- by Dr. Hope Cristobal
Hope Cristobal is a clinical psychologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of native and indigenous populations. She is an indigenous Chamoru and a native of Guahan, and has worked as an advocate for colonized Chamoru, including testifying to the United Nations Committee on Decolonization. Her article, Perspectives on Social Justice: The fight to end colonization in the island-territory of Guahan, was posted previously on the TJP blog. Here she talks about her recent experiences at the US Social Forum in Detroit. This article first appeared on the blog West Coast Famoksaiyan and is reprinted here with her permission.
This year’s US Social Forum was held in downtown Detroit, Michigan from June 22 to June 26. As one of the 10,000 progressive activists registered for the Forum, my experience that week was both captivating and disenchanting.
I was part of a small group of indigenous Chamorus representing a local non-governmental organization (NGO). Our group – four from Guam, one from California, and one from Boston – was well organized. Each was strategically packed with a schedule of mandatory workshops and People’s Movement Assemblies (PMAs) in order to maximize our attendance at such an important forum. Our goal was to bring home good solid knowledge and skills in addition to networking with strategic folks involved in issues of decolonization and self-determination. I can tell you, in this respect, we certainly were NOT disappointed!
Our information table was also brimming with material for the American public about Guam, especially about the proposed hyper militarization of our island home by the Department of Defense. The biggest draw to our table was this quote, spelled out in big bold white letters, “The indigenous Chamoru people of Guam who have already suffered near genocide and violent colonization for over 400 years will bear the burden of U.S. military buildup on Guam – and have been given no say in the process.” Many people who passed by our table slowed to read the sign, shaking their heads in disbelief. Manning the table was valuable experience for each of us. We learned how fellow Americans knew little about what is happening in the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam. Our efforts did not go unheeded; we received a few hundred signatures in support of our petition to stop the military buildup and to grant the Chamoru people the exercise of our legal and political Right of Self-Determination. I do, however, wonder, “What does the American public understand about this Right and the struggles of colonized indigenous peoples in this world?”
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