Speaking to Water

In late 2017, Humanities Guåhan developed and presented an important digital project, Speaking to Water, Kuentusi I Hanom, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) through a grant from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to preserve and share Pacific Islander voices on the significance of water in their lives and communities, as well as in maintaining their cultural and environmental heritage.

A collection of stories, chants, songs, poetry and personal narratives by indigenous Chamorros and other Micronesians, those who trace their heritage to the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of the Marshall Islands and Palau, about the meaning of and experiences with water in their island societies were recorded and curated for presentation in a digital kiosk as part of the Hita I Hanom, We are Water and Water/Ways exhibitions.

Creating Community

To expand this storytelling project, the collected water stories are the central focus of a new Humanities Guåhan project, Speaking to Water and Creating Community: Civic Reflection with Pacific Islanders in Guam, which is part of a larger National Endowment for the Humanities Initiative, The Humanities and the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity in the United States. Here, the stories, chants, songs, poetry and personal narratives serve as the main "texts" for facilitated discussions with Chamorros and other Micronesians about shared cultural pasts, differing colonial histories that have shaped current misperceptions and divisiveness, and the need to re-imagine relationships in more positive ways for the betterment of our island. Civic reflection based conversations are a way to build greater understanding and awareness of the social, cultural, economic and ethnic issues that often divide the Guam community and affect the lives of all island residents. These conversations create a safe and comfortable "space" to reflect on important civic matters and hear diverse voices in a constructive, non-confrontational way to build a more inclusive sense of community.

In 2018, Humanities Guåhan hosted two six-week conversation series with a diverse range of island residents, mainly Chamorros and other Micronesians, which included college students, community leaders to social workers, public health officials and educators. The project culminated with a larger community conversation event on May 31 with readings and performances by scholars, poets, artists and other community members.

In 2019, we've continued our conversation series with wonderful folks from Mañelu's Micronesian Resource Center One Stop Shop, the University of Guam's CNAS Research and Extension—Consumer & Family Sciences, and the Salvation Army's Lighthouse Recovery Center!

What's next?

To learn more about our community conversations, please contact Nedine at