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Chief Kepuha

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Chief Kepuha (? - February 2, 1669), also spelled Kipuhá or Quipuha, was the island of Guam's first Catholic chief. The chief's name means "striving to capsize." He granted the lands to Spanish missionaries upon which the first Catholic church in the Marianas was built. Kepuha was a member of the Chamorri, the highest caste in Chamorro society, and lived in the village of Hagåtña. As the elder maga'lahi, or high-ranking male, he could make important decisions with the consent of the highest ranking women, maga'hagas, in his clan.

Kepuha welcomed the first Spanish missionaries to Guam in 1668. He allowed the Jesuit missionary, Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores to baptize him as Juan Kepuha and granted a large plot of land for building the first church on Guam, Dulce Nombre de Maria. Due to Guam's matrilineal society, the maga'haga of his clan must have had some decision on the granting of land.

Chief Kepuha died in 1669 of natural causes. Under the insistence of Padre San Vitores, he became the first Chamorro buried at the church site despite protests by Chamorro leaders who desired a traditional burial. This caused resentment among the Chamorros contributing to the outbreak of war within two years. A second Chief Kepuha, relative of the elder Juan Kepuha, would lead attacks against the Spanish and head negotiations.

Through Kepuha, the Spanish successfully established a strong foothold in the Marianas for the Manila Galleon Trade. Today the chief is honored by Chief Quipuha Park in Hagåtña and is considered a great Chamorro leader. In 1990, Ricardo Bordallo, former governor of Guam, committed suicide by chaining himself to a statue of Kepuha in the park and shooting himself. [1]

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