26 July 2005

Trinidad Caribs in Caribbean Beat Magazine

See the latest issue of Caribbean Beat Magazine, available online, with a feature article by Tracy Assing titled, "The Long Walk Home"

Preamble from the article:
"What does “indigenous” mean in contemporary Trinidad? How has the island’s Amerindian heritage survived? Tracy Assing, a member of the Carib community of Arima, compares her own family traditions with historical accounts, and asks herself crucial questions about the meaning of the past and the nature of home...."

Taino Sacred Site Protest

Today in Puerto Rico, elders are taking back the Taino sacred site known as the Caguana Ceremonial Center. Currently, the NPS has closed the site to perform renovations, without any consultation with the Taino community. Elders have decided to camp out at the site, against the NPS closure order.

After numerous requests for meetings with Puerto Rico's governors -- past and present -- and witnessing their indifference to the lack of cooperation between the NPS and the Taino communities, these elders have decided to make a stand for what is right, with or without the approval of the government.

The Caguana Ceremonial Center is the site of many ancient Taino petroglyphs (stone carvings) where ceremonies have been held for many centuries. The Puerto Rican government has ignored repeated pleas for cooperative efforts to preserve what is left of this sacred site and others.

In an effort to stop the desecration and bring attention to the issue, these elders are out there TODAY... Tuesday, July 25th making their voices heard. It is very likely that there will be police involvement. For this reason we need your help to make sure their statement is heard.

You can show your support by calling Governor Vila in Puerto Rico @ 1(787)721-7000 (English or Spanish is fine) and saying you support the effort of these elders, or you can e-mail the governor a message at: portal@ogp.gobierno.pr

Please don't let these elders' efforts be fruitless because of our silence.

Thank you,

DeAnna M. Rivera
United Confederation of Taino People
Director, Tribal Learning Community & Educational Exchange Program
UCLA School of Law
Box 951476
Los Angeles,
CA 90095-1476
Location: 1609 Hershey Hall
Phone: 310-794-5216Fax: 310-825-3108

25 July 2005




A new documentary site offered from the website of the Santa Rosa Carib Community of Arima, Trinidad.

Click here to see the movie, or click here to enter the first page of the site.

Caribbean Native nations join U.N. Permanent Forum

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of the editors of Indian Country Today. The CAC Review's Creative Commons license does not apply to this article, where all rights are reserved by Indian Country Today. The original article was published on July 22, 2005, at http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096411286.

Caribbean Native nations join U.N. Permanent Forum
© Indian Country Today, July 22, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: July 22, 2005
by: Jose Barreiro / Indian Country Today

A group of Caribbean indigenous nations gathered for special ceremonies and events in late May during the 4th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York City. The indigenous movement in the Caribbean represents one of the lesser-known currents of Native cultural and political resurgence. This spring at the United Nations, the various delegations of Caribbean indigenous peoples coalesced in interesting and welcome ways.

For the first time in many years, Caribbean indigenous representatives were able to meet, share food and culture, and get down to the hard work of U.N. resolutions, interventions and document reaffirmation that marks much of international work. The Taino Nation of the Antilles, with primary bases in Puerto Rico and New York City, organized events for Caribbean delegates. It fund-raised the costs of one delegate from Dominica and coordinated presentations. Roberto Borrero, a Taino who serves on the NGO committee of the Indigenous Permanent Forum, also helped fund delegates to the event and has been active in hemispheric organizing. An Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean has been formed.

Carib cultural activist Prosper Paris, among others, joined the U.N. events. Prosper is from the Carib Territory in the north coast of the small Caribbean island of Dominica. He was one of several presenters on a panel on Indigenous Education and Cultural Survival organized by the Taino Nation. This writer chaired the panel, held at the customary indigenous gathering place in New York City: the United Nations Church Center at 777 United Nations Plaza, where several dozen Taino, Carib, Arawak, Guajiro and other indigenous peoples gathered.

The notable event, ably organized by Vanessa Pastrana, Inarunikia, among other volunteers from the Taino Nation, featured a dance presentation from young Taino people and recitations in the Taino language that are the product of a vigorous reconstruction and relearning of the insular Arawak language by members of that nation since the 1980s.

"From Cuba, in the mountains of the Sierra, from Dominican Republic, from our own Boriken [Puerto Rico], we have met relatives, holding on to our identity and retaking our indigenous roots,'' said Cacique Cibanakan, of the Taino Nation. ''Our hearts pound with excitement that our people are coming together."

Indigenous delegates from all over the world arrive in New York City every spring for the now-permanent U.N. forum on Indigenous peoples' issues. There are always dozens if not hundreds of important and fascinating stories - both positive and negative - on the conditions of tribal peoples and on the always tortuous and troubled trajectory in the world of highly exploitative industries, with their rapacious hunger for indigenous lands and natural resources.

In too many cases, the political contentions of land and resources are accompanied by attacks on Native leaders and political and social structures. Quechua and Aymara from Bolivia and Ecuador, Kuna from Panama, Maya from Guatemala, northern Canadian Cree leaders, Lakota treaty chiefs and Haudenosaunee traditionalists from the United States and Saami from Norway, among many others, sustained a necessary dialogue on human rights and development through the work of U.N. gatherings.

In New York representing the Arawak community at Joboshirima in Venezuela, Chief Reginaldo Fredericks found a not-so-distant relative in Daniel Rivera, Wakonax, one of the active leaders in the Taino movement in Puerto Rico and the diaspora. The Arawak chief, who is Onishido Clan and lives mostly in the rain forest, was very happy to meet Taino relatives.

Among the messages carried by Fredericks from his people is the need to preserve and restore indigenous language. He commended the Taino language recovery program, developed by the nation's elder language advocate, Jose Laboy, Boriquex, and offered to help bring together the Arawak (Lokono) peoples wherever possible. ''It is wonderful we are more and more recognizing each other; we have a lot to offer each other,'' Rivera, who made an intervention at the United Nations on behalf of Caribbean Indian peoples, responded.

Of the many currents of indigenous movement across the Western Hemisphere, the Caribbean is the most hidden and marginalized. As communities, clans and nations coalesce, however, encounters such as the one at the United Nations in New York, provide common ground for exchange and mutual education. The shared cultural history is fascinating.Fredericks narrated stories of his people to the Taino Nation elder, which tell of six original Lokono (later Arawak) nations, which the chief called ''clans.'' Of the six ''clans,'' three are unaccounted for while Taino is in the process of vigorous cultural and social recovery.

According to Fredericks, the ancient Lokono tribes or clans were called Oralido, Cariafudo, Onishido ''rain people,'' Gimragi, Way'u, and the ''good people'' from the great islands (Taino). Today, ''as far as we know,'' the chief reported, only Onishido and Way'u survive on the mainland. The chief was most intrigued that hundreds and perhaps thousands of Taino descendants from the islands of the Greater Antilles are reaffirming themselves. The chief pointed to his headdress, which shows six feathers, symbolizing the six tribes or clans of the Lokono. ''The good island people, the Taino, are one of the six feathers,'' Fredericks reminded the other Caribbean delegates.

From La Guajira, Colombia, Karmen Ramirez represented the Way'u Morerat ORJUWAT organization. She pointed out not only her Native Way'u nation, but also four tribes from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as Arawaks who originate with the Way'u of the Guajira Peninsula. It was another instance of people from common ancestors and linked contemporary identities meeting and recognizing each other as a result of an indigenous international movement. The Way'u, who also reside in neighboring Venezuela, are one of those peoples hurtfully divided by an international border.

Caribbean indigenous delegates, in the shadows for decades if not centuries, put their statements into the record at the annual U.N. event. The Caribbean indigenous caucus signaled the following major goal: ''That the collective rights of the indigenous peoples of the Greater Caribbean to lands, territories, resources, and traditional knowledge be enshrined in the Constitution of all Greater Caribbean countries and in other states where indigenous peoples exist.''

10 July 2005

Carib Community Online Store

I am not normally one to engage in commercial spam, but I am hoping to "get the word out" regarding a newly redesigned online shop for the Santa Rosa Carib Community (see: http://www.cafepress.com/srcc/).

It was first established three years ago, and it has made a little money, very little, but still something. The way it works is that a purchaser pays CafePress online through their secure site, and of course CafePress extracts its own share. The markup on the product is then paid directly by CafePress to the Santa Rosa Carib Community, with cheques made payable to that account name.

What struck me though is that the limited revenue came as a result of numerous transactions and purchases by several individuals across the US and the UK, and it showed that there was some interest. Having seen that, I invested more time and energy into revamping the products of the store, and creating new "floors", new themes, new products, etc.

That's right! I am an anthropologist, merchant and graphic designer all in one! Perhaps this merits the attention of a psychiatrist.

Have a look if you can at the store. If you know people who might be interested, perhaps you can let them know about it. A lot of the new material should appeal to a wider variety of tastes, especially nationalistic Trinis overseas, people who prefer educational items, and fans of ecology.

08 July 2005

Seminoles With African Ancestry: The Right To Heritage

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of the editors of GBN: Global Black News. The CAC Review's Creative Commons license does not apply to this article. Normal copyright restrictions apply. The original article appeared at http://www.globalblacknews.com/SeminolesBakariAkil.html.

Seminoles With African Ancestry: The Right To Heritage
By: Bakari Akil II
Date: December 24, 2003

There has been an ongoing debate among Seminoles with African ancestry and Seminoles with Native American ancestry regarding the legitimacy of the "Black Seminoles." The arguments have reached crisis proportions as families have split along racial lines, Blacks Seminoles have been voted out of tribal councils and can no longer fully participate in life as a Seminole and some have even lost rights altogether in the Seminole nation.

These happenings have truly become crucial due to recent actions in the Seminole nation's favor such as the $56 million dollar settlement granted due to loss of land and forced relocations by the US government. In addition, as the case with many Native American groups who have been able to profit from "reparations" resulting from restitution granted due to US governmental persecution through the 17th - 20th centuries, there has been reconsideration on who has the right to claim to be a Native American, especially those with African ancestry.

As I have written on this issue previously, instead of writing a full column arguing the merits of Black Seminoles right to exist, similar to my article "Seminoles, Native Americans and African Bloodlines," I will instead cite powerful testimony of a prominent American individual who lived during the early 19th century. It is my contention that his account can lend a clear and credible voice on the debate of who is and who is not a "Seminole."

In the book, published in 1858 entitled, The Exiles of Florida: The Crimes Committed By Our Government Against The Maroons Who Fled From South Carolina and Other Slave States, US Congressman Joshua Giddings authors a powerful account which weighed in on the discussion of the plight of the Seminoles in the United States. He clearly outlines their origins and history up until that point in the middle of the 19th century. Here are his words:

The constant escape of slaves, and the difficulties resulting therefrom, constituted the principal object for establishing a free colony between South Carolina and Florida, which was called Georgia. It was thought that this colony, being free, would afford the planters of Carolina protection against the further escape of their slaves from service.

These Exiles were by the Creek Indians called "Seminoles" which in their dialect signifies "runaways" and the term being frequently used while conversing with the Indians, came into almost constant practice among the whites; and although it has now come to be applied to a certain tribe of Indians, yet it was originally used in reference to these exiles long before the Seminole Indians had separated from the Creeks.

The Indians that removed themselves from the Creek confederacy that Congressman Giddings referred to were a relatively large group residing within what is now Alabama and Georgia. Opting for self-rule they migrated to Florida Territory and were able to reside under an area which Spain claimed ownership. He further explains:

From the year 1750, Seacoffee and his followers rejected all Creek authority, refused to be represented in Creek councils, held themselves independent of Creek laws, elected their own chiefs, and in all respects became a separate tribe, embracing the Mickasukies, with whom they united. They settled in the vicinity of the Exiles, associated with them, and a mutual sympathy and respect existing, some of their people intermarried, thereby strengthening the ties of friendship, and the Indians having fled from oppression and taken refuge under Spanish laws, were also called Seminoles, or "runaways."

Here we have powerful testimony from a US congressman who in 1858, had no future stake in the claim of who has the right to be called a Seminole, whether African (Black) or Native American. What he did have an interest in was ensuring that there was an account of what happened to these "Exiles" who were Black and trying to enlighten and raise the consciousness of others to their plight. As he did in the past, I believe his words do the same now.

To demonstrate the loss Black Seminoles experienced, then and now, we will conclude with these passages from his book:

The Exiles thus free from annoyance, cultivated the friendship of their savage neighbors; rendered themselves useful to the Indians, both as laborers and in council. They also manifested much judgment in the selection of their lands for cultivation-locating their principal settlements on the rich bottoms lying along the Appalachicola and the Suwanee Rivers. Here they opened plantations, and many of them became wealthy in flocks and herds.

He further writes that by 1815:

Their plantations extended along the river several miles, above and below… Many of them possessed large herds, which roamed in the forests, gathering their food, both in summer and winter, without expense or trouble to their owners…..Here were the graves of their ancestors, around whose memories were clustered the fondest recollection of human mind. The climate was genial. They were surrounded by extensive forests, and far removed from the habitations of those enemies who sought to enslave them; and they regarded themselves as secure in the enjoyment of liberty.

In closing, this testimony by Mr. Giddings provides justification for the re-evaluation of the removal of those of African ancestry from the ranks of the Seminole nation and also to remember what sparked the relationship of Africans (Blacks) and Native Americans in the first place. The current destitute conditions that Seminoles of both African and Native American ancestry have been forced to endure as a result of oppression and persecution both past and present should not create a divide that causes either group to make decisions and take actions based on the lowest of human values but based upon the values and morals that guided their initial cooperation and brotherhood in the first place.

To deny Seminoles with African ancestry the right to exist, to claim their birthright, to prosper with the Seminole nation and to "break bread" with their history and heritage is not only a travesty of justice, but is inhumane as well.

To Read More About the Seminoles Refer To:
Seminoles, Native Americans and African Bloodlines By Bakari Akil and
The Christmas Eve Freedom Fighters Of 1837 By William Loren Katz


Giddings, J. (1858). The Exiles of Florida: The Crimes Committed By Our Government Against The Maroons Who Fled From South Carolina and other Slave States (Republished 1997). Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press.

Akil, B. (2002, May 17). "Seminoles, Native Americans and African Bloodlines." Retrieved December 23, 2002 from , Global Black News Web site: http://www.globalblacknews.com/SeminoleBakari.html

06 July 2005

New Taino-Related Movie

In a message received from Innova Entertainment, we were informed of the release of a new commercial film that is fictional in character but deeply enmeshed with visions of Taino history. The following is a synopsis provided by the advertising agents for the film:

Tainos La Ultima Tribu
"The film Tainos: The Last Tribe is a story about a young female archaeologist who organizes a secret cave expedition with friends to investigate Taino petroglyphs in a remote and isolated place in the interior of the island of Puerto Rico. Taking them 500 years into the past, they discover a lost tribe of Taino Indians who have been hiding isolated from civilization in a remote cave. During the expedition there are a series of situations, suspicions and friction specifically between two characters that initiate tension and conflict. It is in history books that we learn the Tainos were exterminated. How is it that this secret has been kept for over five hundred years? Can it be true? Who are the Tainos? Is it legend or reality? Who is this tribe they call the Tainos? Innova Entertainment presents history and adventure that will transport you vividly into the past. How you look and think about history will be forever changed."

Website for the film: www.tainoslapelicula.com

Film Details:
Duration: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Genre: Action
Writer/Director/Editor: Benjamin Lopez
Producer: Eduardo Correa
Music Score: Enrique Cardenas
Film Format: Digital video
Release date: 6/23/05 in Puerto Rico
Film Language: Spanish
Setting: Interior of Puerto Rico
Rating: PG