Agana Heights residents express concerns in village name change hearing

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Agana Heights (GVB photo)

A number of Agana Heights residents are expected to express their opposition against the proposed renaming of their village to Tutuhan during a special village meeting tonight.

I Kumisión i Fino’ CHamoru yan i Fina’nå’guen i Historia yan Lina’la’ i Taotao Tåno’ (The Commission on the CHamoru Language and the Teaching of the History and Culture of the
Indigenous People of Guam) has been holding public hearings for its first phase of the I Na’an Lugåt (Guam Place Names) Project.

At the request of Agana Heights Mayor Paul M. McDonald, a separate public hearing will be held to discuss Agana Heights tonight at the Agana Heights Senior Center.

According to McDonald, he asked for a separate hearing because he wants to give Agana Heights residents the opportunity to come out and voice their concerns or opinions.

He said a lot of people have told him that Tutuhan is just a part of Agana Heights and does not comprise the whole Agana Heights.

“Tutuhan is just a sliver of Agana Heights that extends into Sinajana,” the mayor said in an interview with NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo.

According to McDonald, they conducted a survey of Agana Heights residents and a number of them were opposed to changing the name of their village.

He added that in the past, the proposed changing of the name of Agana Heights Elementary School to Taling M. Taitano Elementary School drew such vociferous opposition that the name of the school was not changed.

“A lot of our residents have said that it’s like losing our identity and starting all over again,” the mayor said.

Former governor Carl Gutierrez, a prominent Agana Heights resident, said he, too, is not in favor of changing the name of the village.

“Agana Heights will always be Agana Heights. So let’s leave Agana Heights alone. We have more important things to do like vaccinations and fighting COVID,” Gutierrez said.

Kumisión member Dr. Robert Underwood, in a separate interview with K57’s Patti Arroyo, said there are people who talked to him and expressed concern about the name change. But Underwood said there were also people who told him that they were in favor of the name change.

“So we’ll see where it takes us. Just so that people understand, the Kumisión, in terms of village names or municipality, is only a recommender. And so we’ll see what happens during the public hearing and we’ll make a recommendation to the legislature because it’s the legislature that actually sets the name for the villages. They are also in charge of the village boundaries,” Underwood said.

He added that he actually appreciates Mayor McDonald’s call for a special hearing because that would be an opportune time for people to reflect upon where they live.

“A place name is really a reflection of your sense of value for the place that you live in. And that’s what we’re involved in. To let the village residents have that value and respect,” Underwood said.

Mandate

In accordance with P.L. 33-236, the Kumisión is mandated to 1) develop criteria for reviewing and selecting place names 2) study ancient CHamoru terminology and pronunciation of place names, and restore aforementioned pronunciation with the current CHamoru orthography.

Public hearings continue to be held at community centers around the island to review the names of villages, which have been divided into southern, central, and northern regions for purposes of review.

In April, southern village names were reviewed. This month of May is designated for the review of central village names while June will be designated for the remaining northern village names.

Expected to preside over the Agana Heights hearing, which takes place at 6 pm, are Underwood and Kumision members Jimmy Teria and Teresita Flores who comprise the Kumiten Na’an Lugåt (Place Names Committee).

Interested community members are welcome to attend and everyone will adhere to public health guidelines in place.

The public is also encouraged to submit testimony on the names under review. Those attending the event in person may fill out a comment sheet or submit testimony via the Kumisión’s website at:

https://kumisionchamoru.guam.gov/kumisi%C3%B3n-i-naan-lug%C3%A5t-gu%C3%A5han-guam-place-names-commission/nahalom-testemonia-submit-testimony.

Questions or concerns may also be directed to Project Coordinator Elyssa Santos via email at Elyssa.Santos@KFCHamoru.guam.gov or phone at 475-0139.

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