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PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa


ANCESTORS’ REMAINS FINALLY BROUGHT HOME TO GUAM

By Jan Furukawa

HAGTA, Guam (September 12, 2000 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---The repatriation of the Hornbostel and Thompson Collection's 311 sets of skeletal remains by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu is Guam's first attempt at securing the return of such historically significant items, Department of Park and Recreation Director Dominic Muna said.

That attempt was a successful one, according to Historic Preservation Officer Linda B. Augon, who escorted the remains to Guam, thanks in part to Norbert Perez, who first sought the repatriation of the collection nearly a decade ago.

"Ten years ago when I first visited the Bishop Museum and saw our ancestors, I made a solemn vow to bring them home. It is a satisfying and wonderful feeling to finally complete this task. I feel truly blessed. I have accomplished my sacred mission," Perez said.

More ancient Chamorro remains and artifacts are still believed to be in museums in Hawai‘i, California, Chicago, New York, Washington, England, France and elsewhere.

Augon last week said that Perez and several other people were instrumental in preparing the remains for their return to Guam, including Hawaiian attorney and activist Eddie Ayau, as well as two doctoral candidates from Guam attending the University of Hawai‘i, Keith Camacho and Dominica Tolentino.

Perez, president of the Honolulu-based Bring Our Ancestors Home Foundation, also recognized last week the assistance of Continental Airlines, the Hawaiian organization Hui Malama, and Kevin Montgomery, Noelle Kahanu, Valarie Free and Dr. Betty Tatar of the Bishop Museum.

Augon and Guam Museum Curator Tony Ramirez confirmed that still more antiquities are in the possession of museums in Chicago, San Diego, the Smithsonian Institute, and others.

"Yes, thousands upon thousands of artifacts, including human remains," Ramirez said.

"We are going to work on accepting those collections, but the Guam Museum does not have the resources to store them all," Augon said. "It's disheartening, really," she added.

Meanwhile, Muna said, his department is "issuing a call for all other on-island cultural material to be registered and or turned in to the department's Historic Preservation Office." He said human skeletal remains are known to be stored at some government agencies, and at the offices of private developers, contractors and others on Guam.

Augon said her own office, in addition to Guam's Waterworks Authority, Public Works, the University of Guam and private, archaeological consulting firms that provide required services to developers "have human skeletal remains tucked away in their offices and storage rooms."

Augon added: "It goes back to the history, the creation, of the Historic Preservation Office in the 1975 law dealing with historical sites and objects, and which led to the creation of Guam's first Historic Preservation Plan in 1976."

In 1992, Public Law 21-104 created Naftan Manaina - ta, which provides for a place for the interment of human remains turned in, or returned, to government of Guam.

However, according to Muna, "there's no funding appropriation to date."

The parks and recreation director, who also heads the Ancestral Remains Repatriation Task Force, said plans are being made "to secure private donations and build a memorial within six months."

In the meantime, Augon said her office's "priority right now is looters. And, for example, with private landowners (we know of) a lusong taken from one yard and placed in someone else's yard -- one literally strewn with lusongs, metate.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA)
Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

1050 Bishop Street, Suite 200, Honolulu, HI 96813


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