Environmental Impacts of US Militarism on Guam (United Nations Testimony, 2008)

In 2008, I testified to the United Nations Committee on Decolonization about the environmental impacts of United States militarization on Guam. Below is my testimony.

*

Hafa Adai distinguished members of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) and Chairman, H.E. Mr. Jorge Arguello,

My name is Craig Santos Perez and I’m a poet and native son of Guam. I represent the

Guahan Indigenous Collective, a grassroots organization committed to keeping Chamoru culture alive through public education and artistic expression. I’m here to testify about the fangs of militarization and colonialism destroying the Chamoru people of Guam.

These fangs dig deep. During and immediately after World War Two, brown tree snakes invaded Guam as stowaways on U.S. naval cargo ships. By 1968, the snakes colonized the entire island, their population reaching a density of 13,000 per square mile. As a result, Guam’s seabirds, 10 of 13 endemic species of forest birds, 2 of 3 native mammals, and 6 of 10 native species of lizards have all gone extinct.

The U.S. plans to introduce—this time intentionally—a more familiar breed of predators to Guam: an estimated 19,000 military personnel and 20,000 of their dependants, along with numerous overseas businesses and 20,000 contract workers to support the military build-up. Add this to the 14,000 military personnel already on Guam, and that’s a combined total of 73,000—outnumbering the entire Chamoru population on Guam, which is roughly 62,900.

This hyper-militarization poses grave implications for our human right to self-determination because the U.S. currently asserts that its citizens—this transient population—have a “constitutional” right to vote in our plebiscite.

Furthermore, this hyper-militarization (continuing a long history of militarization on Guam), will severely devastate our environmental, social, physical and cultural health. Since World War II, military dumping and nuclear testing has contaminated the Pacific with PCBs and radiation. In addition, PCBs and other military toxic waste have choked the breath out of the largest barrier reef system of Guam, poisoning fish and fishing grounds. As recently as July of this year, the USS Houston, a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine home-ported on Guam, leaked trace amounts of radioactivity into our waters.

The violation doesn’t end on our shores; the military also occupies and infects our ancestral lands. Currently, the U.S. military occupies a third of the island, and the impending build-up has interrupted the return of federal excess lands tooriginal land owners and threatens to claim more lands for live fire training. Not only has the U.S. continued to deprive us of our right to land, but they also pollute these lands.

Eighty contaminated military dumpsites still exist on Guam. The now civilian Ordot landfill (a former World War Two military dumpsite) contains 17 toxic chemicals, including arsenic, lead, chromium, PCBs, and cyanide. The same 17 pollutants are also found in the landfills located over the island’s aquifer at Andersen Air Force Base in northern Guam.

While the U.S. military erodes the integrity of our land, expectations from the military build-up have more than doubled real estate prices and tripled home costs. Coupled with a struggling economy and rising living costs, many landless Chamorus have been economically coerced to leave the island and others have become homeless. Even our ancestors are being affected: a $30 million expansion of the Guam Hotel Okura has excavated an ancient Chamoru cemetery. More than 300 ancestral remains have already been unearthed.

While new condominiums, hotels, and high-end homes are beginning to rise, the sky is falling. In July 2007, an F/A-18C Hornet crashed in the waters around Guam during a training mission. This year, at least 3 other military aircrafts have crashed in or near Andersen Air Force Base.

U.S. colonial presence has not only damaged our bodies of land and water, but it’s deteriorated our physical bodies as well. The military used Guam as a decontamination site during its nuclear testing in the 1970s, which resulted in massive radiation and agent orange and purple exposure. High incidences of various kinds of cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases, such amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinsonism-dementia, and Lytico-Botig plague the Chamoru people. Toxic chemicals have snaked into our bloodstream, causing multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, renal dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, deafness, blindness, epilepsy, seizures, arthritis, anemia, stillbirths, and infertility—all of which Chamorus disproportionately suffer. And because our mental health is woven to our physical health, Chamorus suffer dramatically high rates of incarceration, family violence, substance abuse, teenage suicides, and school drop-outs. The presence of the U.S. military has choked the breath out of our daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

Like the last totot (Marianas Fruit-dove) on Guam being slowly swallowed by the brown tree snake, Chamorus are being disappeared. Diseases have killed most of our elders: only five percent of the island is over the age of 65. Young Chamorus are joining the U.S. military and dying in America’s wars at alarming rates. In 2005, four of the U.S. Army’s top twelve recruitment producers were based on Guam. In 2007, Guam ranked No. 1 for recruiting success in the Army National Guard’s assessment of 54 states and territories. In the current war on terror, our killed-in-action rate is now five times the US national average. Since the war on terror began in 2001, 29 sons of Micronesia have died–17 of them from Guam.

In terms of population, Chamorus constituted 45 percent of Guam’s population in 1980; in 1990, 43 percent; in 2000, 37 percent. In devastating contrast, the planned influx of non-Chamorus will increase Guam’s overall population by about 30 percent, causing a 20-year population growth over the next five years. History repeats itself: more foreign snakes, fewer native birds.

The U.S. Pentagon is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) for the build-up. However, the study is problematic in a number of ways, including the rushed speed of the study (a mere 2 years, with a 2009 completion date); the framing of the “impact” (which excludes many social, health, and environmental issues and focuses on economic “positives”); and the research methods (which relies on outdated data sets and “experts” composed mainly of the political and business elite). These Impact Statements are only invested in legitimizing the military buildup.

The door of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in the 21st Century will not be open for much longer. And even though powerful snakes block our passage, we are willing to struggle for our rights—but we need your help.

The Fourth Committee must give top priority to the fulfillment of our inalienable right to self-determination, as affirmed by General Resolutions 1514 and 1541, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Fourth Committee must immediately enact the process of decolonization for Guam in lieu of the severe, irreversible impact of U.S. militarization. This process must include a fully funded and far-reaching education campaign informing all Chamorus from Guam of our right to self-determination and decolonization options.

The Fourth Committee must thoroughly investigate the administering power’s non- compliance with its treaty obligations under the Charter of the United Nations to promote economic, social, and cultural well-being on Guam.

The Fourth Committee must send UN representatives to the island within the next six months to asses the implications of US militarization plans on the decolonization of Guam, and the human rights implications of the cumulative impacts of the US military’s presence on our island.

The Fourth Committee must contact Guam leaders and delegates who have presented testimony before this body, and UN funding must be allocated immediately to advance this study. We cannot rely on faulty impact studies conducted by the US, which are used to justify their actions rather than truly assess their impacts on our island.

Finally, the Fourth Committee must comply with the recommendations of other UN agencies, especially the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which recently requested an expert seminar be held to examine the impact of the UN decolonization process on indigenous peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories. This committee must prioritize collaboration with Chamoru organizations and experts, such as I Nasion Chamoru, Famoksaiyan, Fuetsan Famalao’an and all those who have provided testimony in the past two decades.

Thank you for listening, and I hope we can continue to work towards achieving decolonization and self-determination for the indigenous Chamoru people of Guam.

—Sinangan Si Craig Santos Perez

Guahan Indigenous Collective

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Environmental Impacts of US Militarism on Guam (United Nations Testimony, 2008)

In 2008, I testified to the United Nations Committee on Decolonization about the environmental impacts of United States militarization on Guam. Below is my testimony.

*

Hafa Adai distinguished members of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) and Chairman, H.E. Mr. Jorge Arguello,

My name is Craig Santos Perez and I’m a poet and native son of Guam. I represent the

Guahan Indigenous Collective, a grassroots organization committed to keeping Chamoru culture alive through public education and artistic expression. I’m here to testify about the fangs of militarization and colonialism destroying the Chamoru people of Guam.

These fangs dig deep. During and immediately after World War Two, brown tree snakes invaded Guam as stowaways on U.S. naval cargo ships. By 1968, the snakes colonized the entire island, their population reaching a density of 13,000 per square mile. As a result, Guam’s seabirds, 10 of 13 endemic species of forest birds, 2 of 3 native mammals, and 6 of 10 native species of lizards have all gone extinct.

The U.S. plans to introduce—this time intentionally—a more familiar breed of predators to Guam: an estimated 19,000 military personnel and 20,000 of their dependants, along with numerous overseas businesses and 20,000 contract workers to support the military build-up. Add this to the 14,000 military personnel already on Guam, and that’s a combined total of 73,000—outnumbering the entire Chamoru population on Guam, which is roughly 62,900.

This hyper-militarization poses grave implications for our human right to self-determination because the U.S. currently asserts that its citizens—this transient population—have a “constitutional” right to vote in our plebiscite.

Furthermore, this hyper-militarization (continuing a long history of militarization on Guam), will severely devastate our environmental, social, physical and cultural health. Since World War II, military dumping and nuclear testing has contaminated the Pacific with PCBs and radiation. In addition, PCBs and other military toxic waste have choked the breath out of the largest barrier reef system of Guam, poisoning fish and fishing grounds. As recently as July of this year, the USS Houston, a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine home-ported on Guam, leaked trace amounts of radioactivity into our waters.

The violation doesn’t end on our shores; the military also occupies and infects our ancestral lands. Currently, the U.S. military occupies a third of the island, and the impending build-up has interrupted the return of federal excess lands tooriginal land owners and threatens to claim more lands for live fire training. Not only has the U.S. continued to deprive us of our right to land, but they also pollute these lands.

Eighty contaminated military dumpsites still exist on Guam. The now civilian Ordot landfill (a former World War Two military dumpsite) contains 17 toxic chemicals, including arsenic, lead, chromium, PCBs, and cyanide. The same 17 pollutants are also found in the landfills located over the island’s aquifer at Andersen Air Force Base in northern Guam.

While the U.S. military erodes the integrity of our land, expectations from the military build-up have more than doubled real estate prices and tripled home costs. Coupled with a struggling economy and rising living costs, many landless Chamorus have been economically coerced to leave the island and others have become homeless. Even our ancestors are being affected: a $30 million expansion of the Guam Hotel Okura has excavated an ancient Chamoru cemetery. More than 300 ancestral remains have already been unearthed.

While new condominiums, hotels, and high-end homes are beginning to rise, the sky is falling. In July 2007, an F/A-18C Hornet crashed in the waters around Guam during a training mission. This year, at least 3 other military aircrafts have crashed in or near Andersen Air Force Base.

U.S. colonial presence has not only damaged our bodies of land and water, but it’s deteriorated our physical bodies as well. The military used Guam as a decontamination site during its nuclear testing in the 1970s, which resulted in massive radiation and agent orange and purple exposure. High incidences of various kinds of cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases, such amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinsonism-dementia, and Lytico-Botig plague the Chamoru people. Toxic chemicals have snaked into our bloodstream, causing multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, renal dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, deafness, blindness, epilepsy, seizures, arthritis, anemia, stillbirths, and infertility—all of which Chamorus disproportionately suffer. And because our mental health is woven to our physical health, Chamorus suffer dramatically high rates of incarceration, family violence, substance abuse, teenage suicides, and school drop-outs. The presence of the U.S. military has choked the breath out of our daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

Like the last totot (Marianas Fruit-dove) on Guam being slowly swallowed by the brown tree snake, Chamorus are being disappeared. Diseases have killed most of our elders: only five percent of the island is over the age of 65. Young Chamorus are joining the U.S. military and dying in America’s wars at alarming rates. In 2005, four of the U.S. Army’s top twelve recruitment producers were based on Guam. In 2007, Guam ranked No. 1 for recruiting success in the Army National Guard’s assessment of 54 states and territories. In the current war on terror, our killed-in-action rate is now five times the US national average. Since the war on terror began in 2001, 29 sons of Micronesia have died–17 of them from Guam.

In terms of population, Chamorus constituted 45 percent of Guam’s population in 1980; in 1990, 43 percent; in 2000, 37 percent. In devastating contrast, the planned influx of non-Chamorus will increase Guam’s overall population by about 30 percent, causing a 20-year population growth over the next five years. History repeats itself: more foreign snakes, fewer native birds.

The U.S. Pentagon is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) for the build-up. However, the study is problematic in a number of ways, including the rushed speed of the study (a mere 2 years, with a 2009 completion date); the framing of the “impact” (which excludes many social, health, and environmental issues and focuses on economic “positives”); and the research methods (which relies on outdated data sets and “experts” composed mainly of the political and business elite). These Impact Statements are only invested in legitimizing the military buildup.

The door of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism in the 21st Century will not be open for much longer. And even though powerful snakes block our passage, we are willing to struggle for our rights—but we need your help.

The Fourth Committee must give top priority to the fulfillment of our inalienable right to self-determination, as affirmed by General Resolutions 1514 and 1541, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Fourth Committee must immediately enact the process of decolonization for Guam in lieu of the severe, irreversible impact of U.S. militarization. This process must include a fully funded and far-reaching education campaign informing all Chamorus from Guam of our right to self-determination and decolonization options.

The Fourth Committee must thoroughly investigate the administering power’s non- compliance with its treaty obligations under the Charter of the United Nations to promote economic, social, and cultural well-being on Guam.

The Fourth Committee must send UN representatives to the island within the next six months to asses the implications of US militarization plans on the decolonization of Guam, and the human rights implications of the cumulative impacts of the US military’s presence on our island.

The Fourth Committee must contact Guam leaders and delegates who have presented testimony before this body, and UN funding must be allocated immediately to advance this study. We cannot rely on faulty impact studies conducted by the US, which are used to justify their actions rather than truly assess their impacts on our island.

Finally, the Fourth Committee must comply with the recommendations of other UN agencies, especially the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which recently requested an expert seminar be held to examine the impact of the UN decolonization process on indigenous peoples of the Non Self-Governing Territories. This committee must prioritize collaboration with Chamoru organizations and experts, such as I Nasion Chamoru, Famoksaiyan, Fuetsan Famalao’an and all those who have provided testimony in the past two decades.

Thank you for listening, and I hope we can continue to work towards achieving decolonization and self-determination for the indigenous Chamoru people of Guam.

—Sinangan Si Craig Santos Perez

Guahan Indigenous Collective

“Off-Island Chamorros”

“Off-Island Chamorros”

My family migrated to California when I was 15 years old.
During the first day at my new high school, the homeroom
teacher asked me where I was from.“The Mariana Islands,”
I answered. He replied: “I’ve never heard of that place.
Prove it exists.” And when I stepped in front of the world map
on the wall, it transformed into a mirror: the Pacific Ocean,
like my body, was split in two and flayed to the margins. I
found Australia, then the Philippines, then Japan. I pointed
to an empty space between them and said: “I’m from this
invisible archipelago.” Everyone laughed. And even though
I descend from oceanic navigators, I felt so lost, shipwrecked

on the coast of a strange continent. “Are you a citizen?”
he probed. “Yes. My island, Guam, is a U.S. territory.”
We attend American schools, eat American food, listen
to American music, watch American movies and television,
play American sports, learn American history, dream
American dreams, and die in American wars. “You
speak English well,” he proclaimed, “with almost no
accent.” And isn’t that what it means to be a diasporic
Chamorro: to feel foreign in a domestic sense.

Over the last 50 years, Chamorros have migrated to
escape the violent memories of war; to seek jobs, schools,
hospitals, adventure, and love; but most of all, we’ve migrated
for military service, deployed and stationed to bases around
the world. According to the 2010 census, 44,000 Chamorros
live in California, 15,000 in Washington, 10,000 in Texas,
7,000 in Hawaii, and 70,000 more in every other state
and even Puerto Rico. We are the most “geographically
dispersed” Pacific Islander population within the United
States, and off-island Chamorros now outnumber
our on-island kin, with generations having been born
away from our ancestral homelands, including my daughter.

Some of us will be able to return home for holidays, weddings,
and funerals; others won’t be able to afford the expensive
plane ticket to the Western Pacific. Years and even decades                                              might pass between trips, and each visit will feel too short.
We’ll lose contact with family and friends, and the island
will continue to change until it becomes unfamiliar to us.
And isn’t that, too, what it means to be a diasporic
Chamorro: to feel foreign in your own homeland.

And there’ll will be times when we’ll feel adrift, without itinerary
or destination. We’ll wonder: What if we stayed? What if we
return? When the undertow of these questions begins
pulling you out to sea, remember: migration flows through
our blood like the aerial roots of i trongkon nunu. Remember:
our ancestors taught us how to carry our culture in the canoes
of our bodies. Remember: our people, scattered like stars,
form new constellations when we gather. Remember:
home is not simply a house, village, or island; home
is an archipelago of belonging.

New Anthology: Home Islands: New Art & Writing from Guahan & Hawaiʻi

 

Home Islands Final Cover 2017

Home(is)lands: New Art and Writing from Guahan and Hawaii, edited by Brandy Nalani McDougall and Craig Santos Perez.

Purchase from Amazon here.

“Despite the vast distance between Hawaii and Guahan (Guam), these islands and their peoples have experienced similar cultural, historical, ecological, and political struggles. Writers and artists from both places have been engaged in unwriting colonial representations and envisioning decolonial futures. This anthology acts as a cross-current between our home(is)lands, weaving our voices across the New Oceania.”

Writers and artists include April Drexel, Selina Onedera-Salas, D Keali’i MacKenzie, Jay Pascua, Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker, Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’, Noʻu Revilla, Cara Flores, Ashlee Lena Affonso, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Lyz Soto, Alfred Peredo Flores, Michael Puleloa, Desiree Taimanglo-Venture, Lufi A. Matā’afa Luteru, Julian Aguon, Kapulani Landgraf, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Jessi DeVera, and Aiko Yamashiro!

On Editing & Publishing Pacific Literature

Over the past ten years, I have worked many hours editing, publishing, and promoting Pacific Islander literature. I hope these efforts will bring more attention to our talented authors and vibrant cultures. Here is a summary of the many editorial projects I have been involved in, and I hope you will support us by buying our books and reading our stories.

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ALA PRESS:  I co-founded Ala Press with Brandy Nālani McDougall in 2011, and it is the only independent publisher that focuses entirely on indigenous Pacific Islander poetry in the United States. Thus far we have published 4 single author collections and 2 anthologies.

sourcing siapo by penina ava taesali (2016)

passages in between i(s)lands (2014)

pereira

 

Squid out of Water: The Evolution (2014)

Kamali

Afakasi Speaks (2013)

taylor

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Matamai 2: Intersecting Knowledge Across the Diaspora (2012)

51uKCnEEQwL._AC_US218_

A Penny for Our Thoughts: A collection of poems from the Kamehameha Schools class of 2011

penny-frontcover1

 

Nafanua: Works from Writers and Artists who attended the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa (2011)

nafanuafront1

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UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA PRESS, SUN TRACKS: In 2011, I joined the editorial board of Sun Tracks, the longest running publishing series of indigenous literature, housed at the University of Arizona Press. My role on the board is to bring on native Pacific Islander authors into the series. Thus far, we have published 2 collections of poetry:

Coconut Milk (2013) by Dan Taulapapa McMullin

coconut-milk

Iep Jaltok
Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (2017)

41jBKvL4rCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

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GUEST EDITORSHIP: In 2013, I was a guest editor for Tinfish Press, through which was published one book:

A Bell Made of Stones by Lehua Taitano (2013)

Taitano-Cover

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ACHIOTE PRESS: This is a press I co-edited before Ala Press. We published 2 books related to Pacific literature.

In 2009, I co-edited an anthology, Chamoru Childhood. This book is now out of print, but if you would like a PDF copy just let me know.

chamoruchildhood

Matamai: The Vasa in Us (Out of Print)

41+TxgYoHeL._BO1,204,203,200_

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POETRY MAGAZINE: In 2016, I edited the first ever feature of Pacific Islander poetry for Poetry Magazine.

Pacific Islander Folio (July/August 2016)

7-8_2016_Cover-360

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SPECIAL ISSUES: Over the years I have also guest-edited several special issues in literary journals:

  1. “Pacific Islander Poetry and Poetics,” feature in West Branch Literary Journal (2017)
  2. “Six Pacific Islander Poets,” special folio of Literary Hub (April 2016)
  3. New Oceania Interview Series: featuring interviews with Audrey Brown-Periera, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Lehua Taitano, and Noʻu Revilla (Essay Press, 2015)
  4. “Nanan Tano is calling for you”: Four Contemporary Chamoru Poets, Special Feature for The Offending Adam, (2011).
  5. “Kantan Chamorrita: Contemporary Chamoru Poetry,” Special Feature for The Platte Valley Review, Volume 33, Winter 2011.

DATABASE: I have also worked with the Poetry Foundation to create an ongoing database of Pacific Islander author information. You can read it here. In conjunction, I have created a YouTube playlist of hundreds of videos of Pacific Islanders performing poetry. You can view it here.

“Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene, 2015” (Poem)

Thank you, instant mashed potatoes, your bland taste

makes me feel like an average American. Thank you,

incarcerated Americans, for filling the labor shortage

and packing potatoes in Idaho. Thank you, canned

cranberry sauce, for your gelatinous curves. Thank you,

Ojibwe tribe in Wisconsin, your lake is now polluted

with phosphate-laden discharge from nearby cranberry

bogs. Thank you, crisp green beans, you are my excuse

for eating apple pie ala mode later. Thank you, indigenous

migrant workers, for picking the beans in Mexico’s farm belt,

may your children survive the season. Thank you, NAFTA,

for making life dirt cheap. Thank you, Butterball Turkey,

for the word, butterball, which I repeat all day butterball,

butterball, butterball because it helps me swallow the bones

of genocide. Thank you, dark meat for being so juicy

(no offense, dry and fragile white meat, you matter too).

Thank you, 90 million factory farmed turkeys, for giving

your lives during the holidays. Thank you, factory farm

workers, for clipping turkey toes and beaks so they don’t scratch

and peck each other in overcrowded, dark sheds. Thank you,

genetic engineering and antibiotics, for accelerating

their growth. Thank you, stunning tank, for immobilizing

most of the turkeys hanging upside down by crippled legs.

Thank you, stainless steel knives, for your sharpened

edge and thirst for throat. Thank you, de-feathering

tank, for your scalding-hot water, for finally killing the last

still conscious turkeys. Thank you, turkey tails, for feeding

Pacific Islanders all year round. Thank you, empire of

slaughter, for never wasting your fatty leftovers. Thank you,

tryptophan, for the promise of an afternoon nap;

I really need it. Thank you, store bought stuffing,

for your ambiguously ethnic flavor, you remind me

that I’m not an average American. Thank you, gravy,

for being hot-off-the-boat and the most beautiful

brown. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me at the table

of this poem. Please join hands, bow your heads, and repeat

after me: “Let us bless the hands that harvest and butcher

our food, bless the hands that drive delivery trucks

and stock grocery shelves, bless the hands that cooked

and paid for this meal, bless the hands that bind

our hands and force feed our endless mouth.

May we forgive each other and be forgiven.

Lannan Literary Fellowship

I am happy to share that I have received a 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship in Poetry! Below is the press release from the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa:

Craig Santos Perez, an associate professor in the UHM Department of English, has been awarded the 2016 Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry in recognition of his distinctive literary merit and potential for continued outstanding work. This is Perez’s second distinguished honor in a short period of time; he also received a 2015 American Book Award for from unincorporated territory [guma’] .

The fellowship provides Perez with a monetary award, as well as a residency at the Lannan properties in Marfa, Texas. The residency, typically 4 to 6 weeks long, will afford Perez the time and opportunity to immerse himself in an environment ideal for writing among other writers.  In total, the Lannan Foundation presented $850,000 to seven authors who received either the 2016 Literary Award or Literary Fellowship.

“I am honored and grateful to receive the Lannan fellowship, which will support the completion of my next book of poems,” said Perez.  “As the first Pacific Islander author to receive the Lannan, I hope this will bring further attention to the literature and political issues of the Pacific.”

Perez, a native Chamorro from Guam, has co-edited two anthologies of Pacific literature and authored three books of poetry.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and an MA and PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  Besides teaching in the UHM English department, he is also an affiliate faculty member in the Center for Pacific Island Studies and the Indigenous Politics Program of the Department of Political Science.

The Lannan Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity through projects that support exceptional contemporary artists and writers, as well as inspired native activists in rural indigenous communities.

Through its Literary Awards and Fellowships program, the Lannan Foundation hopes to stimulate the creation of literature written originally in the English language, and to develop a wider audience for contemporary prose and poetry.  Candidates for the awards and fellowships are recommended to Lannan Foundation by a network of writers, literary scholars, publishers and editors.

The College of Languages, Linguistics & Literature (one of the four Arts & Sciences colleges) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa offers a broad curriculum in English, foreign and heritage languages and literatures, second language studies and linguistics.  Its Asia and Pacific focused curricula is unique in the nation.  The faculty regularly teaches more than 25 languages, and has the capacity to teach many more.

New Poem “Water is Life”

in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all peoples protecting the sacred waters of this earth

water is life becuz our bodies are 60 percent water

becuz my wife labored for 24 hours through contracting waves

becuz our sweat is mostly water and salt

becuz she breathed and breathed and breathed

water is life becuz our lungs are 80 percent water

becuz water broke forth from her body

becuz amniotic fluid is 90 percent water

becuz our daughter crowned like a new island

water is life becuz our blue planet is 70 percent water

becuz some say water came from asteroids and comets

becuz some say the ocean formed within the earth from the beginning

becuz water broke forth from shifting tectonic plates

becuz we say our gods created water

becuz no human has found a way to safely create water

water is life because we can’t drink oil

becuz water is the next oil

becuz we wage war over gods and water and oil

water is life becuz only 3 percent of global water is freshwater

becuz the water footprint of an average american is 2000 gallons a day

becuz it takes 660 gallons of water to make one hamburger

becuz more than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water

becuz in some countries women and children walk 4 miles every day to gather clean water & carry it home

becuz we can’t desalinate the entire ocean

water is life becuz if you lose 5 percent of your body’s water your body will become feverish

becuz if you lose 10 percent of your body’s water your body will become immobile

becuz we can survive a month without food but less than a week without water

water is life becuz we proclaim water a human right

becuz we grant bodies of water rights to personhood

water is life becuz the ocean is 99% of the biosphere

becuz some countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

becuz from this coastline to 200 nautical miles is the nation’s exclusive economic zone

becuz my wife says the Hawaiian word for wealth, waiwai, comes from their word for water, wai

water is life becuz corporations steal, privatize, dam, and bottle our waters

becuz sugar, pineapple, corn, soy, and gmo plantations divert our waters

becuz concentrated animal feeding operations consume our waters

becuz pesticides, chemicals, oil, weapons, and waste poison our waters

water is life becuz we say stop, you are hurting our ancestors

becuz they say we thought this was a wasteland

becuz we say stop, keep the oil in the ground

becuz they say we thought these bones were fuel

becuz we say stop, water is sacred 

becuz they say we thought water is a commodity

becuz we say we are not leaving

becuz they say we thought you were vanishing

becuz we are water warriors and peaceful protectors

becuz they call us savage and primitive and riot

becuz we bring our feathers and lei and sage and shells and canoes and hashtags and totems

becuz they bring their bulldozers and drills and permits and surveillance drones and helicopters

becuz we bring our treaties and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

becuz they bring their banks and politicians and police and private militia and national guard and lawyers

becuz we bring our songs and schools and lawyers and prayers and ceremonies

becuz they bring their barking dogs and paychecks and pepper spray and rubber bullets

becuz we bring all our relations and all our generations and all our livestreams

water is life becuz our drumming sounds like rain after drought echoing against our taut skin

water is life becuz our blood is 90 percent water

becuz every minute a child dies from water-borne diseases

becuz every day thousands of children die from water-borne diseases

becuz every year millions of children die from water-borne diseases

water is life becuz my daughter loves playing in the ocean

becuz someday my daughter will ask us, “where does the ocean end?”

becuz we will point to the dilating horizon

water is life becuz our eyes are 95 percent water

becuz we will tell her that the ocean has no end

becuz we will tell her that the sky and clouds carry the ocean

becuz we will tell her that the mountains embrace the ocean into a blessing of rain

becuz we will tell her that the ocean rain fills aquifers and lakes

becuz we will tell her that the ocean rain flows into the Missouri River

becuz we will tell her that ocean rain river water connects us to our cousins at Standing Rock

becuz we will tell her about the sacred stone of a mother holding her child

becuz we will tell her that the Sioux are still there, still breathing

water is life becuz our hearts are 75 percent water

becuz i will whisper to her, while she is sleeping, “hanom hanom hanom,” my people’s word for

water, so that our dreams of water will carry us home

water is life, water is life, water is life