Hagåtña, GUAM – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Insular Affairs, the National Park Service, and the Guam Preservation Trust hosted a World Heritage Opportunities Workshop and Insular Areas State Historic Preservation Officers training from December 3 – 6 on Guam. Over seventy-five insular area government officials, historic preservation officers, natural and cultural preservation experts, and non-government representatives met to share and discuss opportunities under the World Heritage Convention, the National Historic Landmarks program, and other ways to preserve and protect historic, cultural, and natural resources in the U.S. Insular Areas. Participants represented the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), including representatives from Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap.
“We were excited to convene World Heritage experts and cultural, historic, and natural preservation specialists on Guam for an information-sharing workshop and to strengthen grants management under the Historic Preservation Fund,” said Douglas W. Domenech, Assistant Secretary Insular and International Affairs. “An added benefit to the protection of such resources is the potential for increased tourism and job opportunities. We are happy to support economic development in the insular areas, including heritage tourism.”
Guam Governor Lourdes “Lou” Aflague Leon Guerrero gave welcome remarks to open the World Heritage Opportunities Workshop followed by Assistant Secretary Domenech and U.S. Department of the Navy Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment Karnig Ohannessian.
Dr. Robert A. Underwood, former President of the University of Guam and former Delegate to Congress, gave keynote remarks suggesting participants consider weaving historical features of the Micronesia region, in a way not previously conceptualized, through stone heritage sites such as the Latte Stones of Guam and the Marianas, Pohnpei’s Nan Madol, Kosrae’s Mahkontowe, and other features such as fish weirs in Yap and the Marshall Islands or the star mounds in American Samoa.
“We must define our Pacific heritage in our own way and in ways that demonstrate our strengths rather than just our vulnerabilities,” recommended Dr. Underwood. “It is the only viable approach to ensuring its authenticity, legitimacy, and increase understanding about who we are as a people.”
The World Heritage Opportunities Workshop was conducted over two days with participants sharing perspectives on the overarching importance of World Heritage before discussing preliminary steps needed to be taken to become listed as a World Heritage site. In addition, the participants reviewed lessons learned, as well as management opportunities and challenges at the following World Heritage sites in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands: the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site, the Nan Madol Ceremonial Centre in Eastern Micronesia, and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The group also discussed opportunities under the National Historic Landmark Program and how to support the insular areas in connecting with the larger World Heritage network.
Stephen Morris, Chief of the National Park Service (NPS) Office of International Affairs, led the DOI team in conducting the World Heritage Opportunities Workshop. World Heritage experts David Sheppard, former Head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Programme on Protected Areas and Anita Smith, Lecturer at Australia’s LaTrobe University helped lead workshop discussions. Additional federal partners who either attended, planned, or participated in panels for the workshop included: Athline Clark, NOAA Superintendent, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; Barbara Alberti, NPS Superintendent, War in the Pacific National Historical Park and American Memorial Park; Marybelle Quinata, Acting Refuge Manager, Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian Point, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; David Helweg, Senior Liaison for Insular Relations, National Climate Adaptation Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey; Susan Ross, Regional Public Affairs Officer for the Freely Associated States, U.S. Embassy Kolonia; and Rear Admiral John Menoni, Commander, Joint Region Marianas.
Megan Brown of the National Park Service’s Office of State, Tribal, Local, Plans, and Grants led a team with Elaine Jackson-Retondo of the National Park Service’s Preservation Program for the final two days of grant management training under the Historic Preservation Fund.
Throughout the week workshop participants were able to visit exhibits in the Guam Museum and other sites on Guam including: the Guam Legislature Building, the only Gold LEED-certified government building in the region; the Chocolate House in the Plaza de España; Hagåtña Latte Stone Park; War in the Pacific National Historical Park; and the Guam Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian Point. At Ritidian, Refuge employee Brian Leon Guerrero gave workshop participants a walking tour that included watching baby sharks swim in the “shark nursery”, visiting ancient Chamorro latte stone sites, and viewing ancient limestone cave pictographs believed to be from around 1500 B.C.
Upon conclusion of the workshop, a DOI team will visit the Nan Madol World Heritage site on Pohnpei with U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia Robert Riley, III. Doug Comer of the Cultural Site Research and Management Foundation, a recipient of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, will also accompany the group to Nan Madol. The Ambassador’s Fund is supporting the development of management plans for Nan Madol in cooperation with the Federated States of Micronesia’s Office of National Archives, Culture, and Historic Preservation. LiDAR technologies used in conjunction with this project have also revealed a vast archaeological landscape at Nan Madol. Inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2016, Nan Madol is a series of more than 100 islets off the south-east coast of Pohnpei, with megalithic basalt stone structures that harbor the remains of palaces, temples, tombs, and residential domains of the Saudelor Dynasty built between 1200 and 1500 A.D.
The World Heritage Opportunities Workshop and Insular Areas State Historic Preservation Officers training were funded by the DOI. The Guam Preservation Trust provided on-the-ground logistical support and funding with additional support from the Guam Department of Parks and Recreation and Guam Historic Resources Division. All official workshop and training events were held at the Senator Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum & Educational Facility on Guam.
The agenda, remarks, documents, recommended resources, and a resolution produced by the workshop participants will be made available on the Office of Insular Affairs website. For more information on the Office of Insular Affairs, follow @ASIIADomenech on Twitter.
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.