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Terlaje & San Nicolas intervene to preserve ancient Chamorro village

By Johnnie Rosario

Sen. Therese Terlaje and Congressman Michael San Nicolas are asking the Navy to abide by its agreements with the government of Guam and prevent the desecration of recently-unearthed artifacts in ancient Magua village.

According to Ms. Terlaje:

During a July 13, 2020, informational briefing on Magua, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) disclosed that a latte period human burial had been found and a survey of the adjacent area was underway to determine the full scope of the burial grounds.  I was informed recently that three additional burials were found.  These multiple discoveries of burials follow the past refusal by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to preserve Magua in place, and DoD's deliberate removal of Latte Period latte, lusong, earth ovens, tools, pottery, and other artifacts from the area.  Prior to being cleared, Magua was listed as a site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and is located near a fresh water source, inland from the cliffs above the ancient village of Haputo. The burials were found between Magua, marked on a 1676 map as Mahgua, and another historic site in the direction of Route 3.

“This must stop now. The clearing of latte and lusong from Magua and the disturbance of the adjacent burial grounds is a serious mistake and a grave injustice to Chamorro heritage and future generations.   The unilateral decision by DoD to clear  latte and other rare village artifacts that survived thousands of years in known historic sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, to unilaterally deem them culturally insignificant or not worthy of avoidance, is contrary to international standards of protection of indigenous cultures, and reminds us of the generations of harm that continue to be perpetuated by the land takings.  The DoD has not sufficiently altered its destructive plans for Magua, Litekyan, or Haputo despite our input in the "consultation" process under NEPA and NHPA,” Ms. Terlaje said.

The Programmatic Agreement, a contract signed between the Navy and GovGuam in 2011 and governed partly by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), provides for strict guidelines on the handling of unearthed remains and artifacts. Mr. San Nicolas wants all the parties to be certain of the latest findings before the construction in that area proceeds.

"Until we scientifically confirm the origin of remains found on the Magua site, the military is urged to assume they are in fact Låtte Period finds until ruled otherwise, in order to ensure that they are respected with the utmost consideration," opened Congressman San Nicolas. "The convergence of unidentified remains with Låtte Period artifacts is too much of a coincidence to take lightly," Congressman San Nicolas continued. "Therefore I firmly urge maximum caution and immediate local consultation in order to make firm and final determinations appropriate for the significance of the sight, to include any necessary project initiations or adjustments relative to the military buildup," Mr. San Nicolas added.

The senator has called on the governor to lend her support against the further clearing of the area. There has been no response from the Governor's Office on the matter as of yet.

The photos below are of unearthed artifacts at Magua. The photos were provided by Ms. Terlaje's office:

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