Chief Kepuha

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Chief Kepuha (died February 2, 1669), also spelled Kipuhá or Quipuha, was the island of Guam's first Catholic chief. The chief's name means "to uphold." He granted land in the village of Hagåtña to Spanish missionaries, upon which was built the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, the first Catholic church in the Marianas.


Kepuha was a member of the Chamorri, the ruling caste of Chamorro society. As the elder maga'låhi, or high-ranking male, he could make important decisions with the consent of his clan’s, maga'håga, or highest-ranking females.

Kepuha welcomed the first Spanish missionaries to Guam in 1668. He allowed the Jesuit missionary, Blessed 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 María. Due to the matrilineal nature of Chamorro society, the maga'håga of his clan must have influenced the grant.

Chief Kepuha died in 1669 of natural causes. Under the insistence of Padre San Vitores, he became the first Chamorro buried at the church despite opposition from Chamorro leaders, who desired a traditional burial.

This caused resentment among the Chamorros contributing to the outbreak of war within two years. Chief Kepuha II, a relative of the elder Juan Kepuha, led the attacks against the Spanish and head negotiations.


Through Kepuha, the Spanish successfully established a strong foothold in the Marianas that helped enable the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

Today, the chief is honored by Chief Quipuha Park along Marine Corps Drive in Hagåtña and is considered a great Chamorro leader. In 1990, former Governor Ricardo Bordallo, committed suicide by chaining himself to Kepuha’s statue of Kepuha and shooting himself. [1]

See also[edit]

References and external links[edit]

  • Rogers, Robert F (1995). Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-1678-1
  • Sanchez, Pedro C. Guahan, Guam: The History of our Island: Sanchez Publishing House.
  • Chief Kepuha of Ancient Guam
  • Chiefs: Kepuha (Quipuha) at Guampedia, Guam's Online Encyclopedia