Chamorro Cultural Advocate Says CNMI Government Should Balance Development, Cultural Protection

Hofschneider rejects need to 'fast-track' projects; Government should have 'courage to halt development'

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 2, 2016) – Chamorro cultural and heritage advocate Liana Hofschneider says it is about time that someone in the government acquires the courage to halt development to ensure that there is a balance between development and cultural-and historical-heritage protection.

She said there should never be a reason to “fast-track” any development especially in “a fragile and pristine island environment.”

“This must be one of the highest considerations,” she said, commenting on the ongoing development projects and the role of various regulatory agencies in safeguarding the historical artifacts of the islands.

“One-stop” regulatory permitting processes are pro-development, she said, and in many instances, have compromised the island’s cultural heritage.

Once the cultural heritage and historical resources are gone, they are lost forever, she added.

“We must always be mindful of future generations. If we are reckless in our decision-making process and in what and how we manage our cultural resources then we will compromise those cultural resources that should be passed down for the generations of Chamorro children, including other migrants who have made the CNMI their home.”

Hofschneider said existing laws, policies, rules and regulations should be revisited and improved.

“Laws that facilitate the destruction of our cultural heritage resources should be repealed or abolished. P.L. 3-39 and P.L. 15-2 are two of the fundamental laws that facilitated the desecration of our sacred ancient Chamorro burial ground of Anaguan,” she added.

She said regulatory agencies and the CNMI leadership should decide how they will deal with a development project, and they should encourage the involvement of non-profit organizations and heritage advocates.

“There must be enough community engagement and involvement to reach consensus and provide sound policies, rules and regulations that will ensure that we protect and preserve what needs to be passed down to future generations.”

Hofschneider said the CNMI must protect and preserve for the future what has been passed down from their Chamorro ancestors.

“That is priceless because it can never be replaced — it ts our heritage. And once it is compromised, it will never be the same, and will be forever lost.”

She said there is an annual inventory of sites considered “significant,” but added that the Historic Preservation Office has done a poor job in identifying, preserving and protecting many of the ancient and Latte period sites.

She added that HPO does not have any information that ensures that these sites are part of historical landmarks to be included in the National Registry of Historic Places such as Anaguan, Agingan, Obyan/Naftan, Kagman, etc., including sites on Rota and Tinian.

Many of those sites have been neglected and have not been given the proper attention that they deserve, she said.

There are also a very limited number of sites that have been included in the National Registry such as the Taga House in Tinian, As Nieves in Rota and Laulau on Saipan that are part of our ancient cultural heritage, she said, adding that there should be more NMI sites included in the National Registry.

She said during her last meeting with HPO’s new staff archaeologist, Jim Pruitt, they discussed working on a comprehensive survey of all ancient and Latte period sites, of ancient Chamorro villages and cultural sites.

“Pruitt said he is interested in doing the survey project, but not at the moment,” she said, adding that Pruitt is still working on many archaeological reports left behind by previous staff archaeologists and on other HPO documents, World War II relics and historical sites.

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