Consequences of good intentions : exploring land rights in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas

Date
2005
Authors
Nevitt, Brooke E.
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Abstract
In 1987 a plot of land on a tangan tangan covered hill resting high above Saipan's Lao Lao Bay was leased for 55 years. The Chamorro families who own the land relinquished their "short" term use of the land to a group of Americans who were unable to permanently purchase land in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Off of Back Road in the scarcely populated and spread out village of Papago, the land, because of its remote location and often impassable road, had been used as an occasional weekend retreat by the families who own the land. They, like many other Chamorro families used their lancho, or ranch, for hunting and as an escape from town. A good spot for catching ayuyu (coconut crabs), abundant in papaya, coconut, and mango, and kept cool by the constant wind traveling in from the Pacific Ocean the land was largely left alone. Over half a century earlier, during the Japanese occupation, the land had been used by the administration to run trains transporting sugar on tracks that ran through two jungle-covered tunnels. Today, two Japanese wells sit unused and bullets, grenades, helmets and other reminders of the battles fought during WWII remain scattered throughout the red clay-like dirt that blankets the land. Though there is no visible evidence of the brief German occupation, the long and devastating Spanish administration can be recognized by the deer that feed deep in the jungle and the Catholic Church that sits in the neighbor village of San Antonio. There also remains evidence of an earlier presence: sherds of red clay pottery -Marianas Redware - can be found, as well as amazingly smooth football-shaped sling stones-reminders that the land was home to people long before. After drawn out negotiations, the land was leased and subdivided into twelve lots. Upon the signing of the lease it was agreed that the Chamorro owners would give up any use of the land until fifty-five years were through-the maximum length of a lease allowed by CNMI law. My family chose our plot, land that sits on a hill over the center of Lao Lao Bay. There, during certain times of the year the moon seems to rise right out of the bay-huge, yellow and beautiful. […] Anne was a Chamorro woman who, after high school, had moved to Washington, married, and raised a family. Once her children had finished school, Anne had decided to return to Saipan. Upon her homecoming Anne was told that her family had decided to sell a large piece of land that had been left to her and her siblings when her parents had passed away. Though she had hoped to move onto the land it was no longer an option. Anne was given her share of the lease payment. Her siblings had signed a 55-year lease and she would not have the use of the land again during her lifetime. […] Anne and her family would not have their land back for 50 years but when the lease expires my family's house will be on it. We became aware of a tangible divide that we were incapable of bridging.
Description
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 104-106).
iv, 106 leaves, bound 29 cm
Keywords
Land tenure -- Law and legislation -- Northern Mariana Islands, Chamorro (Micronesian people) -- Land tenure, Northern Mariana Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Northern Mariana Islands
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