Hasso' = Remember: Tarague

Aerial of Tarague. Photo provided by Dr. Hiro Kurashina
Aerial of Tarague. Photo provided by Dr. Hiro Kurashina

Hasso' = Remember: Tarague

by: Hiro Kurashina | .
Guampedia | .
published: August 13, 2016

Editor’s note: Few know how special Guam is like the folks behind Guampedia.com. Their latest endeavor is “Hasso’: Chamorro Heritage Sites Project.” In conjunction with the upcoming debut of the project’s film, Stripes Guam is partnering with Guampedia to feature one of these special sites each week to offer a glimpse into our host territory’s rich cultural heritage.  


Northern shores of Guam

Tarague is a geographic place name given to the northern littoral of the island of Guam, between Mergagan Point to the west and Tagua Point to the east.  In historic maps and accounts of Guam dating back to the Spanish Era of the island (16th – 19th centuries), the orthography of the word Tarague varied.  It was at times spelled, for example, as “Tarragui” and “Taragay.”

In the modern day USGS maps, the spelling of “Tarague” is used consistently.  Another spelling, “Talagi,” was introduced by the Guam Historic Preservation Office in April 2006.  At the present time, Tarague is located within the Andersen Air Force Base, and access to the Tarague area is restricted.

The coral reef at Tarague which represents a major environmental feature, provides a variety of habitats for peripheral reef dwellers, including fish, shellfish, algae, corals, crabs, sea urchins, and other marine organisms. Many of the plants are useful species for subsistence economy, medicinal practices, and material culture production. There are colonies of fruitbat in the forest along the limestone escarpment to the east of Tarague.   Wild pigs, deer, and iguana constitute the main terrestrial fauna.

The Tarague Channel cut in the reef is approximately 31 meters in width, and must have afforded easy access for both incoming and outgoing canoes during the prehistoric and early historic periods on Guam.

The presence of pictographs (cave wall drawings) inside a limestone cave at Tarague include a number of stylized human figures drawn using white pigment. Bedrock mortars were recorded near the pictographs.

Archival research conducted at the Micronesian Area Research Center indicates that there was once a thriving village at Tarague during the Spanish Era.   The location of the village appears to have been in the east-central portion of the coastal plain near the Tarague Channel, according to a map produced by French explore Louis de Freycinet in 1819. 

The Spanish missionaries built a church at Tarague which must date to sometime during the latter part of 1600s.   No structural remains of the church built at Tarague have been identified to date, most likely owing to earth-moving activities that took place after the end of World War II.

Land use during the time of the early US Naval Period at Tarague included copra production.  Atkins Kroll operated a copra plantation at Tarague from 1918 to 1930.  By 1930, the price and demand for copra had dropped and it was no longer tenable for Atkins Kroll to continue its copra business in northern Guam.

During the brief period of Japanese occupation of Guam (1941 – 1944), Tarague was of both military and civilian significance.  According to Satoh Kazumasa, “An interim Colonel named Ohashi was selected to command a regiment stationed at Tarague … Commander Yukioka of the Navy and Second Lieutenant Yamashita ordered the ships . . . to head for Guam [from Saipan], to land at Tarague Beach.”

A substantial number of Japanese people were residing at Tarague prior to the end of World War II.

“Directly in front of Tarague Beach, there was a coconut forest which was called Takano field, Satoh wrote.  “The forest was named after Kosaku Takano, former owner of the coconut field. In this forest, two to three thousand Japanese resided. The Japanese, however, were not members of any military organization.”

After the liberation of Guam by U.S. Armed Forces in 1944, the northern portion of Guam was transformed into a large military base initially named North Field.  Later, in 1949, its name was changed to Andersen Air Force Base, in honor of Brigadier General James Roy Andersen (1904-1945).

The Tarague site on Guam is culturally very important, as it has yielded deeply stratified archeological deposits dating back to the 2nd millennium BC.   An extensive period of human occupation from the early Pre-Latte to later Latte Phase is well represented at Tarague.

– Read Hiro Kurashina’s complete article at: www.guampedia.com/ancient-village-tarague/

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