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“The indigenous people’s history is not the story of what other people did in their homeland” – Dr. Laura Souder

Dr. Laura Torres-Souder Photo © Guam Pacific Daily News

IN a bid to reclaim the history of indigenous people, Dr. Laura M. Torres Souder, a Chamorro historian, promotes indigenous revisionism by challenging the participants of the recent Third Marianas History Conference to free themselves from restrictions when telling the cultural heritage and history.

“Indigenous revisionism is a form of writing history that is based on indigenous experience and what I challenge the participants to do is to free ourselves from those kinds of restrictions which we sometimes get tripped up on,” Souder said in an interview.

Sourder shared that in indigenous revisionism, people are co-creators of history. She said the official documentation of indigenous lived experience marginalized indigenous people to the point that history became the story of what other people did in their own homeland.

“It is time indigenous people bring the invisible out of hiding by becoming their own storytellers.”
Ultimately, the goal of Indigenous revisionism is to redirect indigenous historical narrative and place indigenous ancestors as the primary actors in a collective historical experience, she said.

Souder insists that “We can interpret and give meaning to events if they have taken place even if we haven’t had lived that experience, even if it is not part of our memory, we can lend out ‘mata’ – our insights, our culture insight, our optic which is unique to us as indigenous people.”

“If, for example, it is not written or if it is not in accounts we feel that we can’t validate or authenticate an observation or cultural knowledge that we are trying to convey,” she said.
Indigenous revisionism, according to Souder, is about critical consciousness to reclaim indigenous identity by reclaiming the language that used to describe certain things.

“For example, the Guam legislature – not so long ago – formalized the reference to Guam, the name of the island as the Guahan that makes sense. It helps us to understand ourselves from our own cultural optic which is the mata – the insight, the ancestral wisdom that we carry with us. Even if we don’t have lived memory, lived experience, we are still co-creators of history and we have every right and obligation to reexamine the way things have been interpreted, so that we lend our own perspective to the next.”

Furthermore, Souder said the other part of “indigenous revisionism and indigenous historiography is that we as indigenous people begin to tell our own stories. Another form indigenous historiography is for writers of history to put the experience of ordinary people – Chamorros, Carolinians into the center of the historical accounts so that is another form of historiography.”

She said revisionism means to revised, “to revisit and change interpretations that may not reflect our cultural understanding, our cultural meaning, our culture spirit.”

“We have to be thoughtful and deliberate and do our homework and examine things from historical perspective but our responsibility is to look at it from a different set of optics, from a different knowledge of framework. We have our language which is valuable to our knowledge framework. So much knowledge is imbedded in Chamorro and Carolinian language. We have to trust ourselves, trust these young people who are coming up with ideas because who says that their understanding of things is not on target. This new interpretation, this new idea comes from any age. What makes us responsible thinkers is not our age, but our mindset. It is to reclaim cultural identity and that is what cultural revisionism, that is what indigenous revisionism is all about.”

“I offer you new guidelines. Through indigenous revisionism, we can pursue our freedom without fear to co-create our own image of who we are as the taotao tano of this archipelago with many stories and milestones in our shared history and language as the indigenous people of the Marianas,” the doctor historian said.

Lori Lyn Lirio
Lori Lyn C. Lirio is a veteran newshen having worked for the People's Journal Tonight for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University. She currently writes for the Marianas Variety, Saipan's number one community paper. .

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