Wednesday, June 29, 2016



When the Japanese occupied Guam, from late 1941 till mid 1944, our people were called by different but similar names by the Japanese.

One word was tomin, which meant "islander" and is made up of two Chinese characters, the first for "island" (to) and the second for "person" (min).

This name was applied to all the native people of the islands in Micronesia.


A second name was a bit different.

The first character is for do, which means "land." The second character is once again "min" for "person."

So domin means "people or person of the land." Just as in taotao tåno'.

But, by the time of the war, domin carried with it a negative flavor. It meant someone uncivilized and barbaric.


Finally, there was dojin. Again we see do for "land" and now "jin" which is similar to "min" and means "person." "Person of the land."

This, too, had a derogatory connotation.

Many Chamorros during the Japanese Occupation knew of these words and knew about the intended put-down.

Even in Saipan, when the war was fully on and was going badly for the Japanese, the Japanese changed their attitude towards the Chamorros in Saipan. They lost trust in them and considered them potential enemies. The Japanese felt that somehow the Saipan Chamorros secretly favored the Americans, perhaps because Chamorros had been somewhat westernized by Spain and shared the same Christian background as the Americans. 

So, the Japanese put many restrictions on the Chamorros in Saipan and some ended up on Japanese lists of suspected people. The Carolinians, too, of course, suffered the same restrictions. The harsher the Japanese treated their own Chamorro subjects in Saipan and Luta, the more Chamorro support for Japan eroded.

The Chamorros and Carolinians of Saipan were, also, for the Japanese military, dojin.

The tensions of an impending American invasion, and defeat in war, brought out the underlying truth that there never was an integration of the Saipan/Luta Chamorros into the Japanese community. The Japanese made sure of that by always considering others as non-Japanese, no matter how long these others had been under the Japanese flag or how well these others spoke Japanese and served the Japanese system.

There had always been "race consciousness" and a racial hierarchy with the Japanese, who were at the top of the ladder. These were followed by the Okinawans, then the Koreans, then the Chamorros and Carolinians. Closer to the truth is that the Japanese considered themselves a world apart from everyone else. There was the Japanese, and then there was everyone else. 

The same thing can be said about other racial or national groups around the world. American military personnel on Guam had to be reprimanded by their own naval authorities for using racial slurs against Chamorros. There were other signs given by Americans that they and the Chamorros were two different kinds of people. Chamorros, too, can be guilty of looking down on people from other races.

It is human nature to love oneself, and everyone else around us is an extension of the self, to greater and lesser degrees. The closer those others are to the self, the more loved. So, after "me" comes "my family," "my town," "my island/state/province," "my race," "my country," "my region of the world" and finally, "my human race!"

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