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    Wednesday, December 12, 2018-12:30:58P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Our Oceania | Analee Villagomez on settling Agrigan

I RECENTLY received an SD card from Agrigan, a treasure trove of photos, videos, and documents sent to me via the Super Emerald by Analee Villagomez, one of the women working to establish settlements up North.

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Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez
Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez
Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez
Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez Photos taken/provided by Analee Villagomez

Villagomez and I met in NMI District Court last August. We were both there to listen to oral arguments made by lawyers representing the Alternative Zero Coalition and the U.S. Navy and DoD; local activists were attempting to sue the federal agencies over the Navy’s plans to build bombing ranges on Tinian and Pagan (Chief Judge Manglona would ultimately rule in favor of the feds).

Villagomez said her interest in the Northern Islands began with her employment by the Commonwealth Election Commission.

“We were hired to bring the ballots to the residents on the islands of Pagan and Alamagan at the time,” she writes in a letter saved on the memory card. “Learning I had access [to the Northern Islands] and the opportunity was possible through the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office brought me to Alamagan, which was my first island to live and experience life with no running water, electricity, store, clinic, or any sort of authority around.”

After three months on Alamagan, Villagomez returned to Saipan to speak to public school students about “the beauty and benefits of the Northern Islands.”

“I lost my voice during this,” she writes. “Not only did I travel to Tinian and Rota, too — I also extended this to schools on Guam.”

She was in California when she first heard from her fellow Northern Islands settler, Jeremy Topulei, that Northern Islands Mayor Vicente “Ben” Santos was spearheading an initiative to create a settlement on Agrigan. She immediately began preparations to join the mission, and hopes to eventually contribute to settlement efforts on Pagan as well.

“I do this because I want to save the Northern Islands from the U.S. military’s interest to train on Pagan,” said Villagomez. “Training on the island of Pagan requires lots of destruction and an airspace that spans from Anatahan to Agrigan Island.”

She fears that the people of the CNMI will be forced to say “’goodbye’ to the Northern Islands if the U.S. military succeeds in training on Pagan.”

“Many people who call the Northern Islands home have been crying to return and this is where I come in,” she said. “I refuse to sit and watch things change the sad way.”