A senator from Guam has launched an investigation into the construction of a US military base on the island after the discovery of ancient human remains, as well as kilns, tools and pottery from an ancient village at the proposed site .
Senator Telena Nelson, chair of the Legislative Committee on Historic Preservation, launches an investigation into the construction of the US Marine Corps Camp Blaz in the village of Dededo in northern Guam.
This week, the committee hosted a community roundtable and monitoring hearing to review the condition of the grave sites and human remains at Camp Blaz.
The military base, which is not yet completed, will house 5,000 US Marines who will be transferred from Okinawa to Guam. Blaz partially opened in October 2020, but construction activity continues, with around 16 projects underway.
But the Guam State Historic Conservation Office reported that nearly a dozen ancient human burial sites – dating between 1500 BC and 1000 AD – were unearthed at separate construction sites at Camp Blaz. Last year.
Last July, the conservation agency reported that in addition to ancient remains, archaeologists also unearthed mortars, earthen ovens, tools, pottery and other artifacts at a site identified as the ancient village of Haputo.
“It is important to remember that this construction site is not only the site of the future Marine Corps base, it is a living museum containing important Chamorro artifacts, remains of the ancient village of Måguak (Magua ‘) and the remains of our ancestors. who lived there and were buried there for eternal rest, ”said Nelson.
“While other remains of our ancestors have been discovered after centuries of undisturbed peace, it is fitting that our people engage our minds to inafa’maolek and extend our cultural practice of showing respect.
The disruption of important cultural sites in Guam resulting from the expansion of the defense has been one of the main triggers of conflict between the military and the local community.
“I think it is a real shame on the part of the military to let it be known that the values of our community are not being taken into account,” said Dr Moneka de Oro, a local activist, adding: “Our program is to remind ourselves that this land is sacred; we are the protectors and defenders of this earth. No matter who comes and no matter what flag is raised, the people who have the strongest connection to our land are the Chamorro indigenous people.
Anthony Ramos, a spokesperson for the US Navy, said it is adhering to a protocol for archaeological finds at project sites.
“All work in the surrounding area is immediately halted and the find is reported to an archaeologist at Marine Corps Blaz base camp to schedule a site visit,” Ramos said. “Once the site is confirmed, the area is cordoned off and protected with a temporary fence.”
He said the Guam State Historic Preservation Office was notified within 48 to 72 hours and construction remained on hold until investigations were completed and reported to Guam SHPO.
“We will continue to ensure a responsible construction process through extensive joint efforts with the Government of Guam, federal / local agencies and institutions to leverage over a decade of interagency investment and planning,” said Ramos.
Throughout the construction period, he said, “many important cultural resources were preserved or avoided during the collaborative planning phase of the Marine Corps relocation.”
Guam’s historic preservation officer Carlotta Leon Guerrero said her office has yet to finalize its report on the archaeological finds at Camp Blaz.
“There is a ton of information on the internet about so many other burial sites in Guam,” said Leon Guerrero, in response to Nelson’s request for information. “There is a lot of information that is not well known that could help inform those hungry for knowledge about our ancestors.”