I have been following the situation with the Dakota Access Pipeline closely, unable to tear my eyes away from the complete injustice of the whole situation, wondering how I can help in a meaningful way, and deeply disturbed by the many parallels that are taking place here on our island. I am not alone. The Dakota Access Pipeline has hit a nerve for residents of Guam. There are too many similarities with our struggles to protect our water systems, sacred sites, and natural resources from the United States. Relatives and friends who are typically nonchalant about politics or global issues seem unable to stay silent on this one. Friends that are hesitant to own up to their feelings about the treatment of Guam residents by the United States have mustered the courage to claim their outrage over the Pipeline in front of others.
For my family, the Pipeline was at the forefront of discussions when we gathered for “Thanksgiving,” as was our situation as indigenous people. We gathered, we enjoyed each other, we gave thanks for all our island provides, but at no point was any effort made to cover the fact that the mistreatment of native people is ongoing. The poisoning and destruction of Native resources is ongoing; and what is happening at Standing Rock is an abrupt reminder of how the United States feels about Native people, our values, and the agreements they have made with us. As one of my aunts so eloquently put it, “The United States is really showing us that they don’t give a shit about people like us and our home.”
I was reminded this past week that a couple of years ago, a military exercise was conducted wherein US soldiers practiced exerting military force on a hypothetical group of “Guam activists” that were holding up signs which read: “Save Pagan” and “Save Guam.” They called the imaginary group “Hope For Guam” (or something like that). When I saw that exercise covered on the news a while back, I was deeply confused. Why would riot gear and all of this force be needed for a group of people who said they had “hope” for their home and wanted to protect it? I quickly pushed away the irritating thoughts, but have been reminded of the story each day as new developments in North Dakota are covered. I found myself thinking, “Would they do that to us if we continued to try and protect our home?”
In particular, women on Guam have been on a steady mission to spread awareness about this issue within their circles. We are losing sleep over this. When we started connecting, working together to figure out where to channel this energy, I was deeply comforted to know that so many of my Chamoru sisters were equally restless. Women of all ages and backgrounds have come together to try, in what ways we know how, to support the people of Standing Rock. And I am writing this blog in hopes that you will join us. Please read the caption beneath this entry’s main image and try to attend one of the events we are organizing.
The struggles of all indigenous communities are the struggles of Guam; and supporting each other is crucial.