By Tecpatl Kuauhtzin

My group got our assigned organization and I could not be happier! I was paired up with the Guam Preservation Trust (GPT) and met with Joe, Andrew and Charmaine. We visited our site at the Lujan House and talked about our group project, which consists of surveying Guam’s local population and understanding both general attitudes towards cultural heritage preservation and specific attitudes towards a new project by GPT in which ancestral land, previously owned by the oil company Shell, would be used to create Guam’s first cultural heritage preserve.

Uncle Joe explained to us that because we are going to work with Atan Tano, we need to get to know it personally. We need to visit and introduce ourselves to the land, so that is what we did.

The drive was about 30 minutes from the Lujan House, and I was fortunate enough to ride with Uncle Joe. The rest of my group drove with Andrew and Charmaine in the GPT van. On the way, Uncle Joe and I talked about my background, similarities in our community protocols, and what I hope to get out of working with the Guam Preservation Trust. I expressed to him that I was grateful to be part of these efforts and that I was hoping to learn about everything from how to manage land as a community process to how to work with legal documents pertaining to land. I was intrigued by how GPT was able to acquire this territory back from a corporation, and Uncle Joe explained to me that it was a divestment.

Upon arriving, we talked about the importance of safety and asking the land and spirits for permission to enter. We had a small group talk, and made our way to the trail. Charmaine and Andrew explained that students of the University of Guam came a week ago to begin clearing this trail out, which was previously started by wild boars. Funny enough, we found some boar droppings, lol!

I began documenting our journey with the intention of using the images to tell a story for our final presentation. Charmaine and Andrew taught us many things along the way about different plants in the area, and we even came across a plant called sleeping grass that shrinks when you touch it. Unfortunately, the plant is invasive.

The greenery, humidity and sounds in Atan Tano were all very new to me. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I am grateful to the land for taking care of us while we visited.

Tecpatl studied abroad in Guam in Summer 2019.