History of Guam

History of Guam

The history of Guam involves phases including the early arrival of people known today as the ancient Chamorros, the development of "pre-contact" society, Spanish colonization, and the present American rule of the island. Guam's history of colonialism is the longest among the Pacific islands.

Guam prior to European contact


It is believed that Guam was first discovered by sea-faring people who migrated from southeastern Indonesia around 2000 BC. Most of what is known about Pre-Contact ("Ancient") Chamorros comes from legends and myths, archaeological evidence, Jesuit missionary accounts, and observations from visiting scientists like Otto von Kotzebue and Louis de Freycinet.

Chamorro society

When Europeans first arrived on Guam Chamorro society roughly fell into three classes: matua (upper class), achaot (middle class), and mana'chang (lower class). The matua were located in the coastal villages, which meant they had the best access to fishing grounds while the mana'chang were located in the interior of the island. Matua and mana'chang rarely communicated with each other, and matua often used achaot as a go-between. There were also "makana" (shamans), skilled in healing and medicine. Belief in spirits of ancient Chamorros called "Taotao Mona" still persists as remnant of pre-European society. Early European explorers noted the Chamorros' fast sailing vessels used for trading with other islands of Micronesia.


The "latte stones" familiar to Guam residents and visitors alike were in fact a recent development in Pre-Contact Chamorro society. The latte stone consists of a head and a base shaped out of limestone. Like the Easter Island statues, there is plenty of speculation over how this was done by a society without machines or metal, but the generally accepted view is that the head and base were etched out of the ground by sharp adzes and picks (possibly with the use of fire), and carried to the assembly area by an elaborate system of ropes and logs. The latte stone was used as a part of the raised foundation for a magalahi (matua chief) house, although they may have also been used for canoe sheds.

Archaeologists using carbon-dating have broken Pre-Contact Guam (i.e. Chamorro) history into three periods: "Pre-Latte" (BC 2000? to AD 1) "Transitional Pre-Latte" (AD 1 to AD 1000), and "Latte" (AD 1000 to AD 1521). Archaeological evidence also suggests that Chamorro society was on the verge of another transition phase by 1521, as latte stones became bigger. Assuming the stones were used for chiefly houses, it can be argued that Chamorro society was becoming more stratified, either from population growth or the arrival of new people. The theory remains tenuous, however, due to lack of evidence, but if proven correct, will further support the idea that Pre-Contact Chamorros lived in a vibrant and dynamic environment.

The Spanish era

First Contact with Europe

On March 6, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan came across Guam on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe. He and his crewmen were greeted by the Chamorros, in small fast vessels called "flying proas". They welcomed the Europeans with food and drink. According to Chamorro folk history, the Chamorros expected to be paid in return while the Europeans saw the supplies given to them as gifts. When — having not been recompensed for the food and hospitality — the Chamorros stole upon Magellan's ships taking iron from the decks. In response, the Spaniards killed several islanders and burned their homes. Magellan and his men left Guam and continued their journey to the spice islands. Angry at the 'larcenous' natives, he first dubbed Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands "Las Islas de los Ladrones", (The Islands of the Thieves), but in 1668 the first missionary to Guam, Padre San Vitores, changed the name to "Las Marianas" after Mariana of Austria, widow of Spain's Philip IV.


Within decades, Guam was colonized by Spain. It was an important stop along the Spanish route between Mexico and the Philippines for trade galleons and whaling ships. The original inhabitant population dwindled significantly as a result of disease and rebellion against the Spaniards. Much of the adult male population was killed. Still, a population of those who identified themselves as Chamorros remained, though the culture and bloodlines began to incorporate Spanish, Mexican, and other European religion, customs, and language.

The American era

Capture of Guam

shortly after Guam's capture by the Americans.] On June 21, 1898, Guam was captured by the United States in a bloodless landing during the Spanish-American War. By the Treaty of Paris, Spain officially ceded Guam to the United States. Since then, Guam served as a way station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines.

The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "Guam is 32 miles long, from 3 to 10 miles broad, and about 200 sq. miles in area. Of its total population of 11,490 (11,159 natives), Agana, the capital, contains about 7,000. Possessing a good harbor, the island serves as a United States naval station, the naval commandant acting also as governor. The products of the island are maize, copra, rice, sugar, and valuable timber."

World War II

During World War II, Guam was attacked and invaded by the Japanese armed forces shortly after December 8, 1941. The Japanese military occupation lasted from 1941 to 1944 and was a brutal experience for the Chamorro people, whose loyalty to the United States became a point of contention with the Japanese. Some American servicemen were still on the island and were hidden by the Chamorro people. The Battle of Guam started on July 21, 1944 with American troops landing on the island and Guam was recaptured from Japanese military rule on August 10 in an Allied victory.


The immediate years after World War II saw the U.S. Navy attempting to resume its predominance in Guam affairs. This eventually led to resentment, and thus increased political pressure for greater autonomy from Chamorro leaders. The result was the Guam Organic Act of 1950 (signed by President Harry S. Truman), which established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States and, for the first time in Guam History, provided for a civilian government. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, section 307, granted U.S. citizenship to "all persons born in the island of Guam on or after April 11, 1899 (whether before or after August 1, 1950)". In the 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy, the island's required security clearance for visitors was lifted.

On September 11, 1968, eighteen years after passage of the Organic Act, Congress passed the "Elective Governor Act" (Public Law 90-497), which allowed the people of Guam to elect their own governor and lieutenant governor. Nearly four years later, Congress passed the "Guam-Virgin Islands Delegate" Act that allowed for one non-voting Guam delegate in the House of Representatives. Although Public Law 94-584 established the formation of a "locally drafted" constitution (later known as the "Guam Constitution"), the proposed document was rejected by Guam residents in an August 4, 1979 referendum.

In the meantime, Guam's local government had formed several political status commissions to address possible options for self-determination. The following year after passage of the Guam Delegate Act saw the creation of the "Status Commission" by the Twelfth Guam Legislature. This was followed by the establishment of the "Second Political Status Commission" in 1975 and the Guam "Commission on Self-Determination" (CSD) in 1980. The Twenty-Fourth Guam Legislature established the "Commission on Decolonization" in 1996 to enhance CSD's ongoing studies of various political status options and public education campaigns.

These efforts enabled the CSD, barely two years after its creation, to organize Guam's first political status referendum on January 12, 1982. Forty-nine percent, or almost half, of all Guam residents who voted, chose a closer relationship with the United States via Commonwealth. Twenty-six percent voted Statehood, while ten percent voted for the Status Quo (Unincorporated territory). A subsequent run-off election held between Commonwealth and Statehood saw seventy-three percent, or nearly three-fourth's, of Guam voters choosing Commonwealth over Statehood (27%). Today, Guam remains an unincorporated territory despite referendums and a United Nations mandate to establish a permanent status for the island.

Contemporary Guam

Guam's U.S. military installations remain among the most strategically vital in the Pacific Ocean. When the United States closed its Naval and Air Force bases in the Philippines after the expiration of their leases in the early 1990s, many of the forces stationed there were relocated to Guam.

The removal of Guam's security clearance by president Kennedy allowed for the development of a tourism industry. The island's rapid economic development was fueled both by rapid growth in this industry as well as increased U.S. Federal Government spending during the 1980s and 1990s. The Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, which hit Japan particularly hard, severely affected Guam tourism. Military cutbacks in the 1990s also disrupted the island's economy. Economic recovery was further hampered by devastation from Supertyphoons Paka in 1997 and Pongsona in 2002, as well as the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks on tourism.

There are signs that Guam is recovering from these setbacks. The increased arrivals of Japanese tourists reflect that country's economic recovery, as well as Guam's enduring appeal as a weekend tropical retreat. U.S. military spending has dramatically increased as part of the War on Terrorism. Recent proposals to strengthen U.S. military facilities, including negotiations to transfer 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, also indicate renewed interest in Guam by the U.S. military.

"Cosmopolitan" Guam poses particular challenges for Chamorros struggling to preserve their culture and identity in the face of acculturation. The increasing numbers of Chamorros, especially Chamorro youth, relocating to the U.S. Mainland has further complicated both definition and preservation of Chamorro identity.

Further reading

*Robert F. Rogers, "Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam" (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995)
*Paul Carano and Pedro C. Sanchez, "A Complete History of Guam" (Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle, 1964)
*Howard P Willens and Dirk A Ballendorf, "The Secret Guam Study: How President Ford's 1975 Approval of Commonwealth Was Blocked by Federal Officials" (Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Area Research Center; Saipan: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historical Preservation, 2004)
*Lawrence J. Cunningham, "Ancient Chamorro Society" (Honolulu: Bess Press, 1992)
*Anne Perez Hattori, "Colonial Dis-Ease: U.S. Navy Health Policies and the Chamorros of Guam, 1898-1941" (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004)
*Pat Hickey, "The Chorito Hog-Leg, Book One: A Novel of Guam in Time of War" (Indianapolis: AuthorHouse Publishing, 2007)

External links

* [http://www.freewebs.com/allthingsguam/ "allthingsguam"] A Guam History resource--virtual textbook, virtual workbook and more
* [http://www.guamhumanitiescouncil.org/ Guam Humanities Council]
* [http://www.guampedia.com/ Guampedia]
* [http://www.nps.gov/wapa/indepth/index.htm War in the Pacific National Historic Park]
* [http://ns.gov.gu/latte.html The Latte Stones of Guam]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/oceania/guam.html History of Guam]
* [http://www.bisitaguam.com/ Bisita Guam]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09660b.htm Prefecture Apostolic of Mariana Islands]
* [http://www.guam-online.com/people/people.htm Guam Online's History Webpage]
* [http://www.usnhguam.med.navy.mil/us/history/default.htm Brief History of Guam's U.S. Naval Hospital]
* [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:S.RES.254: Senate Resolution 254, 105th Congress] Includes brief history of Guam's movement towards self-determination

ee also

* Guam
* Villages of Guam
* San Vitores
* Chief Kepuha

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Guam - получить на Академике рабочий купон на скидку Летуаль или выгодно guam купить с бесплатной доставкой на распродаже в Летуаль

  • Postage stamps and postal history of Guam — The postage stamps and postal history of Guam is an overview of the postage stamps and postal history of the Pacific Ocean island of Guam. Its postal service is linked to those of the Philippines during the Spanish Empire and, since 1898, to the… …   Wikipedia

  • Guam Organic Act of 1950 — Guam This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Guam Organic Act Governor Eddie Calvo …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Pacific Islands — covers the history of the islands in the Pacific Ocean.HistoriesAustraliaThe written history of Australia began when Dutch explorers first sighted the country in the 17th century. The interpretation of the history of Australia is currently a… …   Wikipedia

  • Guam — This article is about the United States island territory of Guam. For GUAM, an eastern European international organization, see GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. Guam Guåhan …   Wikipedia

  • Guam — Guamanian /gwah may nee euhn/, n., adj. /gwahm/, n. an island, belonging to the U.S., in the N Pacific, E of the Philippines: the largest of the Marianas group; U.S. naval station. 84,996; 206 sq. mi. (535 sq. km). Cap.: Agaña. Abbr.: GU (for use …   Universalium

  • History of present-day nations and states — This is a list of articles on the history of contemporary countries, states and dependencies. * See List of extinct countries, empires, etc. and Former countries in Europe after 1815 for articles about countries that are no longer in existence. * …   Wikipedia

  • Guam Police Department — The Guam Police Department ( ch. Dipåttamenton Polisian Guåhan) is the law enforcement agency for Guam, which has jurisdiction anywhere in the territory. It was created to protect the lives and property of Guamanians.HistoryThe Guam Police… …   Wikipedia

  • GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development — GUAM redirects here. For the Pacific island territory, see Guam. GUAM – Organization for Democracy and Economic Development …   Wikipedia

  • Guam Public School System — (GPSS, Chamorro: Sisteman Eskuelan Pupblekon Guåhan ), formerly the Guam Department of Education, is a school district that serves the entire island of Guam, a United States insular area. The school district can be thought of as analogous to the… …   Wikipedia

  • Guam-Flughund — Systematik Ordnung: Fledertiere (Chiroptera) Unterordnung: Megachiroptera Familie: Flughunde (Pteropodidae) Tribus …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.