Y Salmo Sija / The Psalms

translated by Craig Perez

Guahan (Guam), a Pacific island in the Marianas archipelago, was a Spanish colony from the 17th century to 1898, when Guahan became a US territory after the Spanish-American War (currently Guahan is a US territory). Chamorro, the native language of Guahan, descends from the Austronesian language family.

In 1900, a Protestant Minister named Francis Price arrived on Guam. He had access to Spanish Bibles, and with the help of José Mendiola Taitano and his family, Price translated the four Gospels, Acts, and Psalms into the Chamorro language in 1907. Price began the translations by having a Chamorro teacher translate the Spanish into Chamorro, with Price writing it down. This method proved too slow, so Price then had several Chamorros who could speak Spanish translate independently. Price then collected these translations and compiled them to suit Price's ideas on the Chamorro language, comparing the translations to the Greek text of the Westcott-Hort version of Scripture. In 1907, Price secured the permission of the American Bible Society to have the books printed in New York at a cost of $250 for 1,000 copies. The bibles were printed and distributed on Guahan in 1908.

By 1922, the US implemented a public school system patterned after the California educational system. American teachers and local English-speaking teachers were used in the classrooms, and all instruction was in English; Chamorro was prohibited in schools and on playgrounds. By governement order, about 900 Chamorro dictionaries were collected and burned (which parallels the Spanish rule during the years 1787 – 1789, which gave imperative orders to forbid the use of Chamorro). Some people contribute the loss of the Chamorro Bible to this linguistic colonialism). Some people also point to the destruction of World War 2, during which the Japanese occupied Guahan, forcing the people off thier home and lands into concentration camps. Despite speculation, It still remains a mystery as to what happened to the original 1,000 copies of the Chamorro Bible.

In 1952, the Chamorro Bible was reprinted in paperback, omitting the Psalms.

In 2001, a middle school teacher named Clarence Thomas began to search for the original Chamorro Bible for use in a class project. Thomas found a reference online to a Chamorro Bible in the Mudd Library at Yale, in the general collection.

On September 11, 2001, Yale shipped the Chamorro Bible to Guam.

On September 20, the package arrived in Thomas’ classroom. Despite the terrorist attacks, Yale had mailed the Bible on September 11 at 3:23 pm and it was transported from Connecticut to Kentucky, California, Hong Kong, finally arriving on Guam at 12:15 pm, September 20, Chamorro Standard Time, which is 15 hours ahead of EST.

My translations of Y Salmo Sija (The Psalms) are free verse, subjective translations into English. I embarked on these translations to see what might emerge from the omitted Psalms in continued, linguistic migration. The use of bracketed ellipses highlights the violence of omission and disappearance bound to the history of the Chamorro Psalms.


JEOVA, jafa muna manlajyan y enimigujo! Megae mangajulo contra guajo.
Megae umaalog ni y antijo: Taya inayuda para güiya, gui as Yuus. Sila.
Lao jago, O Jeova, jago y patang gui oriyajo;
y minalagjo yan ayo ni y janacajulo y ilujo.
Ya y inagangjo juagang si Jeova, ya güiyaja umopeyo gui santos na ogsoña. Sila.
Bae juason ya maegoyo; ya magmatayo; sa si Jeova gumuguutyo.
Ti maañaoyo nu y dies mit na taotao, ni y mapolo sija gui oriyajo contra guajo.
Cajulo, O Jeova; nalibre yo, O Yuusso: sa jago manalamen todo y enimigujo ni y guijadas; y nifen y manaelaye  unyamag.
Gui as Jeova nae gaegue y satbasion: ya y taotaomo nae gaegue y bendisonmo. Sila.


Psalm 3

Lord, the army comes against
And of Guahan, my soul: nothing. Are you too dead to help us? ‘Sila’
O landlord, shield me, the tip of your spear rising
Do you hear my voice [...] ‘Sila’
[...] I wake in the landlord's absence
The fear of ten thousand marines; infrastructure
Rise, O Lord. Liberate us. The enemies’ cheekbones [...]
                                             the teeth of the ungodly unbroken!
No salvation. [...] No blessing. ‘Sila’



ANAE juagangjao, opeyo, O Yuus y tininasso: anae chatsagayo jago munadangculoyo: maase nu guajo ya jungog y tinaetaejo.
Jamyo, famaguon taotao, asta ñgaean nae innanalo y onraco gui minamajlao? Asta ñgaean yanmiyo y banida ya inaliligao y dinague? Sila.
Tingoja, na si Jeova japolo apatte y deboto para güiya namaesa:
si Jeova jajungog yo, anae juagang güe.
Fangalamten ya chatmiyo faniisao:
fanmanjaso nu y corasonmiyo gui jilo camanmiyo, ya famacaca. Sila.
Nae y tunas na inefresen ya angoco si Jeova.
Megae umaalog: Jaye ufanuejit jafa minauleg?
Jatsa gui jilonmame, O Jeova, y minalag y matamo.
Jago numae minagof y corasonjo,
megaeña qui uguaja sija anae umemegae y maeisñija yan y binoñija.
Ya y pas nae umason yo ya taegüijeja maegoyo:
sa jagoja Jeova, unnasagayo seguro.


Psalm 4

Hear me, O Lord. [...] My prayer
How long, how long can we seek a new lease [...] ‘Sila’
[...] The landlord does not listen
Stand. Know your heart, your bed. ‘Sila’
They say offer sacrifice, trust the lord
But who will show us any good? who will lift the light [...]
You have emptied my heart [...]
Lain in no peace, no sleep. Landlord, where is our safe dwelling?



JUNGOG, O Jeova, y sinanganjo, ecungog y jinasoco.
Ecungog y vos y inagangjo, Ray jo, yan Yuusso: sa jago jutaetaetaye.
O Jeova, y egaan unjungog y vosso;
y egaan juguaguato y tinaetaejo guiya jago, ya jubébela.
Sa ti jago na Yuus ni y gumaeya y tinaelaye: y taelaye ti usaga guiya jago.
Ti manasaga y mangaduco gui menan matamo:
ya ti yamo todo y fumatitinas y taelaye.
Jago yumulang y manguecuentos mandague:
ya y taotao cajâgâ yan y dinague, si Jeova jaguefchatlie.
Ya guajoja, yan y megagae y minaasemo, bae jalom gui guimamo:
ya juadora anae juatan y santo templomo ni y ninamaañaomo.
O Jeova, esgaejonyo gui tininasmo, pot causa ya enimigujo;
natunas gui menajo y chalanmo.
Sa taya finitme gui pachotñija; ya sanjalomñija senmanaelaye:
naftan mababa y agagañija; yan y jilañija finande:
Condena sija, O Yuus, polo y ufamodong pot y pinagatñija:
gui minegae y isaoñija nasuja sija sa managuaguat contra jago.
Nafanmagof todos y umangngocojao, polo para taejinecog ya ufanagang pot y minagofñija sa undefiende sija, polo ya  ufanmagof ni jago, y gumaeya y naanmo.
Sa jago bumendise y manunas; O Jeova, parejoja yan un patang unpolo gui oriyaña y finaborese.


Psalm 5

Listen, O Lord
Listen, my voice, my king, my prayer
My voice in the morning and look west [...]
You are no longer a dwelling, every object without host
In your sight [...] territory
You refuse to speak [...] of release and bury our blood, your blood
I have entered [...] Your ruined house, in the distance. The legend of your temple [...]
Navigate, O Lord, my enemy [...] has your own face
And there is no faith in my mouth. My throat is opening graves of silent tongues against
Destroy me landlord, cast me out past the shore, the reef, your name
O Lord, without compass [...] without shield