Vice-Speaker Terlaje holds informational briefing to address cultural resources at Finegayan and Ritidian

Vice-Speaker Terlaje holds informational briefing to address cultural resources at Finegayan and Ritidian

by Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje
Stripes Guam

Hagåtña – Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, Chairperson of the Committee on Culture and Justice, conducted an informational briefing this morning with the Guam State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to discuss the disturbance of historic sites at Finegayan and Ritidian due to the construction of the Marine base and the Live-Fire Training Range Complex (LFTRC), as well as public access to historic and cultural sites on military bases. In attendance were State Archaeologist John Mark Joseph, Historic Preservation Specialist Jose Garrido, and Robert Crisostomo from the Governor’s buildup office, as well as several others who posed questions and offered testimony.

Today, the SHPO’s representatives confirmed that although they had concerns with the pre-data recovery plan provided by the Navy, digging and removal of artifacts from Finegayan and the Northwest field LFTRC site has begun. The SHPO’s office informed the committee that data-recovery is currently being conducted and that artifacts are being stored pending a re-use plan that has not been fully developed or approved. Responding to the alarming news that excavation of historic sites has already begun, Vice Speaker Terlaje stated, “If they are authorized to move the artifacts and take them out of context, mitigation after that seems limited… We need to avoid disturbance - data recovery is merely a fancy way of saying dig everything up and move it.”

The Vice-Speaker requested that the SHPO’s office and the Governor’s buildup office inform the public prior to any destruction of historic sites and properties, and also afford residents the opportunity to visit these areas before they are disturbed. “We have received many calls, letters, and petitions and people are concerned about the activities. I just want the public to hear from you and find out ways they can be involved if possible,” Vice Speaker Terlaje stated.

Vice Speaker Terlaje also requested that the SHPO help amend the Pubic Access Plan published in 2015 to make visits to historic and cultural properties on military bases more convenient and accessible. Many residents find the Public Access Plan, which was required by the 2011 Programmatic Agreements to be unnecessarily complex. Community members providing testimony today shared their concerns that the cultural resources are those of the people of Guam and not the Department of Defense. Dave Lotz, founder of the Guam Boonie Stompers, claimed that it was easier to get group access prior to the 2011 agreement

Vice Speaker Terlaje emphasized the importance of cultural sites, which are held sacred by Chamoru people. “With full knowledge that we are in data-recovery state right now, we need to do everything in our power to protect these sites. We must preserve the villages, even remnants of these villages, for our children and future research. We need that context - we don’t need the stones as much as we need the context. We need to reflect that this is a place where our ancestors lived and imagine the possibilities of it. These places have meaning for us and we should be allowed to learn from them and pay our respects before they are disturbed,” Terlaje stated.

For more information, please call the Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje at (671) 472-3586.

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