A Chamorro man in Guam. Photo: Marilyn Sourgose Follow
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Trump administration sues Guam over land trust program for indigenous residents

The Trump administration is suing the government of Guam, a U.S. territory, over a land trust program that is meant to benefit the indigenous residents of the island.

The Department of Justice filed the lawsuit on September 28. It claims that the Chamorro Land Trust Commission violates federal housing law by refusing to lease lands to non-indigenous residents.

"The whole point of litigation like [the Chamorro lawsuit] is to pave the way for non-indigenous people to assert control over indigenous resources," professor Matthew L.M. Fletcher, a citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who serves as director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University, told Vice.Com.

Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, is proposing a few options for addressing the situation. One would be to extend the policy of self-determination to the indigenous Chamorro, something Congress has refused to do for Native Hawaiians despite support from politicians in Hawaii.

“I have long supported the Chamorro Land Trust and its mission to administer homelands on Guam for the benefit of the Chamorro people,” Bordallo said in a press release on Sunday.

Some politicians in Guam have suggested treating the Chamorro people as a tribe, The Pacific Daily News reported. That would also require action by Congress because the Bureau of Indian Affairs is only authorized to consider federal recognition petitions from the contiguous 48 states, plus Alaska.

The Chamorro Land Trust Commission manages barely 15 percent of Guam's total land area, according to DOJ's press release. Yet non-Natives have complained about the program, which helped prompt the lawsuit, according to The Pacific Island Times.

In Hawaii, non-Natives complained about similar initiatives for the island's first inhabitants, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano. State-run Native programs, including those dealing with land and elections, are now open to non-Natives.

Read More on the Story:
The Feds Are Attacking a Program That Gives Indigenous People Land (Vice.Com October 25, 2017)