by Hope A. Cristobal
The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas Islands documentary will be airing tonight 3/28 at 7pm on KCTS in Seattle. Here is a schedule of upcoming national PBS air dates.
I was 18 in the fall of 1996— “Rock the vote!” was in the air. MTV touted, “Choose or Lose!” Unfortunately that year, I was about to be labeled the “loser,” not by my choice, however, but by the choice made for me by the United States Department of the Interior.
I am an indigenous Chamoru from the island of Guam (the pronunciation given to the island by foreigners). Guahan, is the actual name given by the indigenous people—it means, “We have.”
“Do you guys wear grass skirts?...Do you even have stop lights there?…What do you call your tribe?...Wow, you speak such good English!” These were common questions I encountered when I moved to Washington State at the age of 17. You see, for the first 17 years of my life, I grew up in a United States colony in the Pacific, and many Americans knew nothing of Guahan, so I did a lot to educate my college friends that year. Yes, Guahan is a colony—or politically termed, an Unincorporated Territory of the United States. This is a fancy name for a place where the people are “part of the United States,” and have American citizenship, but do not fall under the United States Constitution, and thus, do not share in the inherent rights afforded most citizens of this country. As a colony, the people of Guahan are governed and “cared for” by the Dept of the Interior—the same federal department that cares for all the national parks and endangered species.
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