Guam ancestors reburied after 5-year wait

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Jeremy Cepeda, of the I Fanlalai’an oral history project, plants a ceremonial niyoron, or orange blossom at the Dandan Reburial Memorial in Inarajan, Guam, on July 17.  The remains of approximately 10 ancient Chamorros were laid to rest after being discovered during a road widening project in 2010. (Photo by Mark Scott, Pacific Daily News via AP)
Jeremy Cepeda, of the I Fanlalai’an oral history project, plants a ceremonial niyoron, or orange blossom at the Dandan Reburial Memorial in Inarajan, Guam, on July 17. The remains of approximately 10 ancient Chamorros were laid to rest after being discovered during a road widening project in 2010. (Photo by Mark Scott, Pacific Daily News via AP)

Guam ancestors reburied after 5-year wait

by: Gaynor Dumat-Ol Daleno | .
Pacific Daily News | .
published: July 30, 2015

HAGATNA(AP) — Jeremy Cepeda recently sang and recited Chamorro words soulfully in front of a small group in a part of Inarajan that has kept much of its greenery, away from a home or building.

Members of the group who gathered in front of him sat still, careful not to disrupt the solemnity, the Pacific Daily news reported Friday.

One of Guam’s Chamorro oral history speakers, Cepeda’s song and chant were part of a traditional ceremony to rebury the remains of about 10 Guam ancestors who lived in the 1300s.

Cepeda also placed a few stems of orange flowers, locally called niyoron, which were the more traditional material for leis or garlands before the more modern plumerias became the preferred local flower, he said.

He also offered betel nut and leaves on the ground, next to the memorial marker for the ancestors.

The remains were discovered in 2010 during the construction for the road leading to the Layon landfill.

On Friday, the remains were reburied in a crypt with a memorial marker less than half a mile from where they were originally laid to rest.

The ancestors’ remains were intact enough to leave some clues of how they lived. The adults had betel nut stains in their teeth, their homes had quarried stone columns, there were potteries, and they lived near a river not close to the shore.

Of the 10 remains, five were young adults, ages 17 to 35, and there was one infant, who lived until about 2 months old, according to what archeologists found.

The early Guam ancestors had a hard life, said David DeFant, an archeologist and principal investigator for Search Inc., a company that worked on the retrieval and documentation of the remains.

The adults were very muscular because of the physical toll on their bodies as they practiced early farming and food-hunting.

Due to their harsh living conditions, Guam’s ancestors from centuries ago didn’t live long lives, DeFant said.

Part of what Cepeda was saying in Chamorro during the ceremony, he said, “was to apologize to our ancestors about having to move them.”

“The recitation was also to remind us that it doesn’t matter where we go; that we stand on the bones of our elders,” he said.

Inarajan Mayor Doris Flores Lujan said she was pleased with the way the remains of the ancestors were properly reburied.

Other ancestral remains have been found over the past several years, including some during the reconstruction of the Ylig Bridge and the rebuilding of the Hagatna Bridge.

Other remains discovered the past several years have yet to be properly reburied.

DeFant and archeologist Lynn Leon Guerrero said the last reburial ceremony they can recall, up until yesterday’s ceremony, was the reburial of remains that were found at the Fiesta Resort Hotel construction site almost a decade ago.

Speaker Judith Won Pat and representatives of GHD, the company that was hired in part to oversee the landfill project and management, were there, too. GHD helped provide logistics for the reburial, in coordination with the Guam Historic Preservation Office and other agencies, such as the Guam Visitors Bureau.

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