Chamorros deserve Native American benefits
THURSDAY, 09 OCTOBER 2008
The Marianas Variety
BY SEN. JUDITH P. GUTHERTZ
As a longstanding supporter of Chamorro Rights and Self-Determination, I introduced, along with Senators B.J. Cruz and Rory Respicio, Resolution No. 191. The resolution urges Guam Delegate Madeline Z. Bordallo to request the U.S. Congress to fully acknowledge the Chamorro people as Native Americans. It also requests full inclusion for the Chamorros under Title 25 of the U.S. Code, which covers Native Americans.
I am proud to have sponsored this resolution because it asks that Congress grant the Chamorro people full recognition as Native Americans and integration and inclusion as a Native American Indian Tribe, to be called, "I' Chamorro Na Taotaogui."
Chamorros should have the same recognition and rights as the other indigenous peoples who live on American soil, such as American Indians and Alaskan Eskimos.
If this goal were achieved, Chamorros would receive a number of benefits including greater access to federal contracts, which we believe will prove to be a significant advantage given the coming military buildup. The buildup is an enormous undertaking involving many billions of dollars, and we in Guam should receive our fair share of the business and our fair share of the prosperity that will result.
We had hoped that this issue could be discussed without bringing gambling into the picture, because the Native American status could open many doors for Guam-based businesses. As the laws are written, native groups that have been recognized under Title 25 have certain advantages when it comes to Federal contracts. It's possible that Native Americans from Alaska and the contiguous 48 states could have preference over our own local businesses in getting Federal contracts for the buildup in Guam.
However, some people are associating Resolution No. 191 with gambling. We do not want people to think that we are promoting gambling, because we do not support gambling." Senators Cruz, Respicio and I have decided to hold the Resolution back until after the November election so it won't have any effect on the vote on Proposal A, the "Responsible Gaming Act." Let me be very clear: we are all opposed to Proposal A.
It's unfortunate that the provisions of Title 25 are so broad, taking up 44 chapters on everything from child welfare to business development; from tribal land claims to forest resources management.
Included among them is legalized gambling: Title 25 allows the ruling councils of each of the indigenous groups to make decisions on a number of issues, and among the more well-known of these issues is the ability to legalize gambling (and build casinos) on Native American land.
There are other equally important benefits to be gained from becoming recognized as Native Americans, even beyond the ability to get federal contracts. The most important one is advancing federal recognition of Chamorros as an indigenous people. Federal authorities have yet to fully accept the cause of Chamorro Self-Determination, and the sovereign rights to which the Chamorro people are entitled under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
Obtaining federal recognition of Chamorros as an indigenous tribe will provide another building block in our quest to secure Chamorro Self-Determination. The future political status of our island will be decided when the Chamorro Self-Determination vote is held. Our dream of Chamorro Self Determination will only be realized if we utilize all means at our disposal to secure federal recognition of the rights of the Chamorro people