparities (the highest rate of nasopharynx and oral cancer) as reported by Dr. Natividad, a mind in the process of decolonization and the unrelenting spirits of our ancestors, our ma’naina ever present. As we move through this Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020), we are guided by the fundamental and universal principles in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We once again appear before this governing committee to seek justice, long overdue. Further, we join in tenets of General Assembly resolution 65/119 that summarily calls for the elimination of colonialism in this decade through the intensification of efforts to implement a plan of action, and calls upon the administering powers to cooperate in the facilitation of this mandate.
1. That Guam remain on the list of Non-Self Governing Territories until Chamorro’s have had an opportunity to exercise our inalienable human right to political self-determination;
2. That the United Nations provide both financial and technical assistance for an educational campaign for all people of Guam relative to the political status plebiscite in the near future;
3. That the United Nations sends a Visiting Mission to observe the plebiscite that should occur in the next five years;
4. That the United Nations adopt a Resolution that reflects a case by case decolonization plan for each of the non-self- governing territories to be achieved in the Third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism;
5. That the administering power assist the Territory by facilitating public outreach efforts, consistent with Article 73 b of the Charter of the United Nations and calls upon relevant United Nations organizations to provide assistance to the Territory;
6. That should the referendum in five years pass, that a transitional period be established in collaboration with the C24 to encourage compliance with international law, for integration into the United Nations and for economic development purposes;
7. That the United Nations Development Program assists non-self-governing territories financially in order to deal with poverty related issues caused by the economic dependence of non-self-governing territories on the administering power and assist with independent revenue generating economic development; and
8. That the United Nations consider revisiting the development of a Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous people are those who have experienced prior occupancy, dispossession and group identity. The establishment of the rights of indigenous peoples in this permanent forum will allow the colonized voices to be heard and prevent a colonizer from participating and covertly representing the best interest of our administering power.
Guam is a colony without self-determination and rights to control its own economic and political affairs. Colonization is characterized by ethnic discrimination, political dependence, social inferiority, and economic subjugation. This internalization of inferiority with consequent negative self-definition has led to a question of identity. Guam’s relationship with our administering power is a colonial relationship that clearly contradicts the basic principles of democracy. Whereas our economic, social and political affairs are largely influenced by a government wherein we have no control, nor do we participate in. Our nation cannot continue to enforce democracy throughout the world and at the same time deny political participation to its own citizens.
Guam’s process of self-determination will once again be revisited with a plebiscite within the next five years. Our administering power through the Department of Interior has pledged funding for education as we work towards such plebiscite. We ask the committee to implore our administering powers to follow this mandate.
Scarcity of Resources and Forced Dependency
A significant determinant of dependency on our administering power relates to scarcity of resources as a direct result of uncontrolled immigration. The colonial government advertises immigration as a flexible means of earning a living. Immigration fosters a dichotomy between indigenous peoples and various ethnicities in the struggle to attain limited resources (health, social services, education, natural resources, etc.). Surveys on immigration showed a regional immigrant population on Guam rose 80% since 2003. Preliminary results of a U.S. Census Bureau Survey show that Guam’s population of immigrants from the Freely Associated states has increased by 80 percent since 2003 and is now at 18,305. Fifty-six percent of the FAS immigrants have relocated to Guam instead of Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa, according to the survey results. As a result of the scarcity of resources, this generation of immigrants has had little recourse but to become dependent on welfare assistance from our administering power.
In 1962, without input from our people, President Kennedy lifted the Naval Clearing Act which allowed travel to Guam without a security clearance. Twenty-three years later the Compact of Free Association authorized unrestricted immigration into Guam, enabling citizens to establish residences as non-immigrant aliens. Although these diverse populations have contributed to a developing Guam, the social changes have created greater diversity to the detriment of decolonization. Erosion in traditional family structure, decreased standard of living, move from subsistence farming and fishing to a wage based economy have led to an increase in crime rates, an increase in poverty, a high drop- out rate and forced dependency on welfare. Our youth are subjected to tremendous pressure to conform to western values that often run counter to the traditional values of our indigenous people.
Indigenous Practices and Cultural Preservation
Indigenous research and practice is about bringing to the center and privileging indigenous values, attitudes and practices rather than disguising them in Westernized labels such as collaborative research. Traditional knowledge is unique to persons of this territory. Knowledge is accessible to all within a culture, developed over a lifetime and requires respect and reverence. Traditional knowledge is sacred to members of a culture and is protected. Language is intimately connected to traditional forms of knowledge. Likewise spiritual and healing practices.
The impediment or challenge to decolonization includes introduction of teaching practices and values of our administering power. For example, the Direct Instruction program, a highly supported and funded evidence- based phonics program resurging from the No Child Left Behind initiative. This move from whole language to phonics deemphasizes cultural phonetics and language nuances of the Chamorro people. The entire history of public education by our administering power has been a political one, designed primarily to domesticate lower socio-economic groups, in this instance our Chamorro people.
Similarly, most aspects of our traditional knowledge base that differs from the dominant Western worldview appear to be inappropriately pathologized. For example, a traditional person seeking help from a suruhana for treatment of physical, emotional, or spiritual adverse symptoms may be considered to be using primitive practices. Therefore, traditional medicinal practices on Guam are facilitated in a covert manner to prevent sanctions on licensures and applicable laws mirroring those of our administering power.
In psychology, colonized individuals are often exposed to imperialism at the expense of their cultural values. They are subjected to what is referred as the cultural Stockholm syndrome, a condition in which members of an oppressed group accept the dominant cultural values, including the stereotypes of their own group. The Stockholm syndrome involves being taken hostage by other people's cultures and perceptions of themselves, while coming to internalize and believe them. Hence, politically repressed people maintain the privileges of the administering power, thus silencing cries for social justice. For colonized people, colonization creates pervasive identity conflicts, alienation, self-denial, assimilation, strong ambivalence, and a fundamental need for change.
A process of therapeutic decolonization entails raising consciousness of the colonized mentality, correcting cognitive distortions, recognizing the contexts of colonization, affirming collective identities, and working for personal and collective transformation. Indigenous approaches effectively enable colonized people to share their cultural struggles and subsequent quest for independence. This C24 forum creates a space for the indigenous voices and action oriented resolutions in our movement.
Achieving liberation demands more than advocacy. Toni Morrison (1994) stated that the function of freedom is to free someone else. Taking sides and in this permanent forum, choosing to take action on the decolonization process of Guam, a non-self-governing territory, proposes a radical, yet humanistic approach that promotes the liberation of a marginalized people while fostering a balance of self-determination, care, and compassion. Such decisions demand critical consciousness, a process of personal and social transformation that oppressed individuals experience while authoring their own reality.
Our mind is still the mind of the colonizer, justifying all we steal, and our society is still one of conquest. The same war of conquest that coveted our land continues under the guise of national defense and eminent domain. What was once called Manifest Destiny to justify violence, enslavement and genocide that built this country is now called Globalization to justify the final conquest of everything. The greatest resources are found in property lines, our exclusive economic zone, and the acquisition of natural resources because our most important measure of everything is how much can be acquired for free. The consequences of this colonial mindset and colonial war of conquest loom for each one of us, as the living systems of the earth itself are destabilized by greed. Rethinking this mindset requires questioning many of the fundamental operating principles of society as a whole. Ending the colonial war of conquest requires a conscious refocusing of our society away from the glamour of materialism and toward respect for people and their way of life as a simple measure of things.
Gracias yan si Yu’us ma’ase!
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