As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Jaye Sablan – Poetry

åpuya[1]

after brother
gives birth
to sky earth and sea

sister releases
the breath of life
as first pattera[2]
and animates the world

ya humuyong na taiguini gui[3]

from above
totot yan fanihi[4]
flap their wings

ya humuyong na taiguini gui

from center
åtes yan niyok[5]
wait for mouths

ya humuyong na taiguini gui
from below
guihan yan haggan[6]
ride the currents

these, our first relations
forever sacred
born-free

then sister
with skin bone and heart
nearly spent
made one last sacrifice

her navel-flesh
fell from the heavens
onto the shoreline

and just before hardening
into rock
from salt winds
and sun strokes

the people sprang forth
to work and love the land
and one another


[1] Chamoru word for umbilical cord.
[2] midwife
[3] Roughly translates as “and so it came to be that.”  Thank you to Chamoru scholar Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua for assisting me with the translation.
[4] fruit dove and fruit bat
[5] sugar apple and coconut
[6] fish and turtle

a brief chronology of chenchule[1]

the spaniards got it all wrong
we were never las islas de ladrones[2]
we are the islands of chenchule’

they took our land
and gave us catholic guilt
a really poor understanding of chenchule’

before the war broke out
grandpa was slapped at school
for speaking chamoru
naigai ichinyo[3] policy was not chenchule’

and chenchule’ was never north field
or little boy
or fat man either
that was the u.s. military[4]

when i was five years old
chenchule’ was my mother’s generous nature
and a stretched welfare check
on guahan[5]

nowadays
you can still find chenchule’
in every home on saipan

but it is not at the
office of insular affairs
u.s. department of the interior
p.o. box 2622
saipan, mp 96950

chenchule’ can not be assimilated
it is an umbilical cord
that binds me to puntan and fu’una[6]
chenchule’ is protocol
i live on duwamish land[7]
and honor the first people

no matter what the anthropologists say
chenchule’ is not dead

because when i go to potlucks
i cook more
than enough food
for all my queer friends

chenchule’ is tumuge’ påpa’[8]
writing it down
to not forget

for you and for me


[1] Chamoru word for social reciprocity or mutual care.  It is a fundamental value of ancient and contemporary Indigenous Chamoru culture.
[2] Spanish for “The Islands of Thieves.” Spanish colonization of the Mariana Islands began in the 1500s.

[3] From 1941-1944, a term that described Japan and its Pacific Island colonies as a singular national body.

[4] During WWII, the U.S. military launched the atomic bombs Fat Man and Little Boy from North Field airbase to Japan.  North Field was located on the island of Tinian.

[5] Guahan, the indigenous name for the island of Guam, meaning “we have.”  Guahan is one of several islands in the Mariana Islands archipelago, including Tinian, Saipan, and Rota among others.  The Mariana Islands are the ancestral homelands of the Chamoru people.

[6] From the Chamoru creation story, Puntan and Fu’una were brother and sister who created the world and all living beings.

[7] Seattle is ceded territory belonging to the Duwamish peoples.  The city’s name is derived from Chief Si’ahl—a prominent Duwamish/Suquamish leader who resisted colonialism.  The violent imposition of White settlements began around the 1830s in Western Washington.  The Duwamish are active in community efforts to promote the health and well-being of their people and land and to secure federal recognition.

[8] “Writing it down.”  I take inspiration from Chamoru scholar Dr. Christine Taitano DeLisle’s conceptual framing of tumuge’ påpa’ as a decolonial practice.

 


JSablanPhoto

Jaye Sablan is a genderqueer Indigenous Chamoru from San Antonio Village, Saipan in the Mariana Islands. As a first-generation college student, Jaye navigated the academic industrial complex with the support of family, friends and mentors—eventually earning an M.A. in Feminist Studies at the University of Washington with honors.  She was awarded the prestigious GO-MAP/Ronald E. McNair Fellowship for her studies. Jaye is also an indigenous feminist teacher, writer and activist who finds community in intersectional, social justice movements. Currently co-editing an anthology of writing and visual art for and by queer and trans Native Chamorus titled ‘Our Bodies Are Sacred’, she lives as a humble visitor on the homelands of the Duwamish peoples—also known as Seattle.


 

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