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Inarajan, the bay and village, as seen from Gådao's Cave.


Little is known about the early inhabitants of Inarajan, and this is true on Guam in general. The reason for this is a historical disjuncture in which most Chamorro peoples throughout the Marianas were displaced and relocated by the Spanish. Bill explains: "When the Spaniards were here, I believe it was Governor Quiroga [1680s] who wanted to reorganize the people so that they were a lot closer together. The aim was for the Spaniards to have better control of the people there and to lessen the wars that were going on between the Chamorros and the Spaniards at that time."



"About Inarajan, we know," Larry adds, "that the Spanish forced the people from Gani to move from their home islands to Inarajan and Merizo in 1698. Gani refers to the Mariana islands north of Saipan. The major populated islands of Gani were Anatahan, Sariguan, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, and Asuncion. Earlier the Spanish had consolidated the people in Guam to just a half a dozen villages. The Spanish built a church in Inarajan in 1680. They moved the people from Tinian and settled them in Hagåtna and the Pågo Bay area in 1695."

"There’s a part of Inarajan called As Gani," Anne adds, "and they have an actual street sign I remember seeing the last time I was there. But Gani is the word for the northern islands, above Saipan: Pagan, Alamagan, and so on."

Why were the people moved? Larry explains, "Well, the Spanish had a goal that everybody had to live within sound of the church bells. If they could separate people from the existing government and social structure, it would be easier for them to control people, I suspect.

"So we wonder, what did they do with the original people in these places? I suspect that in many cases they forced them to settle in a different area on Guam."


The islands north of Saipan are called 'Gani.'


Farallon de Medinilla, one of the Gani islands.


"Ancestor veneration was important in Chamorro culture, and was given a lot of emphasis," Larry says, pointing to another factor in the relocation of Guam's people. "There was a lot of care taken with skeletons, even taking the skulls and keeping them in the house and praying to the ancestral spirits the skulls represented. Also, they made offerings to the skulls after a successful fishing trip.

"Consequently, moving away from the ancestral land would have been demoralizing. That may have been another motive for the Spanish to move Chamorros from their ancestral lands. They wanted to introduce a new religion, to replace ancestor veneration. The Spanish were successful in converting people to the Catholic faith, but many Chamorros still venerate their ancestors. People still ask permission of ancestral spirits to enter certain areas of land, or to gather food in the jungle."



Chamorro origins are of the Malayo-Polynesian group of people from Southeast Asia. The Chamorro language is from the Austronesian family of languages. Guam and the Marianas were settled a very long time ago, perhaps over 4,000 years ago, and were colonized directly from islands off of Southeast Asia. Larry states that one could sail East-West between the Marianas and the Philippines, just following the sun. "It's a straight shot," he says, "So you could find your way home pretty easily if you didn't find any land."




"And it may explain why they didn't discover the rest of Micronesia right away," Larry suggests, "because if they were just sailing East-West, they couldn't have sailed far enough East, with the limited supplies a sailing canoe could hold, to find another island. If they had just run a little South they could have found a lot of islands, but the rest of Micronesia was not settled until much later and by other peoples.

"There is some speculation that there might have been an invasion of the original settlers of the Marianas around 800 AD, by a different people of lighter skin color, who were bigger and stronger. But the archaeological research doesn't support that. The changes in pottery, for example, did not happen suddenly but over long periods of time."


Ancient Pottery

Pottery fragments from ca. 1000 - 1500 B.C. Courtesy of the Guam Museum.


Ancient Pottery

Pottery fragments from ca. 500-700 B.C. Courtesy of the Guam Museum.


"There's new linguistic evidence that shows that the Chamorro language is a very ancient version of the Austronesian family of languages, and very close to the original extra-Formosan Austronesian. So it seems very close to language you hear in Formosa (today, Taiwan)."

"Other Austronesian languages, for example, those of the Philippines, have later grammatical changes that did not take place in Chamorro. "

"Linguists have reconstructed extra-Formosan Austronesian, and find that Chamorro is very close to it. Other peoples may have settled the Marianas in ancient times but they didn't really influence the language that much."



The historical disjuncture or break between the pre-Spanish Chamorro culture and the people of today has had a profound impact on Guam, because many of the people were uprooted from their ancestral lands and relocated to new areas where they were under the influence of Spanish and Catholic cultural norms.

Nevertheless, the depth of traditions concerning the land, the environment, and the ancestors is surprisingly strong. Much remains of Chamorro culture in other ways, however, including a Chamorro view on the origins of the earliest inhabitants.

We go now to learn about the Ancients.



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