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Guam Land Could Go to Traditional Chamorro Healers

Map of Guam

Guam lawmakers are considering legislation that would dedicate 15 acres of land on the eastern shore of the island to preserve the Chamorro indigenous art of herbal healing.

The bill was discussed during Monday's legislative session, The Pacific Daily News reported (

The proposal states that the land in Mangilao will be designated to increase access to plants for Chamorro traditional healers, or suruhana and suruhanu. It would also protect a variety of plants and the land from residential or commercial development.

Speaker Judith Won Pat said preserving the traditional healing arts on Guam is a challenge because many herbal plants are on military land.

"The unfortunate thing about it is that some of these you can't just pick them at the hour set by the military," Won Pat said.

There plants must be picked at a certain time of day in order to follow traditional healing practices as well as for optimum use, including early in the morning or around sunset, she said.

The bill brought by Sen. Tom Ada builds upon a previous law that sets aside property for the practice of Chamorro medicinal healing arts. The law gave the Chamorro Land Trust Commission authority 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.

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.

"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," Won Pat said.