30 June 2005

Website on the Caribs of Dominica

The following link will take you to a site with some interesting essays and current news from the Dominica Carib Territory:


The Indigenous People and Their Place in Dominica

Follow the link below to an essay by Dr. Emanuel Finn, titled "The Indigenous People and Their Place in Dominica", posted on May 31, 2005, at http://www.thedominican.net/articles/caribs.htm.

The following is an extract from the longer piece:

"Not too long ago there was an inherited ideology in Dominica about the backwardness and ‘otherness’ of the Carib Indians. This way of thinking continued unabated for some time. Contributing to this long-standing syndrome is the ‘lip service’, empty promises and disrespect (especially at election time) displayed by elected and powerful politicians of not including Caribs in the decision making process or having any meaningful Carib agenda or policy. In addition, the history books depicted the Caribs in very unfair ways. Of course, we know the reasons for such poor portrayal were because the Indians put up a fierce fight against the Europeans when they were tossed off the fertile lands all over (Waitikubli) Dominica. The European history books saw it fit to portray them as uncivilized, unloving, uncaring, ruthless and rugged. These history books, which are part of our schools curriculum, also taught us that Admiral Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) discovered Dominica. Some progressive scholars and thinkers hold the view that the Admiral did not discover this island...."

Disney and Carib "Cannibals" Continued

The following is from an article in The Los Angeles Times reproduced on http://www.williams.edu/go/native/caribs.htm.

'Pirates' sequel raises ire of indigenous leader
Movie to portray Caribs as cannibals
Los Angeles Times
April 29. 2005

BATAKA, Dominica - Sabers rattled and epithets rang across this lush tropical island long before the first crew arrived this month to film the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

Somewhere in the middle of the movie, natives are supposed to capture Johnny Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow, and spit-roast the swashbuckling pirate with fruits and vegetables "like a shish kebab," said Bruce Hendricks, the Walt Disney Pictures executive in charge of production.

"It's a funny, almost campy sequence," he said of a film also populated by ghost pirates and zombies.

But some of Dominica's Carib inhabitants are offended by what they consider an insinuation that their forebears were cannibals. They have called on the 3,500-strong population that is the last surviving indigenous group in the Caribbean to choose between fleeting fame and tribal honor. Chief Charles Williams asked his community to boycott the project, but most have welcomed the financial infusion.

The group is a minority on Dominica, whose 70,000 people are mostly of African descent. Disney argues that the film is fiction, but Williams says it draws on history. "Pirates did come to the Caribbean in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries," he said. "Our ancestors were labeled cannibals. This is being filmed in the Caribbean."

History books still cast the Caribs as cannibals during the time of the European settlement of the Caribbean that began in the 15th century but didn't reach Dominica, a tiny island in the eastern Caribbean, until 200 years later. But the indigenous people, the chief argues, were defending themselves. "Today, that myth, that stigma is still alive," Williams said, denying that the Caribs ever ate those they vanquished.

As newly elected chief of the Carib Territorial Council, Williams was approached by a delegation of Disney executives in October to discuss Carib collaboration on the film, for which about 400 locals have been hired as grips, caterers, drivers and extras. When the chief learned of the scene depicting Depp's character on the barbecue spit, he said the Caribs would boycott the production.

Other Caribs say the chief is taking offense where none was intended. "He didn't have the right to make that decision for the entire community," said Christabelle Auguiste, the only woman on the seven-member tribal council. She regards the filming of a potential blockbuster in her homeland as an opportunity to show off the island's stunning natural attractions and to raise international consciousness about the Caribs and their traditions.

"Throughout the years, there's been this picture painted of us as cannibals. The fact that some people might have had an arm or a leg in their homes didn't mean they ate people. They were kept as tokens of war," Auguiste said of her ancestors and their clashes with European invaders.

05 June 2005

Freedmen descendants use DNA to show Indian blood

About 100 descendants of the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes have taken DNA tests that show they have Indian blood, The Oklahoman reports...............

Freedmen's descendants discover past By Judy Gibbs Robinson
The Oklahoman

When a cotton swab scraped a few cells from the inside of Rhonda Grayson's cheek last June, she was pretty sure what she would find. Like most of those at the conference sponsored by the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized tribes, Grayson wanted ironclad proof she is part American Indian. She got it. "It showed I had 9 percent Native American blood," said Grayson, a black woman who has traced her lineage to a great-grandmother on the Chickasaw freedmen rolls. "I was not surprised ... but I didn't know what percentage I would have." Others were surprised by the findings, including Rick Kittles, the Ohio State University geneticist whose assistant swabbed about 100 cheeks that day in Norman. Kittles returns Saturday to report on his findings at the association's third annual conference at the University of Oklahoma. The conference starts at 9 a.m. in Dale Hall. Intrigued by the plight of Oklahoma's black Indians, Kittles came to Oklahoma to test his hypothesis that descendants of Oklahoma Freedmen today would be about 20 percent American Indian. The figure was 6 percent. "It was shocking to see it was so low," Kittles said in a telephone interview from his office. His findings came as a blow to some study participants who trace their ancestry to tribal members and expected a stronger genetic stamp. "That's how science is," Kittles said. "When you start looking into things like this, you should be aware and be ready to deal with the unexpected." European genesAnother surprise was the percentage of European genes -- about 20 percent -- in the study participants. "That was much higher than I thought, but in talking with some of the anthropologists, they say many of the Native Americans in that area were already mixed with whites before mixing with the blacks," Kittles said. In other words, they could have gotten some European genes from their Indian ancestors. LaMona Evans-Groce of Edmond, whose grandmother received a 140-acre allotment of Creek land, said she was disappointed to learn she is 29 percent European and only 11 percent American Indian. "I thought it was more because my grandmother is so American Indian," Evans-Groce said. But she and other members of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes said the findings will not deter them from seeking citizenship and equal rights in the tribes their ancestors once embraced. Pre-Civil War rootsTheir battle has its roots before the Civil War, when the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek tribes brought African slaves with them when they were removed from their Southern homelands to Oklahoma. In addition, most Eastern tribes had adopted and intermarried with blacks over generations of contact, historians say. Treaties signed after the Civil War required tribes to emancipate their slaves and either adopt them into their tribes or the U.S. government would relocate them. By the end of the 19th century, more than 20,000 Africans had been adopted into four of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma --the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, historians say. The Chickasaws refused to adopt blacks and the government failed to relocate them as promised. In the 1890s the Dawes Commissioncreated tribal membership rolls, preparing to divide up communally held tribal land. Based on appearance, many black Indians were listed as "freedmen" with no blood breakdown noted. Still later, some tribes revised their membership requirements to require a certificate of degree of Indian blood, making those descended from freedmen ineligible. Marilyn Vann, president of the descendants' group, said Cherokee freedmen voted in tribal elections as recently as 1971. "We're not wannabe people who are pretending to be Indian people or pretending to have Indian rights," Vann said. "We have documents to prove who we are and we know who we are." Citizenship requirementsMike Miller, spokesman for the Cherokee Nation, said the Cherokees as a sovereign nation determine their citizenship requirements, which includes an ancestor who traces back to the Dawes Rolls as a Cherokee. "What it boils down to is the Cherokee Nation has determined that to be a member of our Indian nation, you need to be at least part Indian," he said. Miller acknowledged that the Dawes Rolls were probably flawed, but he said there is no recourse for descendants of freedmen who can trace their ancestry to a blood Cherokee some other way. "That's a law. We can't bend a law. It's not at anyone's discretion," Miller said. The descendants understand today's tribal leaders are not personally responsible for past discrimination, Vann said. "We're not asking for an apology or reparations. We are asking for the same treatment as other people who are descendants of people on the Dawes Rolls," Vann said. "What we want is what has been promised." Kittles said the jury is still out on whether genetic testing like his will help the descendants of freedmen. He said he hopes it does. "For them to change the criteria by which you are a member of that group because of power and finances, that's really sad," Kittles said. "That has to be reconciled."
Information provided To Jorge Estevez by Bobby Gonzalez (Taino).

03 June 2005

Taino Children's Poetry

On May 19th, the Taino Nation of the Antilles and U.S. hosted a dinner, panel discussion and a cultural presentation by the children of the nation for the delegation members of the forth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The children played music, danced, sang and recited the following poetry;

We're Here to Stay! By: Erica Karayaru Velez,14 year old High School Student
A nation believed to be extinct and never coming back Now rising to the surface and slipping through the cracks Coming together to celebrate life Columbus could not take away Because he thought he could invade our lands and stay But we fought back and let Mother Earth be our guide And listen to the voice that we heard inside The voice telling us that they're greedy and what they're doing is wrong And instead of fighting we should be coming together to sing a song But that was the past and this is now And we are bring our nation to life the best way we know how We have a lot of elders who are wise and mature And a lot of young ones who will carry the nation to the future So if anyone tries to tell you we don't exist You'll look back and remember this We are the Taino Nation and we're here to stay So no matter what you do we won't go away

Dakia Kuyaya(Kuyaya is my name)By: Alejandro Kuyaya Pastrano, 10 years old
I speak the language of Columbus, I wear European style clothes. My shoes are from ChinaAnd my socks are from Japan.I like pizza and I play basketball, But there are things about me that you don't know.You see I'm a Taino, My ancestors left me a culture that is still alive today. My people sailed in big canoes,And played the scared drumsAnd if you would listen to my heart,You would hear how it sounds.So even if you see a change in what I wear today. My heart, my mind and my spirit are Taino, Kuyaya is my name!The future of the Taino Nation will firmly rest in the hands of our children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters. After all the hard work and sacrifices throughout these last 12 years, since the resurgence and restoration of our nation. It will ultimately lie in the hands of our children. Who will inherit what we've worked so hard to restore and take us into the coming Millenniums. It is up to you to immerge your children into our culture. So they can learn the language, we have restored, so that they can learn the customs, traditions and culture that will prepare them to take their rightful place in the future of the Taino Nation. The Wanakan Cultural Center is now sponsoring classes in language, dance, music and all aspects of our culture, in order to better prepare both you and the children to continue the work we have initiated. After 500 years of silence and the declaration of our ancestor's extinction. We have fought our way back destroying the myth of extinction by our colonizers. It is your duty and responsibility to leave this inheritance to your children, as we are leaving it to ours. So for those of you in registry all you need do is show up for the classes, for those of you who have not requested registry into the Taino Nation of the Antilles and U.S. and would like to attend, what are you waiting for? The registry is living proof of our existence as a nation both now and for future generations to look back on and know that we existed, and that we loved and cared enough about them to insure that we never go back into obscurity. The prophecy of our return has been forfiled; it is now up to you to keep it alive for future generations to come.
Reprinted with permission by Tomas Waribonex Gonzalez of the Taino Nation of the Antilles.
For more information please e-mail, Waribonex@hotmail.com

01 June 2005

Being conscious of origins in Indian affairs

Reprinted with permission from Indian Country Today (The Creative Commons License for The CAC Review does not apply to this article)

© Indian Country Today May 26, 2005. All Rights Reserved

Posted: May 26, 2005

by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today

In Indian affairs, consciousness of identity origins and tribal histories is essential. Without clear tribal definitions or their memberships, lands, histories and cultures, the concreteness of American Indian rights dissipates easily.

It is easiest to define Native status in the United States when the tribe is recognized, historically and legally, within the federal system. This is a complicated and historically paternalistic system, steeped in colonialist doctrine. Yet, for tribal nations to survive as distinct political entities as the American union enveloped them, sovereign definition over membership has always been a crucial issue.

The principal goal of a sovereignty model is tribal control over membership, tribal title (ownership) to lands, both in aboriginal title and as ''trust land.'' For each Native nation, large or small, the preferred nation-to-nation relationship with the United States is governmental. For the tribes, this is the relationship that is most reflective of their reality as the first self-governing societies and peoples of this land.

The defense and sustenance of the Indian tribal membership in this context has substantial history. Most always, the documented record of any tribe is rich with cases of real property dispossession and outright battles against extermination, characterized by the always strong (if not always successful) struggle to hold on to lands and territories rightfully owned by the tribe.

Beyond the status within recognized tribes fall various ranges of indigenous and tribal identities. Some of these concern disenfranchised folks from recognized tribes who are actual relations but whose circumstances fall outside legal definitions of membership. Many genuine stories of relations in this context give evidence of cultural exchanges of the most varied and interesting connections. Families long urbanized often have the most intimate, as well as distant, relations in reservation origins.

There are also the many tribes that are not federally recognized but maintain membership records that have been sustained and substantiated over time. Some of these are recognized by states and by local and regional tradition, but were separated from the historical record or from a federal-Indian relationship. Some were completely relocated; others completely Christianized, their distinct spiritual cultures dissipated.

Others were splintered by a large percentage of intense inter-marriage into non-Native cultures from which emerge people of great talent who occasionally become important Indian leaders.

Then there are Indian people in the United States, quite a few, who originate from Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Mayan nations of Central America estimate about one million of their people now reside in the United States. There are now large permanent Maya communities in Florida (Indiantown, Immokalee), as well as in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

Add to that the many Zapotecas and Mixtecas from southern Mexico, and the large range of still-related and close-knit groups from Ecuador and other Andean regions.

In New York, Florida and Puerto Rico, people of Caribbean indigenous ancestry have re-organized related families of the Taino Nation of the Antilles, giving way to a growing cultural revitalization movement that counts many prominent representatives. Whereas in times past, immigrants to the United States were only too happy to leave behind the ''old country,'' to Americanize themselves into the new ''melting pot,'' the new immigrants from Latin America are not only sustaining their ties to their country of origin, but the indigenous among them are keen to maintain and consciously revitalize their ancestral identities.

Terrific kinship recognitions, friendships and alliances are possible in the healthy interaction of the three above-listed circles. This was in evidence this week at the United Nations, as Indian peoples from north and south met and discussed the many issues facing their communities throughout the hemisphere and the world.

The problem of holding on to tribal lands and resources, and the retention of intellectual properties, are important ongoing testimonies. As always, Native nations and their delegates found resistance from nation states and great sympathy from peoples and organizations at large, nationally and internationally. In the hallways and over coffee, friendships and alliances connected and developed that will last generations. Many of these small meetings were facilitated by urban Indian groups that networked Native delegations with foundations and human rights organizations.

The Indian context is complex and while alliances depend on shared identities, the respect of specificity within the context of peoples and place is equally crucial. In the United States, the recognition of American Indian nations has its own legal strictures that follow significant, if not always welcome, definitions. Of singular importance are the tribal rolls and tribal membership offices, as well as the ancient clan counts of longhouses and kivas. All have tried-and-true ways of determining their own membership and recognizing the identity of community participants.

These principles of time immemorial have their rationale, even when placed into federal stricture. This is most important because these days those most intent on destroying tribal rights claim to be Indian.

For example: One Nation, Inc., a national alliance wholly dedicated to the eradication of Indian tribal rights, issued this statement a year ago at the National Press Club: ''Do we wish to destroy our cherished American dream - a harmonious melting pot of all cultures, colors, and creeds? The current drive to revere tribalism among American Natives suggests the answer to be 'yes' to resurrecting the divisive apartheid we once deplored. With 562 federally recognized tribes, 291 tribal recognition applications pending, and 400 monopolistic Indian casinos supplying
outrageous funding to political parties, elected officials, and lobbyists, a new domestic crisis is exploding across America.''

One Nation Inc., United Property Owners and Citizens Equal Rights Alliance - three national coalitions of community groups, trade associations and local governments - are a growing advocacy base that is politically targeted to destroy the original peoples of America. But here is how One Nation defines its base: ''[Our] ... concerns lie not with American Indians, as many of our members claim this proud heritage.'' Their enemy is not Indian ''heritage'' per se; in fact, they already claim the identity, as they pretend to like ''Indians'' (i.e. themselves) while detesting ''federal Indian policy and out-of-control government bureaucracies assigned to serve the tribes - and some tribal leaders who don't serve the interests of their own people.''

Considering that these days even those who avow to destroy tribal sovereignty pretend to speak for American Indian identities, a clear scrutiny of brazen claims is crucial. It is a good thing that the tribes know who they are and who their actual members are. It is equally important that Indian nations establish and formally publish their policies on all such matters so that the manipulative and deceptive practices of anti-Indian hate groups can be laid bare.

Definition is crucial in this day and age. People who support a free-for-all with respect to Indian identity might consider how they usher in the Trojan horse that seeks the destruction of all American Indian freedoms.