30 April 2005

Cannibal Stories

The following statement was originally produced by CAC editor Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate:

The misidentification of cannibalism for ancestor worship, reported in Columbus' 1493 log, can be seen today as a classic case of cultural misunderstanding.

Using multidisciplinary lines of evidence we can see that Columbus misunderstood the cultural practice of Native people in storing the bones of their ancestors in calabash gourdes in their homes. He mistakenly believed this was a practice of cannibalism. There is scant archaeological evidence of cannibalism in the Caribbean. We would expect to find butchering marks on long bones of human remains if there was a significant practice of cannibalism. The lack of such evidence makes archaeologists reject cannabalism as a common practice in the Caribbean.

It appears that the mythology of cannibalism was promoted by such early European explorers as Columbus as a means to portray the Indigenous people of the Caribbean as savages. This denigration of Native peoples led to the European justification to enslave them, take their lands, and create a racist system whereby people who were not of European origin were given alower social status.

The portrayal of Native Caribbean Americans as cannibals and savages in a new Disney movie aimed at children perpetuates negative stereotypes and a false understanding of colonial history. Disney Corp. should be ashamed by their intentions to put profit above the dignity of human communities. Disney should retract their portrayal of Indigenous Caribbeans as cannibals and savages and should offer a formal apology to Chief Charles Williams and the Carib people of Dominica, as well as to all Indigenous people of the Caribbean.

The real adventure story is about the survival of Indigenous Caribbean people to the present day, a story rarely told. After 500 years years of resistance, the Native Carib (Kalinago) and Taino have survived to the present day.

Cannibalism as Cultural Libel

Claire Meurens Yashar, originally from Belgium, is an Anthropology graduate from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where Claire still lives. For the past two years, Claire has been intensely researching Taino iconography and its connection with the many mythological stories and legends. Claire can be reached at cjmy3454@sbcglobal.net.

Claire Meurens Yashar

Unsubstantiated reports of cannibalism disproportionately relate cases of cannibalism among cultures that are already otherwise despised, feared, or are little known.

The ‘blood libel’ that accused the Jews of eating Christian children is an example. In antiquity, Greek reports of anthropophagy were related to distant, non-Hellenic barbarians, or else relegated in myth to the ‘primitive’ chthonic world that preceded the coming of the Olympian gods. In 1994, printed booklets reported that in a Yugoslavian concentration camp of Manjaca, the Bosnian refugees were forced to eat each other’s bodies. The reports were false.

William Arens, author of The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979) downplays the truth of reports of cannibalism and argues that the description by one group of people of another people as cannibals is an ideological and rhetorical device to establish moral superiority over them” (p. 3- 4).

Cannibal themes in myth or religion
Cannibal ogresses appear in folklore around the world, the witch in Hansel and Gretel being the most immediate example. On the mythological level, the cannibal mother is magnified to a universal principal, such as the Hindu goddess Kali, the Black One. In one such tale, the gods are up against the demons led by Raktabeeja found that each time he was killed more demons arose from each blood that dropped to the floor.

The story of Kronos in Greek mythology also demonstrates the theme of cannibalism. Some authorities have detected allusions to cannibalism in the earliest religious writings of the ancient Egyptians.

The opening of Hell, the Zoroastrian contribution to Western mythology, is a mouth. According to Catholic dogma, bread and wine are transubstantiated into the real flesh and blood of Jesus, which is then distributed by the priest to the faithful. For this reason, Catholics in pagan times were sometimes accused of cannibalism by suspicious non-Christians (p. 5, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism, 6 pages).

Uses and Abuses of Images of New World Cannibalism

From the earliest years of European invasion of the New World, reports that native people ate human flesh provided the conquerors with easy justification for their brutal takeover of native lands and lives. European colonizers saw New World cannibalism as the quintessential expression of savagery and evil. Clearly, any way of putting an end to such depravity could be considered legitimate. The imperative to stamp out cannibalism could counter any criticism about the morality of colonial projects and the brutalities of death, disease, misery, violence, and slavery that Europeans inflicted on the natives.

People with reputation of being cannibals were fair game for exploitation. In 1503, Queen Isabella of Spain decreed that Spaniards could legally enslave only those American Indians who were cannibals (Whitehead, 1984: 70). Spanish colonists thus had a vested economic interest in representing many New World natives as people eaters. Political expediency clearly motivated a number of early chroniclers who wrote about cannibalism, particularly among the Caribs (Caniba) Indians who lived in the parts of Venezuela, the Guianas, and the Caribbean islands. (Columbus’s accounts of the supposedly ferocious man-eating Caniba gave us the word cannibal which has come to be used more widely than the older term anthropophagy.)

The Portuguese who invaded Brazil likewise found that representing the natives as cannibals provided powerful rhetoric to assert European superiority and justify their violent conquest of the New World. The Catholic Church buttressed this position in 1510, when Pope Innocent IV declared cannibalism to be a sin deserving to be punished by Christians through force of arms.
Where people-eating savages did not exist, they could be fabricated. There is little doubt that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, some Spanish writers spread unsubstantiated reports of cannibalism in certain native populations (especially those that resisted European domination) as a pretext to justify slave-raiding and as a device to head off interference from Catholic clergy or government officials in Madrid. . Many other colonial-era writings also are of dubious veracity, being secondhand accounts based on rumor and innuendo, not the writer’s own observations. Even when there was no supporting evidence, historical documents tended to treat such allegations as facts. (Conklin, p. 4)

(See: Conklin, Beth A. 2001. Consuming Grief: compassionate cannibalism in an Amazonian society. Austin: University of Texas Press, Austin.)

Indigenous Protest Against Disney

This editorial appeared in Indian Country Today on April 14, 2005, and is reproduced here with the written permission of the editorial department of the newspaper. The original version can be found at http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096410746. The CAC Review's Creative Commons license does not apply to this article.

Disney's Carib Indian cannibals deserve boycott

Posted: April 14, 2005
Editors Report / Indian Country Today

Walt Disney Pictures is premising its sequel to its film ''Pirates of the Caribbean'' on the supposed cannibalism of Carib Indians. This is disgusting. It is a bit beyond the time when the present-day children of the Carib people of the Antilles need to be hit in the face, one more time, with the wanton and highly-disputed idea that they descend from cannibals.

Leaders from at least three communities of Caribs - Salybia in Dominica, Santa Rosa in Trinidad and a community in St. Vincent - have registered their strong objections to Disney executives, who have not responded in any positive way to the critique. Scholars and others are adding their voices to the challenge.

While the controversy over the Caribs' alleged cannibalism is as old as the conquest of the Americas, most observers agree that the Disney movie, slated for worldwide audiences, is beyond the pale as a vehicle to inculcate the historical stereotype upon even more generations of Carib and Caribbean children.

Filming of the sequel is scheduled to begin this month in Dominica. Its predecessor, the first production in the ''Pirates of the Caribbean'' series, was a 2003 blockbuster that grossed $653 million worldwide. Some 3,000 Caribs live in the Carib territory on the island of Dominica, which has a population of 70,000. Tens of thousands of Carib descendants, now known as Garifuna, live on the coasts of Belize, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as in the North American diaspora.

Chief Charles Williams of the Carib community in Dominica has denounced the concept of his people being depicted as cannibals. This stereotype has ''stigmatized'' Caribs for 500 years and is still used both as a form of personal insult and as justification for mistreating his people, Williams said; the movie will further ''popularize'' the historical insult against his people.

Among other Native leaders, the chief of the Carib community at Arima in Trinidad, Ricardo Bharath, also strongly condemned the planned movie. He was joined by Adonis Christo, the community's shaman or medicine man. The oral tradition among their people doesn't support cannibalism as a historical fact, they asserted.

''Do you want to know who the real cannibals are?'' Bharath asked the Inter Press Service. ''They are the ones in modern-day society who are eating down our mountains, raping the environment, polluting the waters,'' he said. Stated Christo: ''Our people defended their families and friends. They defended their homes. They defended their lands.''

There are early references by Europeans to ritual cannibalism among the first encounters with the Caribs. But Brinsley Samaroo, head of the History department of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, is among those who believe the claim is largely a European invention of ''manufactured history.''

In the historical record, one finds a letter from a Dr. Chanca, who accompanied Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Caribbean. Chanca speculated that some young men held prisoners by a Carib group were being fattened to the slaughter for feasting.

Neither the wanton killing and rape by Spanish colonists of the first group of Caribs encountered - recorded during the same trip by others on the ship - nor the Caribs' fierce, valiant defense of their territories and people are apparently proper subjects for a Disney movie.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Historical and Archaeological Society has called for a boycott of the sequel by moviegoers if Disney does not modify the script. Paul Lewis, the society secretary, charged that perpetuating the image of Caribs as cannibals sets back a serious effort in the region to provide a more ''honest share of [Caribbean] history'' to the indigenous people.

The governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, who will benefit somewhat from the production activities in their countries, have not objected. In fact, the tourism minister of Dominica has defended the proposed film, which would bring some economic benefits to people on the island and which is, as he put it, only a ''work of fiction.''

Some Caribs, as can be expected, have applied for work as extras in the movie, a fact that has made some crow that this somehow exonerates Disney for its production. But that is all just public relations. Reality is that a huge company like Disney should know better in 2005 than to besmirch a living people with its most negative historical stereotype.

Clearly, Disney moviemakers need to consider the negative impacts of the dramatic storylines they choose to project to such a huge audience. It is not acceptable to create and recreate villains out of Native people while exulting and romanticizing the lives of pirates who in real life were murderers and thieves without regard for anyone. Call it what you may, ''fiction'' or dramatic or poetic license, it smacks of racism to us.

27 April 2005

"Extinction" isn't what it used to be

The Caribbean is often treated in commonly cited literature as a zone of aboriginal extinction, a place where indigenous peoples are absent except as a memory or in the form of a museum piece. Just as often, what is ignored is the history of unequal power relations that allow some, a ruling colonial minority, to pronounce the death of others, to proclaim them to be gone. This process, unfortunately, was never limited to the Caribbean alone. There also are zones of "extinction" in places such as Canada. Extinction, however, isn't what it used to be. In the article below, from CBC Canada, an allegedly extinct First Nation has come forward to reclaim the remains of ancestors.

CBC News: 'Extinct' First Nation gets ancestral bones back

This "extinct" First Nation also has a website, which if read closely, bears some remarkable parallels with discourses and histories to be found in the Caribbean. See The Sinixt Nation of British Columbia.

23 April 2005

21st IACA Congress

For the 21st Conference of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology, see http://www.sta.uwi.edu/conferences/iaca/callforpapers.html.

The deadline for submission of abstracts has been extended to April 30, 2005.

The conference will be held in Trinidad and Tobago.

Garifuna forum & Garifuna street fest 2005 photos are now available

We are excited to communicate to you that the photos for the Garifunaforum and Garifuna street fest 2005 have been posted on "The LargestGarifuna Photo Gallery in the World!"


Due to the high demand of the gallery from our visitors, we made it very easy for all of us to access the gallery. I would suspect that you arelike me, with many things happening around you every single day. Whenever I personally want to view Garifuna photos, the first thing that comes to my mind is GarifunaPhotos.com, so we registered this domain to make it easier for all of us to re-live Garifuna history.Whenever you think about Garifuna Photos, let your mind, magically guide your fingers into typing.

GarifunaPhotos.com: http://www.GarifunaPhotos.com

Over 100 NEW photos added today for the Garifuna forum 2005 that took place in Los Angeles, this passed week. More than 230 new additionalphotos added for the Garifuna street fest that took place in Los Angelesas well, on April 9, 2005.

Re-live a time in Garifuna history where the greatests Garifuna minds came together for a life changing event. Only at "The Largest Garifuna PhotoGallery in the World!"

Kind regards,
Jorge Garifuna
CEOGarinet Global Inc.

Garifuna Forum, 2005: Responses

The following messages were forwarded by Cheryl Noralez for posting on this website:

From: Cheryl Noralez (see her articles at http://www.labuga.com/cheryl/cheryall.htm)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Greetings to all of my Garifuna brothers and sisters!

The First Garifuna Community Forum L.A. 2005 was moving, informative, memorable and a complete success. The spirit of Chatuye was with us all. I am currently writing an article about my personal experience at the forum. The article will also summarize the topics of discussions presented by the different guest speakers. So please look forward to that article in the days ahead. Thank you so much for all of your positive words of encouragement and support. I would especially like to thank all of the guest speakers without your dedication and voices this event would not have been spiritually moving and mentally rewarding. I appreciate, respect and admire all of you dearly. Thank you also to all of the attendees who came to listen and support our united forum.


Cheryl & Rony

The First Garifuna Community Forum L.A. 2005 was a total success. Now, read some of the comments that have come to us in the form of e-mails.

Basilio Castillo from Livingston in L.A. wrote:

“Labuga como estas mi hermano? Te felicito ati y a tu esposa por la fuerza que hicieron de unir mi gente. Me gusto y quiero seguir participando en eventos como este. Te felicito especialmente a ti porque no sos garifuna. Y lo que estas haciendo por mi gente, yo siento que si lo sos. Gracias hermano. Quisiera consegir una copia de la grabacion que se hizo. Tambien quiero salir con mi primo Topo hoy. Si es posible, por favor me puedes hablar cuando mires este mensaje. Gracias"

Dear Cheryl, Millions of thanks for making this event possible! Although I could not be there for the entire time, the few moments that I was present, were very profound. I heard many great testimonials from many attendees, including my father, Ruben Reyes. Once again, thanks a million for making it happen!
Kind regards,
Jorge Garifuna
CEOGarinet Global Inc.

Dear Cheryl & Rony:

“Please allow me to add my congratulations and compliment to the swelling list of individuals who have expressed their satisfaction with last Saturday's Garifuna Community Forum. What I found very fascinating was the diversity, timeliness and appropriateness of the subjects discussed. Each speaker, all in all, did a creditable job and treated his or her respective subject admirably well.
"What impressed me most was the fact that the Taino Race and St. Vincent were represented in addition to Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. That was a great beginning and an auspicious reunion. The participation of the audience was admirable. Everyone was attentive and well-behaved.
"On a whole the meeting was a success although there is room for improvement. What I found disappointing was the fact that our current Garifuna leaders were absent, as a participant aptly observed. However, the healing has begun and lasting, favorable impressions were made.
"Another outstanding feature observable was the amount of work that entered into the preparations made by the co-coordinators and, of course, the quality of the food served. Again, congratulations! Keep up the good work.
The master of ceremonies did a superb job keeping the program moving smoothly and efficiently. Ronny, special congratulations to you!

Humala abiniruni lumagienti Afurugu Gunfuliti.”
Au le
Clifford J. Palacio

To: Cheryl

Dear Sister:

“It was a tremendous honor for myself and the United Confederation of Taino People to have been able to participate in such an auspicious occasion. You and Rony did such a fantastic job in bringing together a group of rich, warm, kind and loving examples of what the Garifuna are all really about. I had learned so much from all of the speakers and representatives and am looking forward to more and more interaction between the Taino and Garifuna. On behalf of the UCTP, I send you and your house all our love and all our blessings.
Taino Ti, Huacan Vidal, naboria.”

Hello Rony & Cheryl

“Au le Buck, I want to congratulate and thank you both especially and also everyone that made it possible. I know how difficult it is to cater to events like these. The turnout was great and I was very amazed at the participation of our audience. I also found out that a lot us know the many problems we as garinagu are facing but maybe don't know where to turn to start doing something about it. I thought that by joining forces with a certain Garifuna organization that I could do my part towards fixing something, but I am finding out that the problem is so huge. This Forum was a great start for the healing process to begin, all the speakers impressed me, and I have e-mailed some of them to say thanks. I had mentioned my disappointment that some of our fearless leaders were not present, I had planned to ask some questions about unity. I really do thank you for the wonderful experience, the good food and the wonderful friends and potential new customers for my business. I will spread the positive word about the success of the forum and hopefully those who didn't think it was worth their while to show up will do so next time. Seremien.”
Aban Rasa
Aban Isien

Jeff Bernardez from Libaya Baba wrote:
"Ida Biangi Namule I'd like to congratulate you on the success of the Garifuna forum. We at Maabatuwa have gotten nothing but positive reviews on the entire progam. You and yours did a splendid job coordinating and organizing the whole project. I only wish Libaya Baba could have stayed to close the show, but this only the beginning of things to come. It's always a pleasurable experience working with you and yours. Put on your gloves and boots there's a lot more work to do ...Aba Isiene...Libaya Baba"

Josefina Gregorio, Hermandad Livingsteña in Los Angeles, wrote:
"Hi Cheryl and Rony “The forum was very informative. Tainos were a surprise to me. Where in the world did you find them? That is a good sign that you did a good job in researching. The food service was good, as you know, I couldn't eat lunch. I was happy to see others eating and it was enough food for everyone. Each presenter was great. On Sunday, I met with two different people, one was a presenter and the other was an observer. They gave good input and comments. It made me happy! I hope to follow up next year and make it much greater. Thanks for the opportunity”

Petition for Indigenous Peoples' Rights

United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Serious Jeopardy:

the organizers of this petition, Speaking4Earth, asked for signatures to come in before February 20, 2005. However, the website encourages people to keep signing this document. Please visit both of the links above and endorse this campaign.

Disney's Carib Indian cannibals deserve boycott

ICT [2005/04/14]--Disney's Carib Indian cannibals deserve boycott

An editorial in Indian Country Today (see the link above) rightly encourages a boycott of Disney over its slander against the Caribs. While claiming that the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, is simply "fiction, not history" and "entertainment", Disney has obviously chosen to reinforce a particular kind of fiction, that is, a historical fiction of the kind perpetrated by European invaders and slave traders of the colonial Caribbean. This is tantamount to saying that because the Nazis constructed a fictional view of Jews as a plague of rats in 1930s Germany, as shown in Nazi propaganda films, we are free to reproduce this fiction today arguing, "it's just fiction". To the extent that some would inevitably enjoy seeing a people portrayed as rats, one would then be able to argue that it is also "entertainment". Disney's fiction is not pure, original, fiction--it is a mirror of the past. Given the sense of shame that many modern day Carib descendants have been made to feel as a result of centuries of well worn allegations of the "savagery" of their ancestors, Disney is playing its little part in continuing ethnocide.

15 April 2005

Indigenous Rights in the Caribbean

The Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit provides a wealth of materials online consisting of overviews of its projects and online publications stemming from various international meetings held to discuss indigenous rights in the Commonwealth and specifically in the Caribbean. Of particular interest to some readers of this "blog" will be the following document:


14 April 2005

The Yanomami Controversy

Background Information on the Yanomami Controversy
(From Borofsky et al 2005:3-19)
Reproduced from http://www.publicanthropology.org/forum/

At first glance, the Yanomami controversy might be perceived as being focused on a narrow subject. It centers on the accusations made by the investigative journalist Patrick Tierney against James Neel, a world-famous geneticist, and Napoleon Chagnon, a prominent anthropologist, regarding their fieldwork among the Yanomami, a group of Amazonian Indians. But it would be a mistake to see the Yanomami controversy as limited to these three individuals and this one tribe. More

Who Are the Yanomami and Why Are They Important in Anthropology?
Through the work of Chagnon and others, the Yanomami have become one of the best-known, if not the best-known, Amazonian Indian group in the world. People in diverse locales on diverse continents know of them. They have become a symbol in the West of what life is like beyond the pale of "civilization." They are portrayed in books and films, not necessarily correctly, as one of the world's last remaining prototypically primitive groups. More

Who Are the Controversy's Main Characters?
The three individuals who have played the most important roles in the controversy and whose names are repeatedly referred to in discussions of it are James Neel, Napoleon Chagnon, and Patrick Tierney.

The late James Neel has been called by many the father of modern human genetics. He served on the University of Michigan's faculty for more than forty years, becoming one of its most distinguished members. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences as well as to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded the National Medal of Science and the Smithsonian Institution Medal. More

Napoleon Chagnon, a retired professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is one of the best-known members of the discipline. His writings, particularly his introductory ethnography Yanomamö: The Fierce People and the films associated with it have made his name familiar to millions upon millions of college students since the 1960s. It is not too far-fetched to suggest that Chagnon helped make the Yanomami famous as a tribe around the world and the Yanomami, in turn, have been the basis for Chagnon's own fame. More

Patrick Tierney is a freelance investigative journalist based in Pittsburgh. He obtained an undergraduate degree in Latin American studies from the University of California at Los Angeles. Those who interact with him on a personal level describe him as gentle and soft-spoken. More

What Exactly Is the Yanomami Controversy?
Answering this question draws us into examining not only the accusations Tierney made against Neel and Chagnon in Darkness in El Dorado but a number of other issues as well. Let me start with Tierney's accusations and then move on to the additional issues.

The Accusations
Tierney made a number of accusations against a number of people in his book Darkness in El Dorado. But the central ones—and the ones latched onto by the media—involved Neel and Chagnon.

Tierney makes two basic accusations against Neel: (1) that Neel helped make the measles epidemic worse, rather than better, through the actions he took to fight the epidemic and (2) that Neel could have done more than he did to help the Yanomami at this time. Because the first of these accusations in effect charged a distinguished scientist with facilitating the deaths of Yanomami, it received the most media attention. This accusation has been dismissed by most people; the second is very much with us.

Tierney makes seven basic accusations against Chagnon: (1) He indicates that Chagnon misrepresented key dynamics of Yanomami society, particularly their level of violence. The Yanomami were not "the fierce people" depicted by Chagnon. They were significantly less bellicose, in fact, than many Amazonian groups. (2) What warfare Chagnon noticed during his research, Tierney asserts, Chagnon himself helped cause through his enormous distribution of goods, which stimulated warfare among the Yanomami as perhaps never before. (3) Tierney accuses Chagnon of staging the films he helped produce, films that won many cinematic awards and helped make Yanomamö: The Fierce People a best seller. The films were not what they appeared to be—live behavior skillfully caught by the camera—but rather staged productions in which Yanomami followed preestablished scripts. More

American Anthropology's Response
One might think these issues quite sufficient to create debate in anthropology departments around the world. But there is more. There are also important questions regarding the way American anthropology has responded to the controversy. More

The Larger Questions
At a still higher level, beyond the accusations and counteraccusations and beyond American anthropology's responses to them, there is yet another set of issues anthropologists and anthropologists-in-the-making need to confront regarding the controversy. These are the generally unspoken questions that lie at the heart of the discipline and that help to explain why American anthropology has been hesitant to confront the controversy head-on. These are the big questions we need to ask but often are afraid to because they put into doubt what we have come to accept as foundational and firm in anthropology.

The first is the inequality of power between anthropologists and those whom they study. More

What Is Positive about Controversies Such as This?
On the negative side, anthropological controversies such as the Yanomami controversy may generate negative publicity for the discipline, making the broader public less willing to support it. They may also foster disciplinary divides as anthropologists passionately argue past one another without resolution.

But there is a deeply positive side to these controversies. They are important, indeed essential, for the discipline's cumulative development. More

Indigenous peoples oppose National Geographic & IBM research project

TITLE: Indigenous Peoples Oppose National Geographic & IBM Genetic Research Project that Seeks Indigenous Peoples DNA AUTHOR: Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism

Press Release
DATE: 13 April 2005
URL: www.ipcb.org

The IPCB, an Indigenous organization that addresses issues of biopiracy began its work in 1993 to oppose the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), a project so fraught with ethical and scientific problems it failed to get endorsement from the National Science Foundation, or UNESCO. Debra Harry, who is Northern Paiute and serves as IPCB's Executive Director, noting this new project's similarities with the HGDP, said, "This is a recurrent nightmare. It's essentially the same project we defeated years ago. Some of the actors are different, but also some are the same. With the founder of the HGDP serving on this new project's advisory committee, I can't help but think this is simply a new reiteration of the HGDP."

The HGDP faced international opposition by Indigenous peoples who considered the project an unconscionable attempt by genetic researchers to pirate their DNA for their own means. That experience has led to strong advocacy by Indigenous peoples to insure human rights standards are entrenched in research. Cherryl Smith, a Maori bioethicist from Aotearoa (New Zealand) said, "Indigenous groups around the world are much more aware of biopiracy, and our own human and collective rights in research. In the past ten years, we have developed extensive networks of Indigenous peoples who are knowledgeable and active in defense of their rights."

Le'a Kanehe, a Native Hawaiian who serves as the IPCB's Legal Analyst, gives the example of the Havasupai Tribe, who filed a lawsuit in 2004 against Arizona State University for the taking and misuse of their genetic samples. "Indigenous peoples are holding scientists accountable for use of their genetic material without prior informed consent, which is the accepted legal standard." The tribe authorized diabetes research, but later discovered their samples were used for schizophrenia, inbreeding and migration theories.

The Genographic Project press release claims that an international advisory board will oversee the selection of Indigenous populations for testing as well as adhering to strict sampling and research protocols. The HGDP was unable to secure federal or UN support for failure to meet ethical concerns and standards. The Genographic Project has striking similarities to the HGDP. Dr. Jonathan Marks, genetic anthropologist and board member of the IPCB, said, "The HGDP was terminated because of intractable bioethical issues. Has IBM and National Geographic been able to remedy those issues? I don't think so." Harry is similarly concerned that the Genographic Project is an attempt to escape public and legal scrutiny by going private.

Kanehe says that "It's interesting how in the past racist scientists, such as those in the eugenics movement, did studies asserting that we are biologically inferior to them; and now, they are saying their research will show that we're all related to each other and share common origins. Both ventures are based on racist science and produce invalid, yet damaging conclusions about Indigenous cultures."

IPCB Chairperson Judy Gobert (Blackfoot), said, "These kinds of projects have to stretch to claim any tangible benefits to Indigenous peoples. Somehow, the Genographic Project has led its Indigenous participants to believe its work will insure their people's cultural preservation. There is a huge disconnect between genetic research and cultural preservation." Smith says, "If they really want to help promote Indigenous peoples cultures there are more productive ways and methods for doing so."

Noting the project's goal to map the migratory history of humankind through DNA, Marla Big Boy, a Lakota attorney on IPCB's board, says, "Our creation stories and languages carry information about our genealogy and ancestors. We don't need genetic testing to tell us where we come from." Big Boy notes with concern that the project proposes to do studies on ancient DNA. "We will not stand by while our ancestors are desecrated in the name of scientific discovery."

The IPCB is calling on all Indigenous peoples, and our friends and colleagues to join in an international boycott of IBM, Gateway Computers (the source of the Waitt family fortune), and National Geographic until it's demand that this project be abandoned are met. Harry said, "We are prepared to stop projects that treat us as scientific curiosities. We must act to protect our most vulnerable communities from this unwanted intrusion. We resisted the HGDP, and we will defeat this proposal as well."

For more information contact:
Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonism

12 April 2005

Trinidad Express: Caribs Speak about Disney

"We Do Not Eat People"

Click on the link to read a report in the Trinidad Express on local Carib reactions to Disney's plans to cast their ancestors as cannibals.

Carib Community of Trinidad Joins Indigenous Condemnations of Disney

americas.org - Arrr, Matey! The Curse of the Racist Sequel?

Arrr, Matey! The Curse of the Racist Sequel?

Published by Inter Press Service, 2/28/05

PORT OF SPAIN - The 2003 blockbuster movie grossed 653 million dollars in theatres around the world, and the producers of the "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" are eagerly gearing up to film the sequels.

Filming of the scenes for the first of two installments is scheduled for April, and like the original, they will be shot in the Caribbean.

However, unlike the original movie, which was filmed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the first sequel will also involve the Caribs of Dominica, whose ancestors were among the early inhabitants of the Caribbean.

But the project, due to be released on Jul. 7, 2006, is already proving to be a problem, as the descendants of the Caribs, historians and others are objecting to scenes depicting these indigenous people as involved in cannibalism.

Brinsley Samaroo, head of the history department of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), dismisses the claim of cannibalism as a "European myth".

He told IPS that it was nothing but "manufactured history" by the Europeans who came across the Caniba, a tribe found in North and South America.

"The Caniba tribe was very hostile, as would be any group whose territory was being invaded. They were resisting the Europeans very stoutly and in order to warn other Europeans about this, the early explorers spread the myth that the Caniba tribe eat people," he said.

"They called them cannibals, derived from the name of the tribe," he explained.

Samaroo is lending his support to those who have publicly called on Walt Disney Productions to remove that aspect from the "Pirates of the Caribbean 2".

Disney has so far made no public statement on the issue, and did not respond to an IPS request for an interview.

The governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, whose impoverished economies would receive a boost from the activities associated with the filming of the sequel, have also been silent on the controversy.

Several of the estimated population of 3,000 Carib descendants in Dominica have applied to be extras in the film, which again stars Johnny Depp, but that has not stopped the Carib chief, Charles Williams, from taking a stand against the project.

Williams contends that Disney executives were insistent on including scenes where Caribs would be portrayed as cannibals, and to appear naked or semi-naked in the movie.

The Carib chief said that Caribs have been "stigmatised up to this day" as cannibals and Disney wants to popularise that stigma through the movie.

He said that this portrayal "cannot be perpetuated in movies," and his condemnation is gaining support from other Carib descendants and organisations across the Caribbean.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Historical and Archaeological Society has called on movie-goers to boycott the sequel unless the "grossly offensive" scenes depicting the Caribs as cannibals are removed from the script.

According to the society's secretary, Paul Lewis, perpetuating the image of Caribs as cannibals is totally unacceptable to all Caribbean peoples.

"Caribbean scholars and schoolteachers have been waging a ferocious battle for a long time to give the indigenous peoples of the region a fairer and more honest share of its history," he said in a letter to the local media.

Ricardo Bharath, who heads the Carib community in Arima, the Amerindian word for water and the third largest town in Trinidad, has also condemned the sequel.

"I think it is not right. I want to support the chief (in Dominica)," he told IPS. "In all my involvement in the community I have had no experience of our people being described as cannibals. I have listened to stories from the elders, a lot of anthropologists and archeologists and they all stated they found no evidence of cannibalism of our people in the Caribbean region."

"Do you want to know who the real cannibals are? They are the ones in modern-day society who are eating down our mountains, raping the environment, polluting the water courses," he said.

Adonis Christo, the shamaan or medicine man of the Arima Carib community, insists that "the Caribs were hunters, fishermen and farmers. They were nomadic."

"They defended their people, families, and friends. They defended their homes. They defended their lands," he added.

The Caribs here have been researching their history, preserving and practising traditions of their ancestors, including the annual "Smoke Ceremony" each Aug. 1, where they pay tribute to their forefathers with various offerings including tobacco and farine, which is made from cassava and water.

On Oct. 14, the Caribs observe "Recognition Day", joined by their counterparts in Dominica, Suriname and the Arawaks from Guyana.

"We don't eat people. We only eat wild meat," says Valentina Medina, the titular Queen of the Carib Group in Trinidad. (END)

11 April 2005

National Garifuna Council of Belize Protests Disney's Cannibalism

Walt Disney Company "Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3" portrayal of Garinagu as cannibals angers the GARIFUNA NATION worldwide

From: Michael Polonio - President, National Garifuna Council of Belize

To: Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company

500 S. Buena Vista Street Burbank,

CA 91521

Subject: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3

The National Garifuna Council (NGC) is the legally constituted and recognized representative organization of the Garifuna people of Belize, who, along with other Garinagu in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, are direct descendants of the "Black Caribs" of St Vincent and the lesser Antilles as we are referred to in the English language. We are also, therefore, descendants of the Calinago, the people you call Caribs. It has been brought to our attention that the Walt Disney Company intends to film a movie called "The Pirates of the Caribbean" in which the Caribs or Calinago, the ancestors of the Garinagu (as we refer to ourselves in our language) are portrayed as cannibals. We understand that preparations are underway to commence filming in Dominica in April of this year.

We note on your website that Walt Disney has portrayed itself as a company which upholds the highest Business Standards and Ethics in the conduct of its affairs and, therefore, are at odds to understand why you are involved in the perpetuation of this brutal and unjust myth and wrongdoing against the Calinago (the Caribs) and their descendants. There is no credible scientific evidence or reliable report that the people in question were cannibals.

Our Calinago ancestors were a warrior race who migrated to the lesser islands of the Caribbean from the Amazon region of South America and, as with any warrior race, they engaged in ritualistic practices to encourage fearlessness among warriors. They fought to the death to defend their islands against invaders in the colonial era which followed the arrival of Columbus to our shores, an unfortunate event that changed for the worst the natural evolution and development of indigenous societies of the world in the period that followed.

The myth about cannibalism was started because the Calinago were not intimidated by the European invaders and waged war in the defense of their territory and way of life. For 30 years they held back the British Army, the most modern fighting forces of the world at the time. After the eventual defeat the British suppressed and attempted to wipe the Calinago/Garifuna and their culture off the face of the earth following the conquest of the island of St. Vincent in 1796. Fortunately for mankind, our people and our culture have survived, against all odds, among the descendants of the Garinagu (the Black Caribs) who were forcibly exiled and abandoned on the mainland of Central America in 1797.

If the Walt Disney Corporation is indeed about integrity and truth, then we ask that you desist from filming this movie as currently scripted and that you hold honest, truthful, respectful and constructive consultations with the living descendants of the Calinago (Caribs) in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, St Vincent (known as Yurumien in our language) and Dominica. Ours is a story of epic proportions that needs to be told and we would not mind collaborating with your company in honestly and truthfully relating the Calinago/Garifuna/Carib story.

In May, 2001, the importance of the Garifuna culture (the culture of the Garinagu) to mankind was recognized in the United Nations Proclamation of the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Walt Disney would be making a mockery of that United Nations recognition with the filming and release of your movie portraying our ancestors as cannibals, the worst categorization and dehumanizing assertion that can be made against a proud people whose culture is a testament to good citizenship and independence of spirit.

The National Garifuna Council associates itself with the sentiments of Carib Chief Charles Williams of the Garifuna Territory of Dominica, who asserted that "our ancestors stood up against early European conquerors and because they stood up. We were labeled savages and cannibals up to today. This cannot be perpetuated in movies." We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider your position.

The National Garifuna Council of Belize

Tel: 501-502-0639

Email: ngcbelize@btl.net


cc: Honourable Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize

Honourable Francis Fonseca, Minister of Attorney General and Minister
Education and Culture - Government of Belize

Honourable Assad Shoman, Minister of Foreign Affairs - Government of Belize

His Excellency Russel Freeman, Ambassador, Embassy of the United
States of America, Belize

Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister, Commonwealth of Dominica

Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Chief Charles Williams, Carib Territory, Commonwealth of Dominica

Lic. Celeo Alvarez Casildo, Presidente ODECO, Honduras

Hon. René M. Baptiste -Minister of Tourism and Culture , St. Vincent
& the Grenadines

Hon. Sylvia Flores - Minister of Human Development, Belize

Her Excellency Ms. Lisa Shoman, Belize Ambassador to U.S., Washington

His Excellency , Mr. Andy V. Palacio, Ambassador for Culture, Belize

09 April 2005

A Guide to Garifuna Websites, by Rony Figueroa

(Reproduced with the permission of Rony Figueroa)

Thanks to the internet, the different ethnic groups are able to come together as one by only logging into their computers. A website can be used as a launching pad to keep a community together. It can be used to inform and dispel the doubts and ignorance that some of us have in regards to people who we know little about like the Garifuna.

This is how the following event has been put together without recurring to costly and messy red tape. I am talking about the big summit, meeting or forum however you want to call it which will be held at Maabatuwa Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

I can’t wait to partake in the upcoming Garifuna Community Forum LA 2005. The tantalizing idea of having all of these talented people come together for one very important and crucial event to take place on the 16 of April, 2005. I am referring to the cream of the crop, the “leche de coco”, artists, musicians, writers, doctors, entrepreneurs, executives and CEO’s and put simply the people concerned about their culture.

As I sit at home while flipping through the virtual pages on the internet, I can’t help noticing the explosion on articles and people that are coming out of the woods to communicate through the different Garifuna websites. The interest that has grown and developed about the Garifuna websites, has taken off like a boat in the horizon. People have learned a new way to communicate with one another cheaply and effectively. Our children no longer lack the access to the best and abundant information on their favorite, unusual and mysterious subjects. The websites that feature Garifuna culture, music and historical information, have began to explode into the cyber world.

As a matter of fact, I think that we all should have a website of our own. There is room for everybody to publish and disseminate information through the web about each one’s peculiar and individual qualities and talent. There is for example the more commercialized site garinet.com that features not only written articles about Garifuna people, places and things but also about music, videos, DVD’s, photo galleries, arts & crafts and other gadgets for sale. Garinet.com is one of the leading websites that have revolutionized the meaning of Garifuna World on the net. Are you looking for a flag or how about a documentary about Garifuna? Go to http://www.garinet.com/.

On the other hand, Labuga.com a cultural and purely informative website that caters to the heart and soul of the Garifuna people at no cost. You can post your announcements, shot-outs and social events for free. You can listen to Ciego’s Heaven Punta Rock radio or merely browse through the pictures posted by Garinagu from all over the place in the Gallery section. Is your website lost in cyber space where nobody can find it? Then link it up at labuga.com. List your family members’ birthday greeting in the Birthday section.
Are you planning a trip to La Buga – Livingston and don’t know where to stay? Go and visit this most colorful website with the flavor of Guatemala at http://www.labuga.com/

Then, we encounter the more serious and traditional website like Seinebight.com. This site specializes in grass roots information about the people and events that affect the people of Belize’s Seine Bight village. There, you would find history, cultural information as well as the root of the Garifuna people that settled in that region. Want information of traditional Garifuna medicine? Then, you will find it at http://www.seinebight.com/. How about researching the Family Tree? Learn more about the history and the traditional ways of the people by reading the articles by Mr. Clifford Palacio. Photos, hotel listings, garifuna lessons, all of these things are found in this unique and interesting website.

I have come to find out more about Garifuna from Honduras through a controversial website that has a fascinating written content on their arrival from Saint Vincent to the actual settlements along the cost of Honduras. I truly challenge you to read, understand and perhaps discuss its contents with your parents or elderly because it certainly picks your mind. I have included the link to this site but I warn you; get a Spanish speaking person to help you translate it because the translation featured by the search engine is confusing and not accurate:

From an artistic point of view, I recommend you visit http://www.wadigidigi.com/. This website is Felene Cayetano’s creation. She will navigate you through her poetry and artistic approach to Garifuna culture. There you could read her biography, leave your greeting on the guestbook, check out and purchase a book published by herself. She writes, “On the eve of this new year, the eve of my return to my birth country after over a decade, I am left questioning my identity. Like so many other immigrants who go to a new country as children and return to their birth countries as adults, I harbor cultural insecurities”.

These are some of the most influential websites that I have surfed during my research for this article. These sites are only 5 of the many more that are out there. I encourage you to do your own research and visit each one of them for the sake of cultural awareness.

The diversity that these websites represent is just a token of proof for the uniqueness and creativity of individuals that strive for a better tomorrow for the Garifuna people. Survival through education is the call of action.

If you have any questions, comments or rebuttals, please feel free to contact me at:

08 April 2005

Garifuna Poetry

New poems by Cheryl Noralez, a Garifuna, are available, along with other writings at:

A History of the Ancient Caribbean

Taller Puertorriqueno
2721 N. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19133. (215) 426-3311. (215) 426-5682

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Yolanda Colón
Marketing Director

Philadelphia, PA-- On April 23rd, 2005 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., travel through time as you explore A History of the Ancient Caribbean, a public symposium on the Taínos at Philadelphia's own Taller Puertorriqueño.

A History of the Ancient Caribbean is a public symposium that will celebrate the closing of the highly acclaimed exhibition Island of the Burén: The Taínos and their predecessors in Puerto Rico. Admission is $15 to the general public and $8 to Taller members and students.

A History of the Ancient Caribbean will serve as a vehicle to explore the Taíno culture, the first people Columbus encountered and the most highly developed culture when Columbus reached Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in 1492.

Serving as the context will be Taller Puertorriqueño's current exhibit Island of the Burén: The Taínos and their predecessors in Puerto Rico. This exhibit presents a comprehensive interpretation of unprecedented works of art from the Taínos. Edward Sozanski, art critic from the Philadelphia Inquirer, called the exhibition "an elegant and ambitious installation." Island of the Burén presents rare and beautiful objects in stone, ceramics, shell and bone that illustrate
diverse spheres of Taíno culture.

Among the distinguished scholars that will participate in the first panel discussion of its kind will be Peter E. Siegel, PhD. of John Milner Associates in West Chester PA, John G. Crock, Ph.D. of the University of Vermont, Luis A. Curet, Ph.D. of the Field Museum in Chicago, IL, and Dicey Taylor, PhD guest curator at Taller Puertorriqueño PA and El Museo del Barrio NY. Glenis Tavárez Maria, director of the Museum of Dominican Man of the Dominican Republic will moderate the discussion.

After the symposium in Taller’s Rafael P. Hernandez Theater 2557 N. 5 th Street Phila., PA, continue the voyage with a guided tour to the Island of the Burén: The Taínos and their predecessors in Puerto Rico in the Lorenzo Homar Gallery 2721 N. 5 th Street Phila., PA.

To register for the symposium please send a check or money order to Taller Puertorriqueño, Inc. 2721 N. 5 th Street Philadelphia PA, 19133, call 215.426.3311 with your credit card information or visit our website www.tallerpr.org.

The symposium A History of the Ancient Caribbean will bring to a closing the magnificent exhibit beautifully installed by guest curator Dicey Taylor, PhD who has curated other Taíno exhibitions in El Museo del Barrio in NY and by Taller Puertorriqueño's visual arts curator Anabelle Rodríguez.

A History of the Ancient Caribbean is made possible by generous support from Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Washington Mutual, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts and others. Island of the Burén includes important loans from The Museo de Historia Antropología y Arte of the University of Puerto Rico, The Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA.

Created in 1974 and celebrating its 30th anniversary, Taller Puertorriqueño, Inc. has served as a multidisciplinary community anchored arts and cultural organization. Taller Puertorriqueño is dedicated to the preservation, development and promotion of Puerto Rican arts and culture and is committed to the quality representation of other Latino cultural expressions and our common roots. Located in the heart of the Latino community at the entrance of the Golden Block in Philadelphia PA, Taller Puertorriqueño stands as a beacon for the community's cultural expression and pride.

Participating Scholars:
John G. Crock, PhD
Dr. John G. Crock is an associate professor of anthropology and director of the Consulting Archaeology Program. He has conducted archaeological research in Maine, Vermont and the British West Indies. His research interests include maritime adaptations, the development of chiefdoms and prehistoric networks of trade and exchange. He received his B.A. from the University of Vermont, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, before joining the UVM faculty in 2000. His dissertation research focused on late prehistoric Amerindian society in Anguilla and the development of socially complex chiefdoms in the northern Lesser Antilles. John has authored dozens of technical reports for consulting archaeology projects and also has published articles on his research in New England and the Caribbean.

L. Antonio Curet PhD
Antonio Curet has conducted archaeological research in Puerto Rico and Veracruz, Mexico. He has led regional studies in the Valley of Maunabo, Puerto Rico and was involved in different research aspects of the Proyecto Arqueológico La Mixtequilla, Veracruz. He has been involved also in excavations in several sites in Puerto Rico and Arizona. Currently, Curet is conducting excavations in the earliest ceremonial center of the Caribbean, Tibes in southern Puerto Rico. At this site he and Dr. Lee Newsom are studying changes in social organization and economy of domestic groups or households and how they are related to the development of social inequality in ancient Puerto Rico.

Peter E. Siegel, PhD
Dr. Peter E. Siegel is a Principal Archaeologist/Project Manager with John Milner Associates and a consulting archaeologist for Latin America and the Caribbean with New South Associates. Dr. Siegel has conducted archaeological and ethnographic investigations in South America and the Caribbean since 1976. He is a Registered Professional Archaeologist and is active in various professional archaeological associations, including the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. He has 20 years experience in the business of cultural resources consulting. He speaks Spanish and lived in Puerto Rico for seven years while employed by the Centro de Investigaciones Indígenas de Puerto Rico, and has conducted archaeological and ethnographic investigations in the Caribbean and South America. Most recently Dr. Siegel provided technical archaeological supervision on an 18-inch natural gas pipeline in Bolivia, conducted on behalf of Dames and Moore, Enron and Shell Gas Latin America. Dr. Siegel has developed contacts in the archaeological/regulatory community in several South American countries, most notably, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. He is familiar with the cultural resources regulatory requirements in the Caribbean.

Dicey Taylor, PhD
Dicey Taylor, PhD, has held a curatorial appointment at El Museo del Barrio since 1996, where she developed their two most important exhibitions on Taíno culture to date. She has contributed to numerous publications on archeological and anthropological issues revolving around the recent developments in the investigation of Pre-Columbian art and artifacts not only dealing with Caribbean but with Mayan culture as well. Before her appointment at El Museo del Barrio, she was the Assistant Curator of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Department of Ancient Art and the Department of Ancient Art and the Department of European and Contemporary Art. Dr. Taylor holds a PhD from Yale University’s Department of Art History.
Three brochures and flyers accompany this release:
(1) The press release, as reproduced above;
(2) A flyer for the discussion panel referred to above; and,
(3) A brochure for the symposium and exhibition.

All of these materials are in Adobe PDF format.

Belize: A Concise History. By Peter Thomson.

The information provided below is from the back cover of a new book released from Macimillan Caribbean (www.macimillan-caribbean.com), Belize: A Concise History, by Peter Thomson (ISBN 0-333-77925-8).

"The small Central American state of Belize has an unusual history. It was an important part of the pre-Columbian Mayan civilisation, which also embraced most of Guatemala, northern Honduras, and southern Mexico. Having fallen between three early Spanish colonial jurisdictions, Belize was then settled in the seventeenth century by British adventurers, many of them ex-buccaneers. They were in search of logwood, a tropical softwood the heart of which was in demand in Europe as a vegetable dye. The British government, while upholding the right of the settlers to live and work there, never challenged the sovereignty of Spain over the territory, and indeed recognised it in two eighteenth century treaties. But they refused to accept later Guatemalan and Mexican claims to inheritance of Spanish sovereignty. The consequences of the former dispute live on today. Meanwhile British Honduras, now Belize, underwent a series of transformations. Logwood gave way to Mahogany as a basis for the economy. As mahogany resources were depleted, a number of attempts at diversification eventually resulted in the present sugar, banana, citrus and tourist industries. In parallel, the early tradition of government by magistrates elected by a very small white minority evolved, via a hundred and ten years of colonial rule, into the fully democratic sovereign statehood of today. This book traces the outline of this complex story in as objective a way as possible, allowing the facts recorded in files in London and Belize to speak for themselves."--Peter Thomson served as British High Commissioner in Belize from 1987 to 1990.

05 April 2005

"Los Nuevos Tainos"

Los nuevos taínos y la diáspora caribeña is an article that some will find has interesting information to offer, along with an analysis of current artistic productions, such as poetry, by contemporary Tainos. In fact, I personally prefer to speak of contemporary Tainos, rather than "new Tainos", which can have some negative implications.