Guam – Speaker Judi Won Pat is defending her introduction of a bill that would change the Guam flower from the Puti Tai Nobio [Bougainvillea] to the Gaosåli.
Some have question the need for the change, suggesting there are more important issues to be addressed.
However, in response, the Speaker [who is off island] says in a release that “introducing this bill in no way undermines the work I do as a senator, and I remain committed to addressing the needs of our island through legislation.”
She explains that “several organizations and passionate community members” have been meeting about the issue for about a year. She named one group in particular, “Guåhan for Guasåli”, which she said has been organizing “efforts to change Guam’s national flower to the Gaosåli.”
[the Gaosåli flower]
Speaker Won Pat also points out the Gaosali is native to Guam and the Puti Tai Nobio is not. “The Bougainvillea, Guam’s current national flower is an invasive species from South America that offers no unique connection to Guam or the Mariana Islands” she says.
She describes the Gaosali as a beautiful flower that grows undisturbed along limestone cliffs close to the ocean, although it can be found in several places around the island.
“As one of [the] few native plants that still thrive on Guam, it is important to take pride in the Gaosåli and to protect it,” she says. “The Gaosåli would add to Guam’s unique identity and could draw interest to the island.”
READ the release from Speaker Won Pat below:
Why the Gaosåli?
Speaker Judith T. Won Pat’s Official Statement on Bill 351-32
Several organizations and passionate community members collaborated to request the change of Guam’s national flower from the Bougainvillea or Puti Tai Nobio to the Gaosåli. In fact, last year, a group called “Guåhan for Guasåli” began meeting to organize efforts to change Guam’s national flower to the Gaosåli. The Northern Guam Soil and Water Conservation District’s Board also made it one of their goals to advocate for this change, and groups like the Young Men’s League of Guam, the Southern Guam Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Chamorro Studies Division of the Guam Department of Education supported these efforts.
The Gaosåli is a beautiful flower endemic to the Mariana Islands (Raulerson & Rhinehart, 1991). It grows on undisturbed limestone cliffs close to the ocean. However, it can be found in several places around the island. As one of few native plants that still thrive on Guam, it is important to take pride in the Gaosåli and to protect it.
The Bougainvillea, Guam’s current national flower is an invasive species from South America that offers no unique connection to Guam or the Mariana Islands. Although we have given it a Chamorro name, the Puti Tai Nobio is not native to our island. It is also the official flower of at least twelve other places in the world. The Gaosåli, however, is native and unique to the Marianas and has not been made the official flower of any other place. The Gaosåli would add to Guam’s unique identity and could draw interest to the island.
The Gaosåli has both medicinal and cultural uses. Its stem can be cut into small pieces and used as candles, and its wood can be used to make a torch. This is symbolic as it represents who we are as a people – resilient and purposeful like a torch in the night.
In recent years there has been much discussion about the state of the Chamorro culture and the need to preserve our language and ways of life in light of the rapid development of our island. Our native plants are an important part of our culture that have been and continue to be threatened by invasive species, construction, and other unnatural disturbances to our environment. As we explore ways to keep our culture thriving, we must take pride in the things that are unique to our island and people. The Gaosåli is one of these things. During this critical time in our history, as we exert our indigenous identity and support cultural revitalization efforts, it is important to assess the ways in which we portray ourselves and our island to the world. That is why I introduced Bill 351-32, which changes Guam’s national flower from the Bougainvillea or Puti Tai Nobio to the Gaosåli.
Introducing this bill in no way undermines the work I do as a senator, and I remain committed to addressing the needs of our island through legislation. This term, I have introduced thirty-five bills, and most of these bills have become public laws that provided funds for new police cars; Medicaid; the expansion of Okkodo High School; the renovation of Simon Sanchez High School; the modernization of the rest of our island’s schools; the construction of new buildings at both the University of Guam and the Guam Community College; assistance to first-time homeowners; the installation of solar energy and security systems at the Department of Education; the operations of the Department of Revenue and Taxation and the Department of Administration; and the groundbreaking of the new Tiyan Parkway. All of these laws help to improve our island. By boosting pride in Guam’s unique beauty and natural resources, the Gaosåli bill falls in line with these efforts as it aims to enhance our island’s image.