Bernard Punzalan’s quest to leave behind a legacy for his three sons evolved into a project that seeks to aid in other CHamoru people’s discovery of their history and lineage.
Last week, Guam’s community had the opportunity to attend and participate in a two-day CHamoru genealogy workshop at the Guam Community College to foster further research needed to dig deeper into the identity of the CHamoru people.
The workshop, co-sponsored by the Kumisión I Fino’ CHamoru, is an extension of the critical work pioneered by Bernard Punzalan, founder and Principal Investigator of the Chamorro Roots Genealogy Project, a centralized repository of genealogy information of and for the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands.
PNC spoke with former senator and Commission Chairwoman Hope Cristobal on day 1 of the workshop, who shared the significance of utilizing Guam’s experts and resources to aid in the quest to discover more about one’s history and lineage.
“I wanted to be sure that our people, who are already embedded into doing this kind of work— that they know that there are other resources that can be had, and they’re right here— right at our fingertips…There are resources, there are people out there that are willing to help, and just to make this an enjoyable journey.”
Among those vital resources embedded in this work, Cristobal mentioned includes one of the special guest presenters at the workshop, Rlene Santos Steffy, an ethnographer and oral historian who is also pursuing becoming a genealogist.
Steffy, whose work spans 23 years, spoke to PNC about her own journey in uncovering her family history, namely, her great grandfather’s murder, and how her expertise lends itself to the process.
“It didn’t affect me until I was maybe 13 years old because my awareness was different, my understanding of what murder was was different, and the fact that I had lost my great-grandfather… why? And there is the ethnographic; there’s where ethnography comes in, cause now, all of a sudden, I’m digging, I’m speaking to German experts, I’m speaking to family history— they’re telling me what life was like in Palau.”
She went on to encourage those on their quests to discover deeper into their histories, stating,
“It’s an example of what can be done, and not to limit yourself, but if your family, if your mother or father doesn’t want to share the story with you, ask somebody else to do it.”
The workshop highlighted other invaluable people and resources that individuals could avail of for further support—including but not limited to the University of Guam’s Micronesia Area Research Center, the Office of Vital Statistics, Nieves Public Library, and Guam Courts.
For more information regarding the Chamorro Roots Genealogy Project, visit www.CHamorroRoots.com or contact 253-970-1891.
Destiny Cruz, PNC News First.