Cultural ritual honors ancestral burials at Sabånan Fadang area of Camp Blaz

Cultural ritual honors ancestral burials at Sabånan Fadang area of Camp Blaz

Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz Communication Strategy & Operations

DEDEDO, Guam – Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Blaz leadership along with the Honorable Lourdes Leon Guerrero, governor of Guam, in coordination with the Guam State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), participated in a cultural ritual at the Sabånan Fadang burial site Nov. 23. The burial site includes seven grave pits comprised of multiple individuals, with the final overall number of individuals still pending analysis.

The ritual is the first of its kind as the ceremonies are typically held later, as required under Guam law, when monuments are erected for reburial ceremonies. Four grave pits were originally found in 2020, with an additional three grave pits found between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 during monument construction.

The monument under construction was proposed by the Guam SHPO at the governor’s request and supports MCB Camp Blaz’s commitment to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Guam. In addition to the monument, MCB Camp Blaz will build a reinternment crypt for the reburial of any potential fragmentary remains discovered during future development, and a marker to be installed at the Mågua’ settlement site about half a mile away from the monument.

“Our administration is encouraged that our military partners recognize the necessity of paying our respects to our ancestors and the land they cared for and cultivated, and where they were eventually laid to rest,” said Leon Guerrero. “Symbolic acts such as this represent a sacred and traditional obligation of the CHamoru people and we stand committed to ensuring that our people have the opportunity to honor our heritage and our ancestors wherever possible.”

The ritual began with a traditional CHamoru chant, followed by a symbolic procession around the burial grounds. The burial grounds were adorned with limestone rock borders and arrangements of medicinal native ferns that would have been used in the late-Latte period. Each participant honored the ancestral remains by placing a handful of soil originally from the site upon each grave, followed by a MCB Camp Blaz cultural resources staff member who ensured complete coverage.

“This is a truly special event for our CHamoru people since it’s the first time we will be able to cover up our ancestors with our native hands and our native soil,” said Patrick Lujan, Guam State Historic Preservation Officer. “Never before has this ritual been done. We have disturbed their resting place that has been there for a thousand years and we hope this solemn ritual will be the final time our ancestors of Sabånan Fadang will be interrupted from their resting place.”

Participation in the outdoor proceeding was limited to 50 people in accordance with current government of Guam and Department of Defense COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

Invitees included Leon Guerrero, the Honorable Joshua Franquez Tenorio, the lieutenant governor of Guam, 36th Guam Legislature Speaker Sen. Therese M. Terlaje, the Guam Indigenous Heritage Alliance, the Guam Preservation Trust, Guam SHPO, Para i Probechuin i Taotao-ta, the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, Miget Lujan-Bevacqua, the Guam Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), military leaders and select archaeologists and historians.

Still imagery and video coverage of the proceeding can be found on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service website and Guam PBS.

MCB Camp Blaz remains committed to a responsible construction process through extensive joint efforts and collaboration with the government of Guam, federal and local agencies. The careful and meticulous archaeological work of our cultural resources team allows us to permanently record important details and gather physical evidence of Guam's history for the benefit of the public and future generations.

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