The CHamoru language is the native language of Guam but for many years, that language started to fade. The I Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru is working to preserve the language by adopting CHamoru names for the island’s villages.
One of the things the I Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru is planning for in the future is to finally adopt the CHamoru place names for our villages.
The commission has been charged to come up with a standard on CHamoru orthography — how certain words should be spelled and pronounced and eventually used.
That means that at a minimum, we will see is a change in place names, including the spelling.
I Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru’s vision is to ensure the continuity of the CHamoru peoplehood and nationhood by fostering the restoration and revitalization of the language, culture, and history as Guåhan’s Taotao Tåno’.
Dr. Robert Underwood, a member of the Kumision says, the conversation about the restoration of village names has been on the books for years.
“The way that it was handled before in the previous orthography, which is the rules of spelling, is that it stayed away from what they call proper names — so proper nouns, place names, and names of people. And so the Kumision in those days just said we will follow this general spelling system except for proper nouns because people are used to the proper nouns and they don’t want to change them,” Underwood said.
The former UOG President said the point of the current movement is to retain the CHamoru place names.
“The law says that we should try to retain original place names as much as possible. That involves a public hearing and then it involves the land use commission approval process. So when you are doing a housing development, are you allowed to name the housing development after yourself or after anything you want and do you have the authority to do that. And the answer is according to the law you don’t. That authority is now completely invested in I Kumision i Fino’ CHamoru,” Underwood said.
We can expect name changes by the later part of this year or the early part of 2022, according to Dr.Underwood.
Dr. Underwood anticipates that the community will respond with great interest because people identify with places.