17 Dec 2012

Chamorro academic re-framing history of Guam's indigenous women

8:48 am on 17 December 2012

A Chamorro academic at a United States university says she is one of a number of feminist scholars re-framing negative historical perceptions of Guam's indigenous women.

Tina DeLisle of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is researching the importance of the Guma Irritao, residential schools for young men where they were taught skills such as fishing, canoe-building and navigation.

She says although 17th century Spanish colonists recognised the power of women in Guam's matrilineal society, they demonised them for visiting the Guma Irritao, portraying their behaviour as immoral.

"Those accounts that early Chamorro institution, form of education, and really missed the whole thing around sexuality, which conveys a different notion of sexuality, right, very contrary to what the Spanish believed - you had to be married in order to have sex."

Tina DeLisle says accounts by the early 20th century's American colonists also misrepresented Chamorro women.