A bill has been introduced to change the name of a historical southern village which started the islandwide effort to revert back to the original CHamoru village names.
At a public hearing for the bill Wednesday morning, the mayor and residents of Inalåhan, the Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru, and a former president of the Department of CHamoru Affairs, offered testimony in support of Senator Telo Taitague’s Bill 60 which officially recognizes the southern village of Inarajan by its name in the CHamoru language — Inalåhan.
The legislation was introduced at the request of residents and represents the first of several bills that may be introduced to formally adopt CHamoru names for all villages.
According to the author of the bill, the name change is consistent with the recommendations of the Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru.
Dr. Robert Underwood, Ge’hilo, Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru, also commented on the role of the legislature adopting “Inalåhan” and possibly other village names in CHamoru, in light of the authority given to the Kumision as the place names commission.
“By law, the commission is also known as (speaks in CHamoru) or the place names commission. Under this law, the commission is enjoined to provide a coherent …culturally sound, and historically accurate set of criteria for selecting place names. In keeping with this responsibility, the commission is to coordinate with a number of agencies and in turn, those agencies are required to consult with a commission,” Underwood said.
Underwood is requesting the legislature to allow the Kumision to manage the village naming process.
Meanwhile, also at the hearing, Inalahan Mayor Anthony Chargualaf provided senators with a petition from Inalåhan residents supporting Bill 60.
“It has now become the responsibility of this generation to keep this language and culture alive. Changing the name from Inarajan to INALAHAN may not be significant to many, but it is significant to those who are trying to sustain and perpetuate our culture …our CHamoru tradition. And I applaud all the various groups, both locally and nationally, for their efforts in trying to revive and maintain our CHamoru individuality,” the mayor said.
According to Underwood, the Kumision recently passed a master plan for changing village names two months ago. He says this includes an extensive place naming process in consultation with the mayors. The process also includes public hearings and outreaches all over the island.