Traditional Chamorro Healers Could Receive 15 Acres Of Land In Guam

Proposed bill would help 'perpetuate the practice of Chamorro medicinal healing arts'

By Chloe B Babauta

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 28, 2016) – Fifteen acres of land in Mangilao may be dedicated to preserve the Chamorro indigenous art of herbal healing, according to a bill discussed during Monday's legislative session.

Sen. Tom Ada's Bill 362-33 builds on Public Law 30-32, which sets aside property to perpetuate the practice of Chamorro medicinal healing arts.

The law authorized the Chamorro Land Trust Commission to designate two parcels of land, in the north and south of Guam, to establish a biodiversity conservation easement, Hatdin Amot Chamorro. It was also enacted to allow the Haya Foundation, which focuses on perpetuating indigenous healing practices, to transplant, cultivate and perpetuate native flora used for healing.

The bill states the Mangilao tract of land will be designated to give Chamorro traditional healers, or suruhana and suruhanu, access to the plants that would otherwise not be accessible on land taken by the military. It would protect a variety of plants and the land from residential or commercial development.

The tract in Mangilao for Hatdin Amot Chamorro will be near the Onward Mangilao Golf Club, Ada said.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, said she has been working with the Haya Foundation for a few years and stressed the importance of preserving the traditional healing arts on Guam.

During the Festival of Pacific Arts in May and June, healers from different islands gathered to discuss how to approach the growing problem of slowly losing their tradition of herbal healing, Won Pat said.

“We’re seeing that it’s far worse on Guam than it is in some of the other islands, primarily because some of the things that … happened most recently is that with this military buildup … many of these herbal plants … are inside the base in the north,” she said.

“The unfortunate thing about it is that some of these you can’t just pick them at the hour set by the military.”

There are specific times of the day when plants must be picked to follow traditional healing practices, and for optimum use, including early in the morning or around sunset, Won Pat said.

Growing the plants in an area open to healers would allow them to freely harvest the plants at the proper times, she said.

To qualify to use a parcel of the Hatdin Amot Chamorro, an applicant must be a member or officer of a registered nonprofit organization dealing with the advancement of Chamorro traditional healing or culture, a suruhana or suruhanu or an apprentice.

Two young women are training to become suruhana by healers both on Guam and in neighboring islands, Won Pat said.

“The hope is in this bill … by providing, putting aside lands so that then these indigenous practices of traditional healing, through medicinal plants … can thrive, can continue, and also the hopes of teaching the younger generation about this particular practice,” she said.

Pacific Daily News
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