28 Jun 2019

75 years on, Guam still waiting for US war reparations

6:46 pm on 28 June 2019

The United States has been accused of waiting for the last Chamorro World War II survivors to die in order to avoid paying war reparations.

Evelyn Flores

Evelyn Flores Photo: Evelyn Flores

That is the view of many indigenous people on the Guam, according to the Chamorro academic Evelyn Flores.

In July, it will be 75 years since the US liberation of Guam from Japan, and Professor Flores said the Chamorro people were still waiting for promised reparations.

The compensation is for land seizures, she said, as well as for the "pain and suffering inflicted on the Chamorro people" by two imperial powers.

Prof Flores has co-edited a book called Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia, which has captured accounts from remaining survivors.

One of them is a "tragically ironic story", she said.

"About how the United States did not carry through on its responsibility and still continues to postpone, defer and delay that reparation.

"What is often said is, 'they're waiting for the last one to die', or, 'they're waiting for just a handful to be left' so they don't have to pay out so much. People are seeing it as strategic," Prof Flores said.

Mistrust of the US has fostered doubts about the current build-up on the island, the Guam academic said.

Among contributors to the book is the Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner.

Emelihter Kihleng.

Emelihter Kihleng. Photo: Evelyn Flores

Her poem History Project remembers US attempts to "sideline and cover-up what happened in the Marshall Islands" with regards to nuclear testing, Ms Flores said.

This raises further concerns about US intentions on Guam, she said.

"If the United States was so nonchalant about the consequences to the (Marshall) islands when it conducted those tests right after the war, might there not still be that same nonchalance today when it's thinking about building a military fortress on Guam?"

Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia is acclaimed as the first cultural compendium of the region.

The anthology was co-edited by Evelyn Flores and the Pohnpeian poet Emelihter Kihleng, who is now a curatorial research fellow at Germany's MARKK Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg.

Their Micronesian anthology brings together poetry, short stories, critical and creative essays, chants and excerpts from plays from over 70 authors from the region's various atolls and islands.

Indigenous voices from eight of the thirteen Micronesian language groups are represented, including Chamorro, Chuukese, I-Kiribati, Kosraean, Marshallese, Nauruan, Palauan, Pohnpeian, and Yapese.

Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia is published by the University of Hawai'i Press.