Sunday, January 13, 2013


Carolinian women, topless, in the streets of Hagåtña in the late 1800s.  But they lived a mile or more up the road, in a place they called Tamuning.

The Carolinian people who live on small atolls almost directly south of Guam, several hundred miles away, had historic links to the Marianas.  They made regular trips to the Marianas and preserved the sailing directions in their memorized chants.

These atolls, such as Woleai, Eauripik, Lamotrek and Elato, are now included in Yap State, but the people are part of the Chuukese ethnic family.

In the 1700s, the Carolinians made sporadic visits to Guam, at one time forming a strong friendship with Luis de Torres, a Spanish-Chamorro mestizo and military officer.

In the early 1800s, more and more Carolinians sailed to the Marianas, seeking lengthier stays.  Originally sent to live on unpopulated Saipan, by 1868 islanders from Namonuito were relocated to Tamuning, at a place known in Chamorro as Apotguan.

The very name Tamuning is believed to be Carolinian in origin.  We have no clear evidence what it means.  Even older Carolinians I have asked in the past, many of them now dead, did not know.

In 1884, the settlement of Carolinians in Tamuning was given a new name, Maria Cristina, in honor of the Queen Regent of Spain.  There was normally a Chamorro appointed their teacher, and the Hagåtña priest often tried to influence them to become Catholics.  A few did, judging from the 1897 Census which shows some of them with Christian names.  But the majority did not have Christian names, even as late as 1897.

Their clinging to tradition, including their minimal clothing, was a source of concern for the early American administration.  Not only were some Americans disturbed by their lack of clothing, one official was upset that visitors were taking photos of them and sending them off to the States and elsewhere, giving the world the impression that this was how the Chamorros lived.

So, in 1901, American Governor Schroeder deported the entire community to Saipan, where they were gladly received since Saipan had an established Carolinian community and was in need of more settlers.

When I was in Saipan 20 years ago as a young priest, I met elderly Carolinians who said that their parents or grandparents were Re TamuningRe is Carolinian for "people."  Re Tamuning means "People of Tamuning."  Here is one young lady today who says one side of her Carolinian lineage hails from Tamuning.

The Carolinian village of Tamuning was located at what we now call Dungca's Beach, near Alupang.  In Chamorro, the area was called Apotguan.  The Japanese landed here on December 10, 1941.


  1. Where they ever registered during that period as part of the Guam Census. Where can we find those archives,,

    1. The ones in Tamuning and Rota appear in the 1897 Census. That Census can be found at MARC at UOG