‘Not all information on ancestral remains releasable at this time’

Acting State Historic Preservation Officer Carlotta Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

Acting State Historic Preservation Officer Carlotta Leon Guerrero spoke about a recent controversy regarding ancestral remains.

Word got out that on November 4th, Carlotta Leon Guerrero, the governor, and various GovGuam and military officials returned ancestral remains to a grave site.

Leon Guerrero says that the ceremony was solemn and respectful.

However, controversy arose because there was no official notice of the ceremony.

Leon Guerrero said that her office has since received questions on the matter as well as Freedom of Information Act requests.

She said that at this time not all the information is releasable.

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“I think the part that they’re splitting the hairs on..is that this is a preliminary report. I have a preliminary report on their study. And so I spoke with a reporter and said that I have this preliminary information and I released just a little bit of it to her. And so that’s why I think I let the cat out of the bag by releasing preliminary findings. But I just know how strongly our people feel, and are so hungry to find out what is being discovered. So I don’t think that there’s any harm in releasing this information,” Leon Guerrero said.

There was an outcry among some in the community who said that the military wasn’t being transparent when it comes to archeological finds.

But Leon Guerrero said that the lack of public notice is born out of the natural caution exercised by scientists and academics before they announce findings.

She said that it’s normal for archeologists to not go public with their findings until their study is complete.

She said that’s because once they go public, their findings are then subject to scrutiny by the scientific and academic community.

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“That is like lighting a match next to a haystack. And so I’ve been involved in the SHPO long enough to know that archeologists want to get it nailed down as much as possible..get all their facts down. Because they know as soon as they trot out an opinion, or an article, they’re up for debate and discussion,” Leon Guerrero said.

Leon Guerrero said that GovGuam is moving forward with plans for an ancestral re-burial site.

The site is part of a project to reinter the remains of about 3,000 people that are currently in GovGuam’s possession.