Cultural Resources


Litekyan (Ritidian) is one of the most culturally rich and powerful places on Guahan (Guam).

Culturally Rich 

The name Litekyan is thought to mean to stir, or a stirring place, perhaps referring to the ocean waters which churn off of Ritidian as the Pacific Ocean and Philippine Sea join together. It is also a place which stirs the mind and the soul as it is where the beauty of Guam’s unique nature, wildlife, and indigenous CHamoru heritage, join together.

With the rapid development of many areas of Guahan, Litekyan serves as a window to the cultural past. Here one can see and experience first-hand i manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) heritage, lifeways, and environments that have been handed down and maintained over thousands of years.

Tiempon I Manmofo’na (Timeline of Ancestors) at Litekyan  

I manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) had their own way of conceiving and categorizing time which traditional and academic experts are still working to better understand. The time of i manmofo'na is commonly divided into two general categories, Pre-Latte and Latte. Latte are the unique two-piece stone pillars which supported large wood and thatch buildings. I manmofo'na began building and using latte over a thousand years ago, sometime around AD 900. However, the story of settling Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands, adapting to their environments, and thriving for thousands of years is in reality much more complex. Researchers further distinguish CHamoru ancestral times into a number of early, ‘Pre-latte’ and ‘Latte’ eras based on changes i manmofo'na made within their material culture and social behavior.

I manmofo'na voyaged to the Mariana Islands, likely in colorful, large ocean-going canoes, today known as sakman, at least 3,500 years ago from Southeast Asia. They are the first known peoples to have settled Remote Oceania arriving before any other of the remote Pacific Islands were settled. It was within the Mariana Islands that these ancestors became uniquely CHamoru in culture, society, and language though ties to other peoples with shared ancestral Austronesian roots can still be seen, heard, and experienced today.

Litekyan (Ritidian) is extremely special and sacred to the CHamoru for numerous reasons. It is one of the earliest known places in the Mariana Islands archipelago where i manmofo'na walked, fished, sailed the waters, lead their daily lives, held special rituals, and buried their loved ones. The ancient fishing camp, latte village, strewn pieces of pottery, and ruins of Spanish mission buildings built, and later burned by, i manmofo'na of Litekyan attest to the lengthy CHamoru connection to Litekyan. Though CHamoru may have been forcibly removed by the Spanish for a time, their connection was never broken nor entirely forgotten. Locals still come to visit ancestral sites, harvest medicinal plants and fruit bearing trees, enjoy the beach, and fish Litekyan’s waters.

An I Manmofo’na (Ancestral) Fishing Camp 

Litekyan (Ritidian) housed one of the oldest sites in the Mariana Islands, and in fact, in the entire Pacific. These early i manmofo'na were highly skilled in navigation, knew how to live off the land and sea, and crafted a special type of delicate pottery some of which they decorated with red slip and rare incised and stamped designs. At Litekyan, i manmofo'na likely built thatch houses sitting atop wooden posts near the ancient shoreline. While at Litekyan, they favored delicacies like the sea urchin and small shellfish which thrive in abundance in Litekyan’s waters today.

I manmofo'na deepened their connection to Litekyan over the generations. Their village grew until it covered the whole of the area, growing root-tuber (like taro and yam) and tree crops throughout. The sounds of their daily life grew over time as well, filling the air while women weaved, made pottery, and cooked; men hunted and repaired their fishing equipment; children learned skills from elders; and the whole community came together for festivities at which they sang and danced and held various competitions.


Latte, found nowhere else in the world, are the two-piece stone pillars which supported ancestral wood and thatch buildings and around which buzzed the liveliness of many activities and tasks. I manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) of the Mariana Islands began crafting and using latte sometime around AD 900, a practice which continued for about eight centuries. I manmofo'na may have developed latte from their earlier practice of using wooden posts or may have been technology adopted or adapted from new members who joined i manmofo'na society from elsewhere. Few public places have latte in their original settings as still exist in Litekyan (Ritidian) which was home to a thriving, relatively large-sized latte village.

I Songsong Na Manmofo’na (Village of CHamoru Ancestors) 

The abundance that i manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) found at Litekyan (Ritidian) fits in with the meaning of the ancestral name for Guam, Guahan, meaning “we have.” In Litekyan, i manmofo'na had access to fresh water (a primary concern); an abundance of marine and terrestrial wildlife—shellfish, fish, birds, and fruitbat; and land-based foods such as dokdok and lemmai (two types of breadfruit). I manmofo'na thrived in Litekyan, having a sizeable village comprised of latte buildings, cookhouses, storage units, and canoe houses around which they cultivated taro, banana, betelnut, and other important vegetation such as åmot, medicinal plants.

CHamoru believe that ancestral spirits remain associated with the land to guide and protect succeeding generations of CHamoru. Thus Litekyan, with so many ancestral ties, is sacred and people are to behave respectfully within the area.

Cultural Resource Areas: Fishing and Collecting Traditional Medicinal Plants 

Fishing. Perhaps the earliest encounters at Litekyan (Ritidian) were to fish off of its waters renowned even today for their plentitude of fish. Fishing continues to be a strongly practiced island tradition. Each week perhaps as many as 35 to 45 percent of the island’s locals head to waters such as those at Litekyan to fish.

Åmot, Traditional medicinal plants. The CHamoru have a tradition of medicinal practices passed on through the generations. Today, traditional healers are known as suruhåna and suruhånu (female and male medicinal practitioners) who have strong followings within the CHamoru community and among other people of Guam. Suruhåna and suruhånu continue to collect the cultural resource, åmot (medicinal plants), in Litekyan (Ritidian) from ancestral fields using the several types of medicinal plants found here to treat illnesses and ease pains.

Caves: Various Uses, Lusong, Pictographs, Burials 

I manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) used caves in a variety of ways which are still being explored. I manmofo'na may have temporarily stayed within them at times, sought refuge in them during stormy conditions, practiced rituals within them, gathered fresh dripping water there, or used them for other purposes.

Mortars. I manmofo'na used various lusong (stone mortars) at Litekyan (Ritidian). Some were boulders near village buildings, others were depressions that they ground into the rock outside caves. They perhaps used these to grind åmot, traditional medicine, as well as rice and other foods.

Pictographs. I manmofo'na of Litekyan painted numerous pictographs (ancient cave drawings) by hand in red, white, and black— human figures, handprints, clusters of fingerprints, and more. Throughout the 15 islands of the Marianas, i manmofo'na did not produce many pictographs so these at Litekyan are considered rare in addition to being sacred, and are treasured by CHamoru of today. Various explanations exist about what roles these pictographs played for i manmofo'na, some were perhaps star calendars, navigational aids, or used in rituals.

Burials. I manmofo'na of Litekyan, like I manmofo'na elsewhere, buried those who passed away near latte (stone house pillars), within caves, and in other locations. The CHamoru believe that ancestral spirits remain associated with sites to guide and protect succeeding generations of CHamoru. Thus Litekyan, with ancestral ties such as these, is sacred and people are to behave respectfully within the area.

I Manmofo’na (CHamoru Ancestors) Trading Systems 

I manmofo'na had lengthy traditions of trading with each other, other Islanders in Micronesia, and peoples in Southeast Asia. Much later, Europeans also became part of the CHamoru trading networks.

In 1521, i manmofo'na had the dubious distinction of being the first Pacific Islanders to encounter Europeans—Ferdinand Magellan and his crew. Those Europeans were sick and struggling at sea when i manmofo'na provided them life-giving fresh water and food. The peoples of Litekyan (Ritidian), may have been among the first in the Mariana Islands to have seen that expedition which eventually was the first to circumnavigate the world. Perhaps that first circumnavigation would not have succeeded without encountering the CHamoru. Due to this and later encounters, a tradition of trading with European vessels while out at sea developed.
For the next one hundred and nearly fifty years, i manmofo'na traded with European vessels in the channel that connects Litekyan to Luta (Rota, the neighboring island visible from shore). From such encounters, i manmofo'na of Litekyan and elsewhere in the Mariana archipelago accessed European, Asian, and New World goods such as glass beads, porcelain, and iron. I manmofo'na highly valued iron. CHamoru men gained prestige and status for attaining it, owning it, or fashioning it into fishhooks or tools, qualities which would be sung about at their funerals.

17th Century Jesuit Mission 

Though Miguel Lōpez de Legazpi claimed the Mariana Islands for Spain in 1565 and from time to time, a Catholic priest or a European sailor jumped ship or found themselves shipwrecked within the archipelago, i manmofo'na (CHamoru ancestors) did not encounter a permanent Spanish government or Catholic church presence until 1668. As priests set to spreading Christianity throughout the Mariana Islands i manmofo'na had mixed reactions. Some resisted the foreign imposition on traditional beliefs and lifeways, while others saw potential benefits in the presence of newcomers and new introductions.

The Litekyan (Ritidian) Jesuit mission had a period of success—offering services in at first a wooden church and then later one made out of stone and mamposteria (an early form of concrete), perhaps even using portions of latte (traditional stone pillars). Over time, the Jesuits operated mission schools at Litekyan as well. However, as occurred elsewhere in the archipelago, when Jesuits worked to end certain traditional CHamoru practices, resistance broke out. At different times, the mission was burned down and priests stationed there were killed.

With resistance occurring in various locations throughout the island and the archipelago, the Jesuits instituted a policy of voluntary and forced relocation of peoples into a handful of church-centered villages. The people of Litekyan along with their northern neighbors in Guam were relocated n this way to a more central part of the island.
Ruins of early mission sites are rare within the Mariana Islands. Fragments of mamposteria, the sparse ruins of a building, stone-lined wells, and a few other items are all the physical remains of those early encounters between i manmofo'na and the Jesuit mission.

Coconut Grove 

It is unknown how far back in time the Litekyan (Ritidian) grove of coconut trees dates to. The Catholic mission which initiated foreign colonization of Guam in 1668 operated at least one farm in the area as of 1818. CHamoru have also had farms in the area over the decades. Another possibility is that, similar to the neighboring area of Talågi (Tarague), the grove may have been an early 1900s US administration-era coconut plantation. After the United States acquired Guam as a spoil of the Spanish-American War of 1898, its military governors promoted the production of copra, dried coconut meat, which could then be processed into soap and other products such as fuel oil. Copra remained a popular export for Guam for decades.