Theresa Arriola

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9393

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Arriola, Theresa H., U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'Securing Nature: Militarization, Indigeneity and the Environment in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands,' supervised by Dr. Jessica Cattelino

Preliminary abstract: In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), there are at least two groups of people with privileged claims to the islands’ territory: the U.S. Military and indigenous Chamorro peoples. As the longest colonized islands in the Pacific, nestled among some of the most biodiverse waters in the world, the CNMI is an exemplary site of the intersections between militarism, indigeneity and the environment. As a dependent territory of the U.S., the military retains certain legal rights over the islands and the surrounding sea and air space, and conducts weapons tests and maneuvers including live-fire exercises, and chemical and munitions testing. At the same time, the CNMI’s constitution grants Chamorros legal rights over the ownership and sale of their land and restricts non-indigenous ownership and sale, as a way to ensure that this territory remains in the hands of indigenous people. Increasingly, both Chamorro people and the military articulate territorial claims in terms of ‘the environment’–stewardship, conservation, and protection for future generations. Using ethnographic methods, this research examines the shared cultural space that emerges from the overlapping claims to the environment made by Chamorros and the U.S. Military. By understanding the environment as a contested site situated within a longer history of imperialism in the Pacific, this project asks: how do U.S. Military and Chamorro peoples’ claims to the environment overlap and diverge? What are the multiple understandings of and relationships to ‘the environment,’ and what is at stake? How and to what extent has the militarization of the environment–from beach cleanups, to base building, to weapons testing–created a shared and contested cultural space at the intersection of these two privileged groups?