Why Guam Should Pass a Constitution Now

By: Derek Baza Hills
Issues and Perspectives
First Guam Constitutional Convention, 1969. Courtesy of the Guam Museum.

It has been about seventy years since the United States Congress passed the Organic Act of Guam in 1950. I would say that would be an average age of our Manåmko' living through the years of many changes, both economic and social. Here we are in the 21st century, in the year 2021. We are one of the most diverse populations in the Pacific. 

Why does anyone decide to call Guåhan home? We all want something better for our island, but we are not all united behind a political status option. Statehood, Free Association, Independence? Most people I know don’t know which status they want, and others aren’t sure if any of them could be realized. 

But regardless of where we stand in terms of status options, one of the steps that we can take now is to develop a Guam Constitution. We can develop a document that can capture us in our present moment, and reflect all of the needs and expectations of the Guamanian people. 

There is much history that supports my assertion. We have already had two Constitutional Conventions. We have drafted a Constitution before. The federal government has empowered us to take this step in our process of self-government. There is no need to ask for permission; it has already been given, since the 1970s. 

A Constitution would only lay out the Rules and Regulations to govern our island. It can contain recognition of CHamorus as an indigenous people. It can support Equal Rights for all Guamanians. 

There are times when my heart and mind differ completely about Guam’s Decolonization. I have studied the history of the CHamoru people. Their protests about the tyrannical government of the U.S. military before World War II. Their advocacy for an Organic Act and U.S. citizenship. They have wanted to be closer to the U.S. and under its protections, but they have always wanted to protect what makes this island unique: its indigenous heritage. They did not want the CHamoru to disappear into the American melting pot. 

The political status debate can still be had, but we need to set a place for our people now. Our language is dying. Our people are leaving island. Our community is struggling and part of it is because we lack the political recognition needed to move ahead. A Constitution now can enshrine and make clear that the CHamoru people are the indigenous people of the island, and from there we can work within the U.S. system to make sure protections and support are in place. 

I am proud to be CHamoru and hope to see our people decolonized, by becoming fully and equally incorporated into the United States. I hope one day to see our island become a State, a real member of the union. A constitution now can pave the way for this progress. It will be our next important step. 

Guam is home to more than just a group of different ethnicities. We can and will be the economic hub of the Asia-Pacific Region, and possibly a safe haven for asylum seekers. We have been a people adapting and evolving every year since 1950. Our time to fully evolve with a voice that is heard and recognized is NOW. A Guam Constitution will put a stamp on our Right to also participate in choosing our nation's leader, and vote for our representatives to the United States House of Representatives and members of the Senate with full voting rights. 

As I wrote this I started to tear up because of the stories I was told of my relatives who were beheaded and raped by soldiers of one of our previous colonizers, Japan, before the return to the nation I now call my own, the United States of America. These are tears not of hate but of forgiveness for the atrocities committed by the soldiers of Imperial Japan during World War II. I say this because before we make our rightful decision to decide on our future relationship with the United States of America, we must also make the hard decision to forgive the past treatment by the U.S. Naval Administration that prohibited our people from the right to speak our own language and to celebrate our cultural ways without restrictions. 

Our people were once free and equal in the world. Once we have created, drafted and passed a Guam Constitution, that freedom will be in sight once again. 

Gof mahålang yu’ nu todu i mañainå-hu pi’ot ayu siha ni’ esta dumingu hit. Sa’ siha fuma’nå’gue yu’ este bonito lengguåhi yan siha muna’dokko’ este na guinaiya para i tano’0-ta giya Guahu. 

Derick Baza Hills
Familian Quetu (Taitano) 
Familian Matcos (Untalan)
Issues and Perspectives