Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Nancy Hayward, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D.A.

Third Advisor

Anne Perez Hattori, Ph.D.


This ethnographic study traces the language and literacy attitudes, perceptions, and practices of three generations of indigenous Chamorro women in modern Guam. Through the lens of postcolonial theory, cultural literacy, intergenerational transmission theory, community of practice, and language and identity, this study examines how literacy is used as social practice and to make meaning for themselves as Chamorro women in modern Guam. The study provides insight to the advantages and disadvantages of becoming literate in the language of the colonizer, English, in the lives of nine Chamorro women. Historically, U.S. Naval government imposed English-only policies and banned Chamorro language use in the school system and in government agencies. English literacy became the primary means to colonize and control the indigenous people of Guam. As a result of the English-only policy, the use of Chamorro language diminished drastically over the course of one generation following World War II. Today, English and Chamorro are the official languages of Guam, but English is the primary language used for domains of “official” business and education. In contrast, Chamorro language is prevalent in the religious domain. The study revealed each generation of Chamorro women valued English literacy and Chamorro literacy for different purposes. Generation 1 valued English for school and official business domains and valued Chamorro for personal, social, and religious domains. Generation 2 valued English for educational and professional domains and Chamorro for religious and home domains, but chose not to use Chamorro in the home with their own children. Generation 2 prioritized English literacy over Chamorro with their children because of their own negative language experiences and desires to conform to a U.S. mainland lifestyle. Generation 3 valued English literacy for the public and private domains. Generation 3 was exposed to Chamorro language literacy during their formative years, but did not acquire fluency in the language. Generation 3 does not speak Chamorro fluently, and they possess a sense of loss and regret for their native language. Ultimately, the common thread among all three generations is that Chamorro remains significant in the private and religious domains via song and prayer.