Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Histories of Wonder, Futures of Wonder: Chamorro Activist Identity, Community, and Leadership in "The Legend of Gadao" and "The Women Who Saved Guahan from a Giant Fish"

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Histories of Wonder, Futures of Wonder: Chamorro Activist Identity, Community, and Leadership in "The Legend of Gadao" and "The Women Who Saved Guahan from a Giant Fish"

Article excerpt

More than Fables and Fiction

In 1671 the Chamorro maga'lâhi (male leader) Hurao of Hagátña on the western Pacific isle of Guâhan (Americanized to "Guam") delivered a speech to several hundred warriors, rallying them to defend their homeland against Spanish colonizers. Hurao was the Erst Chamorro to formally organize resistance to their colonizers. Part of his ire stemmed from the claim that "ma na'huyong kumu kado'kado' yan dinagi i hna'pos-ta," or "They treat our history as fable and fiction" (Chamoru Language Commission). The derogatory terms kado'kado' and dinagi would have been used by the Spanish to suggest falsely that the Chamorro tales of marvels and wonders were empty of meaning, societal delusions, lies stripped of wonder and without power. However, traditional wonder histories, such as those evoked by Hurao, do encode social values and systems, which endure in the tales and in culture more broadly and continue to animate present-day Indigenous resistance and sociopolitical activism.

The war that Hurao helped launch in 1671 ended by 1695, after which the process of colonizing Chamorros began in earnest (Rogers 52-53). Significant aspects of Chamorro culture were prohibited and replaced with Catholic rituals and cosmological framework, which affected not only the sociopolitical agency of Chamorro masculinity, as demonstrated in the life of Hurao and the wonder history of the great Maga'lâhi Gadao, but also the equally significant Chamorro sociopolitical agency granted to femininity and ancestry or family elders, as demonstrated in the wonder history of "The Women Who Saved Guâhan from the Giant Fish." The patriarchal, white-supremacist Spanish church and military sought to diminish the power of Chamorro men, women, and elders alike as the Spanish infiltrated and colonized both the land and the culture of the Chamorro people. As a result, the fears that Hurao expressed in his speech began to manifest, because Chamorros began to believe that their ancient past was filled with nothing more than empty fables and fiction. The 4,000-year-old traditions, histories, and stories and social organization of Chamorro men, women, and elders slowly came under threat of disappearing.

For several hundred years, under Spanish and later Japanese and American colonial rule, Chamorros lived without that same unquestioned sense of Indigenous marvel and wonder, losing their grasp of the ancient legends that could inspire them and propel them to seek their former sovereignty and move toward decolonization. In this essay we discuss two tales of wonder: first, the legend of Gadao, a magalâhi who ruled over all of Guâhan; and, second, the legend of the women who saved Guâhan from a giant fish. In recent years these two tales have had a significant effect on contemporary Chamorro decolonization, demilitarization, and ecosovereignty activism, which seeks to prevent pollution and destruction of the environment by foreign investors, corporations, and militaries. The tales have been used to animate forms of resistance to American colonialism and militarism, each manifesting in different ways and helping to form a discursive bridge between being histories of wonder and inspiring futures of wonder. These histories and futures of wonder challenge the various constricting colonialist legends by proposing alternative narratives by which Chamorros can activate themselves, inspiring their resistance and giving character to their activities for political change. As these two tales reveal, Indigenous wonder tales can be based on a single great figure but can also be diffused into more communal, gender-egalitarian tales of wonder future, which are stronger and capable of enduring beyond one great figure or dynasty, beyond hierarchies of gender or class.

Decolonizing Indigenous Wonder Histories

Wonder tales of Indigenous people have often gone underexamined or unmentioned in the Eurocentric lens of scholars such as Jack Zipes or Bruno Bettelheim, or they have been presented as part of a global mishmash of variations on some tale familiar to U. …

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