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Friday, January 22, 2010

The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas -- What's it like to be a colonial subject of the US?




Filmmaker Vanessa Warheit asks what it's like to live as a colonial subject of the US in her new film The Insular Empire: American in the Mariana Islands. In this investigative documentary, she focuses on the lives of the residents of Guam who are facing US military expansion on their island--one third of which is already occupied by military bases.

The historical experience of Guam's indigenous Chamorro people mirrors that of Native Americans (and Ainu in Japan and Russia). And the contemporary neo-colonial exploitation of their lands mirrors what is happening to Native Americans as well (and Ainu and other indigenous people who live in Sakhalin, given Russia's exploitation of that island for oil).


Warheit has a great blog with the latest on oppostion the proposed military expansion on Guam (1/3 of the island is already covered with military bases). Her Jan. 8 post, "What's at Stake" outlines a fact sheet detailing the devasting impacts to the environment and quality of life of the residents, including the indigenous Chamorro:
Koohan Paik has assembled a fact sheet about the proposed military buildup on Guam. This concise document distills the intimidating 11,000 page EIS document (released in November by the military) into something the average person can wrap their head around.

The results are chilling. Just a few of the many disastrous effects outlined in the EIS:

* Depletion of Guam's fresh water supply

* Destruction of historic archaeological and sacred cultural sites

* Dredging of 2.3 million square feet of fragile coral reef (that's 40 football fields!)

* Destruction of the largest mangrove forest on US soil
... and the list goes on and on.

In addition to the obvious environmental disaster this buildup portends, I think it's really important to keep in mind the threats it also poses to the endangered Chamoru culture. I'm posting here two videos (one of them is posted here) highlighting traditional island culture - they are inspiring, and remind us all of what is at stake.

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