Monday, August 27, 2007

Okura Burials

Guam Hotel Okura Archeology Site
The Marianas Variety

GROWING up on Guam I have always had a sense of awareness and respect for taotaomonas. My interests in the culture of the Mariana islands led me to pursue a degree in Anthropology at UOG. Over the summer I had the wonderful opportunity to do an internship with PHRI. PHRI is the Cultural Resource Management Firm contracted to conduct the archaeological excavations at the Guam Hotel Okura.

In recent weeks the Marianas Variety on Guam has covered stories on the archaeological work being done at the site. Unfortunately, the articles and editorials featured portrayed the archaeologists in a negative light. The archaeologists were scrutinized for their treatment of the human burial remains. It was very discouraging to read unfounded or ridiculous accusations regarding their work ethic. Contrary to what was printed, I found the archaeologists, Dave DeFant and Lynn Leon Guerrero, to be very professional and experienced. The project crew is exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable. Documenting and exhuming burial remains is not easy. It is labor-intensive, tedious and time consuming. The crew was always very mindful and respectful when handling the remains. Under their guidance, I learned about the processes involved in doing proper burial excavations and what it really takes to be an archaeologist. I was impressed by the team's enthusiasm and strong work ethic. For the past year and half, PHRI has worked in the hot sun upwards of eight hours a day, almost every day of the week! Their hard work and efforts are not in vain!

The artifacts and other archaeological findings coming out of Okura are new and exciting! It will give our community an expansive amount of information about our ancestors. The articles in Marianas Variety, while negative, really served to highlight the need to address our island's lack of salient policies dealing with historic and cultural preservation. With the onset of more development on Guam, it is imperative that a new museum is built to house and display the new and existing archaeological artifacts. The cultural history of our island is rich, deep and unique, and the current state of the Guam Museum does not do that history justice.
I learned so much about the first settlers on Guam from my short time working with the team at PHRI. The recent political controversies damaged their spirits, and that is a real shame, because they are doing our island a great service. I am very grateful for the experience of working with amazing people who truly care about our culture. Un Dångkolo na Si Yu'us Ma'åse to Dave DeFant, Lynn Leon Guerrero, Russell Kanai, Tasha Iriarte and Dee Cruz! Keep up the great work!

Sinajana, Guam

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