26 November 2006

Foro: Rescribiendo nuestra ethno-historia

Estimados(as) Amigos(as):

Están invitados al Foro: Reescribiendo Nuestra Etnohistoria. Adjunto le envío una invitación con mas información sobre las temáticas del Foro. Este Foro servirá como plataforma para informar al publico e invitados sobre los nuevos hallazgos e interpretaciones etno-históricos culturales de Puerto Rico.

La iniciativa de realizar este foro surgió con el objetivo de refutar y descartar viejas teorías. A través de un debate franco, constructivo y abierto pretendemos identificar algunos de los mal fundados tópicos y errores históricos que continúan perpetuándose en el Puerto Rico de hoy. Queremos lograr una nueva perspectiva sobre la herencia etno-histórica cultural de Puerto Rico y el Caribe. ¿Que nos dicen los nuevos hallazgos arqueológicos, etnográficos e históricos sobre esta temática? En fin, apoyamos una revisión literaria de nuestro pasado etno-histórico - reescribir nuestro pasado precolombino.

El Foro es multidisciplinario ya que se presentaran temas provenientes de la antropología, arqueología, biología (estudios genéticos), geografía, e historia - siendo la misma una valiosa experiencia educativa. Se espera que la información compilada en este foro contribuirá a un mejor entendimiento y apreciación de nuestra herencia etno-histórico cultural taina. Se presentaran varios trabajos de temas de autores e investigadores puertorriqueños - todos encabezados a refutar y descartar viejas teorías sobre nuestro pasado indígena.

Una vez más, les agradezco su amabilidad y quedo a la espera de sus noticias. Si tienen alguna duda o necesitan cualquier otra información, por favor, no vacilen en contactarme, ya sea mediante una llamada telefónica (787-671-0455) o correo electrónico (lynemelendez@yahoo.com). Sin otro particular, reciba mi más cordial saludo.


Carlalynne Meléndez, PhD
Departamento de Humanidades
Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico - Bayamón


5 de diciembre de 2006 – 9:00am – 4:00pm
Salón de Usos Múltiples
Universidad Interamericana - Bayamón


Apertura y Saludos
Carlalynne Meléndez Martínez (Yarey)

Grupo Areito Taina-ke Compuesta por estudiantes del Recinto
Estudiantes de: Areito de Cacibajagua
Narrador de Areito:
Cantante: Flor de Jesus


Estudiantes de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico-Bayamón
Tema: Reescribiendo Nuestra Etnohistoria

Centro de Estudios Avanzados del PR y el Caribe
Dr. Juan Manuel Delgado

Sociedad Arqueológica del Caribe
Antonio Blasini:

Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña
Dr. Jose Luis Vega

Universidad de Puerto Rico-Río Piedras
Dr. Ramon Nenadich


Grupo Areito Taina-ke
Areito del Iguanaboina
Cantante: Flor de Jesus

Segunda Ronda de Presentaciones

Departamento de Educación
Dr. Pedro Vega

Oficina de Preservación Histórica
Dr. Miguel Bonini

Centro de Estudios Avanzados del PR y el Caribe
Dr. Sebastián Lamrache Robiou

Presentaciones de la Comunidad Taina

Margarita Noquearas: Servicio en la Comunidad Indígena

Robinson Rosado: Nuevos Hallazgos en Caguana

Martín Veguilla

Dra. Carlalynne Meléndez Martínez

Grupo Areito Taina-ke
Areito: Muerte de Atabey (Madre Tierra)
Cantante: Flor de Jesus


Artesanía Taina


Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico en Bayamón

Organización y Planificación del Foro
Dra. Carlalynne C. Meléndez
Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico-Bayamón

Colaboración Especial
Estudiantes de Humanidades - GEHS-2010
Dra. Gladys Cruz, Departamento de Humanidades
Departamento Audiovisual

Dynamics of the Jamaican Taino

[Many thanks to BronxTaino@aol.com for forwarding this article]

November 19, 2006
Jamaica Gleaner News
The Dynamics of the Jamaican Taino

Edited by: Lesley-Gail Atkinson
Publisher: University of the West Indies Press
Reviewer: Barbara Nelson

Many of us in Jamaica have been taught that the Arawaks were our indigenous people and we continue to refer to them as such. The Arawaks, in fact, were the ethnic group that lived in the northern part of the Guianas. The Tainos were "the ethnic group that inhabited the Bahamian archipelago, most of the Greater Antilles, and the northern part of the Lesser Antilles prior to and during the time of Columbus."

The Earliest InhabitantsThe Earliest Inhabitants aims to promote Jamaican Tainan archaeology and highlight the diverse research conducted on our prehistoric sites and artefacts.

The editor, Lesley-Gail Atkinson, is an archaeologist with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. She explains in her introduction to the 215-page volume, "Jamaican prehistory is regarded as one of the least studied Caribbean disciplines. That is not necessarily the case. The fact is that published Jamaican archaeological research has not had sufficient international circulation."

The Earliest Inhabitants is the first compilation on the Jamaican Tainos since J.E. Duerden in 1897 published a compilation on Jamaican prehistory, which included various sites, and research on the island's Taino artefacts.

The editor's passion for archaeology and her belief that "the knowledge and the artefacts do not belong to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust or the Institute of Jamaica, but to the people of Jamaica" inspired her to "undertake this ambitious project"

It took her almost 15 months to complete the project and she feels it is "a starting point and it aims to fill some of the gaps in Jamaican archaeology".

Six of the 14 papers are reprints of articles that are not widely available and deemed to be of archaeological significance. The remaining eight are based on recent archaeological research.

The volume has four thematic sections:

Section 1: Assessment and Excavation of Taino sites

The first chapter: The Development of Jamaican Prehistory provides a background for the evolution of Jamaican Tainan archaeology and the overall development of Jamaican archaeological research.

The Taino Settlement of the Kingston Area reports on a survey of18 sites that are arranged in an arc around Kingston. Some of the sites are difficult to access today because they are in socially volatile areas (Wareika and Rennok Lodge), while others have been partially or totally built over, for example, Norbrook and Hope Tavern.

The Pre-Columbian Site of Chancery Hall, St. Andrew is a three-part report on the discovery of the site in 1991 by George Lechler to the discoveries made at the site so far.

In Excavations at Green Castle, St. Mary, Philip Allsworth-Jones and Kit Wesler describe progress and findings in the excavations.

The Impact of Land-Based Development on Taino Archaeology in Jamaica. In this chapter, Andrea Richards examines the impact of land-based development on Taino Archaeology in Jamaica. She notes that the total number of recorded Taino sites in Jamaica is 357 and of this total 53 or 14.9 per cent have been reported destroyed as a result of infrastructural and real estate development, farming, natural disasters and raw material extraction.

Section 2: Taino Exploitation of Natural Resources illustrates the importance of natural resources for the Jamaican Tainos. The chapters are:

Notes on the Natural History of Jamaica - Wendy Lee.

The Exploitation and Transformation of Jamaica's Natural Vegetation - Lesley-Gail Atkinson. She notes that the Tainos were known for their majestic canoas (canoes); they slept in hamacas, (hammocks) made from well-woven cotton cloth; and the married women (according to Irving Rouse) wore short skirts called naguas

In Early Arawak Subsistence Strategies: The Rodney's House site of Jamaica - Sylvia Scudder reports on the analysis of the faunal remains recovered in 1978 from Rodney's house, St. Catherine.

Section 3: Analysis of Taino Archaeological Data

In Jamaica, the most abundant artefacts recovered from Taino sites are ceramics and, second, stone tools. This section analyses and highlights the importance particularly of the stone and ceramic artefacts. The chapters are:

Petrography and Source of Some Arawak Rock artefacts from Jamaica - M. John Roobol and James W. Lee.

Jamaican Taino Pottery - Norma Rodney-Harrack

Jamaican Redware - James W. Lee

Taino Ceramics from Post-Contact Jamaica - Robyn P. Woodward identifies evidence of Taino Hispanic cultural contact at Sevilla la Nueva, St. Ann's Bay that is one of the most significant sites in Jamaica.

Section 4 : Taino Art Forms

The Petroglyphs of Jamaica - James W. Lee, published in 1990 highlights the discovery of cave art sites before 1952 and sites discovered between 1952 and 1985. Lee identified 24 cave art sites; since then eleven more sites have been discovered. Most cave art sites in Jamaica are found in the southern parishes of Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine and Manchester.

Zemis, trees and symbolic landscapes: Three Taino Carvings from Jamaica by Nicholas Saunders and Dorrick Gray.

The publishers feel the collection will appeal not only to archaeologists, historians and students of archaeology, but also to anyone who is interested in Jamaica's history and archaeology.

I found The Earliest Inhabitants a very enlightening, enjoyable and absorbing book.

08 November 2006


[a poem submitted in connection with the Trinidad Caribs' Santa Rosa Festival. Written by an anonymous Trinidadian author, submitted for use only on this site. Reproduction is not currently permitted.]

Cloaked as she stands
In the stony habit of subjugation,
Saint or cultural shape shifter,
She waits only for the child.

This heart is neither meek nor mild
And that frozen mask of piety
Barely conceals the roucoued face
That stains her robes to flagrant pink.

Such are the small victories,
The toeholds that we must employ
To scale the brazen and impassive face
of ongoing ethnocide.

While roughshod over us they still ride
This infant, this ark of our kind
We will protect and hide
This same child who believed in us
Long after we had been converted
To disbelieving ourselves.

So into this hushed sanctum we will glide
Year after year,
To lift our blazing bouquets against the gloom.
Even under the patronizing smiles
we will slide,
to bring to our bride her infant groom,
To place the baby in her waiting arms.

Rosa lets them sing their psalms
But when the child rests smiling against her breast
The only song to give him rest
Will be her Carib lullaby.

Guanaguanare: Universal Aboriginality

As some readers already know, I am a fan of a Trinidadian blog that is titled, "Guanaguanare-The Laughing Gull." I recently received an email from that blog, with the following post:

....I have chosen to focus on one aspect of Trinidadian society and culture – the aboriginal presence. I will take the opportunity to think about the amnesia surrrounding aboriginality, whether deliberately induced or happily adopted, as the betrayal of man’s true nature. It is not my intention to write factual accounts about aboriginal peoples in Trinidad and Tobago. I’d be simply repeating what others have written. What I will try to do is to retreat into the cave, the Guacara, to try to remember-by-dreaming what it means to me.

To say that I have aboriginal ancestry is to proclaim that I belong to the human race. Every single one of us is descended from an aboriginal. On the physical level, DNA markers are obsessive recorders and guardians of our genetic roots and meanderings. If, for my survival, due to the introduction of competition or threat, I must lay claim to a particular geographic location or cultural identity, I must also admit to myself that this aboriginality as location is also temporary, not written in stone, not bequeathed for eternity.

Most of us originally came from elsewhere. If the centre of human genesis as we know it thus far, was located in Africa, then according to our logic, African peoples who still occupy their lands are the only genuine aboriginals. Even so, the connection to land, although a source of real comfort and rootedness, does not lock us into infinitely attaching ourselves to one location. There are many original peoples who have over time made voluntary and epic migrations from their “aboriginal” lands. We tend to think of diaspora in terms of specific ethnicities and geographic points. More interesting to me is the psychic diaspora which is part of man's experience over time and for many is remembered only as a bridge irreparably burnt.

I speak of this in order to delink and liberate the concept of aboriginality from physical location. I myself, own no land and feel no desire to reclaim the specific lands that were “taken” from my ancestors. It does not mean that I do not feel the loss but this comes NOT from my not having access to the land of my ancestors. It comes simply from not having access to any land which I feel is the right of every human being who is a citizen of this earth. I do not believe that land should be owned privately and in perpetuity by anyone and that includes myself. I will return to the topic of rights to land at a later point but I mention it here only because that is often the starting point for discussions about aboriginality.

I instead want to put aboriginality before land. I want to put it before everything else by which we allow ourselves to be distracted. Long after religion and philosophy had been trying to convince us of the brotherhood of man, science confirmed that we did in fact all come from the same place, that we had the same parents. That this discovery was not met with greater universal rejoicing is an indication of our amnesia. I want to go back to the Guacara, to remember the place where there was no doubt that we were ONE.

Plunder without Profit: Janette Bulkan on Guyana

253 South Road Bourda, Georgetown. Guyana.
Email: guyanafloods@yahoo.com
Tele Nos. 592-227-5523/24


November 8, 2006

The Guyana Citizens’ Initiative is sponsoring a public presentation on the topic ‘Plunder without profit: an investigation into forest governance in Guyana’ by Janette Bulkan who is currently completing a PhD at Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Janette Bulkan has travelled and worked for over twenty years in Guyana’s interior on issues of local development and governance. Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Janette Bulkan was employed for over 15 years in the Amerindian Research Unit at the University of Guyana, and then as Senior Social Scientist with the Iwokrama Rainforest Programme for 3 years.

Janette Bulkan’s presentation will focus on findings of her research on developments in the forestry sector in the last ten years. The findings of this research are meaningful to all Guyanese who have an interest in good governance and sustainable development of Guyana.

Janette Bulkan’s presentation will focus on developments in the forestry sector in the last ten years. She catalogues the impact on the Guyanese economy, forest-dependent people, and the forests themselves of the export of an increasing volume of unprocessed logs, not peeler logs, but the prime Guyanese hardwoods. These logs are mostly shipped to Asia by the Asian-owned enterprises which now dominate the forest economy in Guyana. Yet these companies have or have had FDI incentives to invest in value-adding processing, employment and skills training for Guyanese.

Janette Bulkan argues that:

1-Forestry sector reforms were abandoned or not implemented and penalties not enforced on major companies; TNCs and local collaborators behave like pirates and abuse FDI arrangements;
2-Renewable natural resources are under-taxed when exported unprocessed;
3-Progressive national policy statements are not backed by adequate legislation and regulation; and
4-Oversight of regulatory agencies by the National Assembly / Select Committees and by civil society remains weak.

The outcomes of this regulatory vacuum include irregularities such as transfer pricing; under-declaration of log volumes in break bulk shipping; and mis-naming of timber species to evade controls, which result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of US $ monthly to the national exchequer and the liquidation of Guyana’s premium timbers without commensurate benefit to the nation.

Janette Bulkan advocates a return by regulatory agencies to the national interest (public good) versus private profits and sets out a programme of reforms that can be undertaken to stem the hemorrhage of the grossly under-valued patrimony of Guyana.

A public forum for presentation and discussion of these findings will be held at Cara Lodge in the Woodbine Room at 18:30 hours on Thursday, 9 November 2006.

GCI Secretariat
Telephone 227-5523/4
Fax: 227-5523
Email: guyanafloods@yahoo.com

Lokono Prayer in Trinidad

A very simple video, a slideshow essentially, composed of audio recorded online from a live webcast via I 95.5 FM (Trinidad) and photographs posted online by an unnamed Trinidadian photographer at http://triniview.com. I am enchanted with this prayer and find the need to share it whenever I can.

05 November 2006

On the Other Side of the Barricade

Mohawk Warrior on an ATV in CaledoniaMuch of what has appeared on this blog concerning the Six Nations land protest in Caledonia, Ontario, has been admittedly one-sided. While I believe that the criticisms I presented were fair (in part), it is nonetheless unfair to cast one set of actors (the non-Aboriginal residents of Caledonia) as villains, while those across the barricades (the Six Nations Mohawks) are treated as beyond fault. Given the complexities of this case, and the lack of effective media coverage, I will do my best to balance my previous posts on this subject and then write no more about Caledonia. (One may access links to those previous posts on this page prepared for my class,ANTH 303 "Indigenous Cultures Today". In this post, I will be adding to that list links to other resources that are necessary for a more balanced understanding of this conflict and some of its actors.)

Even the terminology used here is problematic: we do not know for a fact that the residents of Caledonia are all non-Aboriginal, as some may well be members of Canada's "non-status" Indian majority, that is, descendants of those who married non-Aboriginal men and lost the right to live on their reserves. As for the Six Nations side, not all the protesters come from the Six Nations reserve, with some notable protesters traveling from areas well outside of the disputed land in the
Haldimand Tract in Ontario. It is not even clear to what extent the protesters legitimately speak for the members of the Six Nations reserve, since the number of protesters, even when swollen by those visiting from other reservations in Canada and the US, has always been a fraction of the total population of the reserve. Finally, it has not been established what the actual goals of the protest group are, and here one can hear many voices speaking within that camp, and even some individuals speak with many voices. This is the only a fragment of the many problems that lurk beneath the surface of this protest.

The Barricade as a Mirror
Canadian soldier and Mohawk Warrior 'face off' in Oka, 1990What struck me recently, and served as a warning to not rush into issuing blank cheques of sympathy, was that some of the louder voices on the Native side of the barricade are presenting some of the worst features of Canadian society back to itself in a kind of mimetic politics of reaction. One can find numerous examples of such expressions in Mohawk Nation News.

Where Canadians are perceived to be racist, the reaction is to treat all Canadians as usurpers, invaders, exploiters and in essence, enemies. At worst, Canadians are cast, to only slightly paraphrase, as "homogenized scum," who have "risen to the top of the pot" holding a boiled mixture. Canadians are perceived as rootless, wandering and lost, without even the slightest attempt made by these critics to fathom how Canada has become home to millions, and has been so for many generations in most parts of the country. This is an example of historical obfuscation of the contemporary, which happens when one's vision is entirely occupied by a selective reading of events that transpired two centuries ago or more.

Where Canadians are seen as demanding indigenous peoples to demonstrate their indigenous-ness in terms of a static continuity of cultural traits from pre-colonial times, the reaction is to engage Canadians in revisiting antique documents and colonial relationships. We are told by some of the protesters, members of one or another Mohawk Warior Society, that the band councils which rule their reserves are creations of the Canadian government and rule without legitimacy--they are non-traditional. Yet, these non-traditional entities have been in existence for the better part of a century, and one would expect that the novelty might have worn off by now, that invention has become convention.

Where Canadians are cast as lusting for power and profit, we are presented with ambiguous long-term goals of reclaiming Toronto and Montreal as Mohawk territory, and where lands cannot be returned, rents must be paid. Hence we have another layer of prospective proprietors, living off of usury, establishing themselves at the top of a landlord-tenant relationship, without any regard for the class position of those who will be called upon to pay these rents.

Mirror Images in Oka 1990Where Canadians are described as greedy individualists who turn land into a commodity, we are presented with Aboriginal claimants to land as private property, no longer owned by no one (as might have been the Aboriginal perspective) but rather owned by some and never others.

Where Canadians have tried to instill shame in Aboriginals, the reverse is to instill guilt in Canadians, including those who own nothing and rent everything. I sense an attempt to turn the tables, rather than a critique of inequality. Given that there are some super-profitable corporations in the Six Nations reserve, such as Grand River Enterprises (see this page from the Hamilton Spectator), one senses the possibility that profits are not distributed equitably among community members, and the politics of some members of the Mohawk Warriors Society may be of the invidious sort, seeking their own financial resources to sustain and propel their activities.

Who Speaks for Whom?
One of the many facets that remains murky is the relationship between the Mohawk Warriors Society and the reserves in which they are based. The Haudenosaunee Home Page, which presents itself as the official source of news and information from the Haudenosaunee, comprised of the traditional leadership of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations, presents the Mohawk Warriors Society as itself a threat to Aboriginal sovereignty:

"The Great Law of Peace is very clear that the purpose of human life is to promote peace. As the Haudenosaunee, we are to be the people who build a long house of peace. We were to bury the weapons of war and not shed blood among one another. The Warrior Societies within our communities have subverted the Great law and have sought noting short of the total destruction of the Haudenosaunee Council of Chiefs for the mere purpose of making money for themselves. It is this perversion of the Great Law and the use of violence against their own people that casts each and every 'warrior' outside of the circle of the Great Law of Peace." [click here to read more]

Between Honour and Trash
Communication across barricades is of the most limited and perhaps damaging kind, and intellectually not much deeper than toilet graffiti. One member of a Mohawk Warrior Society told me of skinheads brandishing clubs shouting insults and taunts at the Mohawk protesters, with the Mohawk return consisting of "oh yeah, well come and get us," or "shut the fuck up, it's time for you to pay." Aside from the politics becoming monetized, it has become dangerously infantilized as well.

My impression of some of the Mohawk Warriors is of individuals caught between images of the honour and dignity of wise ancestors, and the trash of "white" popular culture, and desperately trying to crawl back towards the greatness of the ancestors by means of cash and resentful trash talk. One has to ask then if they have not already lost the "mother of all battles": the battle to resist the monetization of social relationships, the battle to resist incorporation into the "white" culture of money and consumption. I also don't think they realize what a powerful set of negative and contradictory images they created when they appropriated the partly finished condominiums built on the site at the centre of the protest in Caledonia: from a protest against "development" on their land, they moved into that same development and took it as their own. In the old "Third World Studies" literature, written by people such as Ali Mazrui, this was known as "negative dependency" and the "radical knock of entry into world capitalism."

Quite aside from this is the question of tact and consistency. It seems like a difficult line for a Mohawk Warrior to maintain a denunciation of colonialism while at the same time recalling with pride how the Mohawks were allies of the British in the fight against the Hurons and the French. To proclaim "we won" when condemning the principle of "might makes right," and then to do so in Quebec where even the licence plates are inscribed with the words "Je me souviens" (I remember), might be viewed by some as a potentially self-defeating provocation. Likewise, to condemn the "white man's courts," while praising the successful Noongar land claim in Western Australia, or to bask in the words of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or to denounce colonization while making appeals to the authority of Queen Elizabeth II, all strike me as a confused and chaotic script that is still "under construction." It's as if the aim were to produce a discourse that deconstructs itself, that falls apart in the very act of being articulated, that evaporates in open air.

The Nationhood Trap?
We also come to the question of the "nation-to-nation" relationship that is especially advocated by members of the Mohawk Warrior Society. In practice, this is cast as an argument for sovereignty, for nationhood qua nation-state status (internalizing European notions of sovereignty and re-presenting them to Canada as Aboriginal), conflicting with the obvious reality that they are not such entities under international law and have no such recognition in the United Nations. That's actually not the most significant problem in my view. The more significant issue is whether such proponents have understood the ramifications of their quest. To be viewed, respected, and treated as separate nations means that they become foreigners with respect to Canada. In such a situation, rights to employment within Canada would be eliminated. In order to move from one corner of Canada to another, they would need passports, thereby reintroducing the same pass laws that were treated (and rejected) as an abomination of internal colonialism. Access to social services, such as health, education, and public works would also be terminated. In order to sustain a quality of life which most residents of their communities desire as evidenced by current practice, they would now have to pay to import "specialists" from Canada or elsewhere, which could cancel out any benefits to be derived from any rents to be paid by Canada for use of reclaimed Aboriginal lands. It's possible that this arrangement could even place them in a relationship of debt and dependency with the rest of Canada. Worse yet, it would sever many urban, non-status Natives from their homes of origin.

Land Rights...and Urban Natives?
And that, finally, is one of the crucial issues that we come to. Given that a majority of self-identifying Natives in Canada do not or cannot legally live on reserves, and instead live in urban areas, it is very difficult to see how "land rights," fought on the behalf of reserve-based minorities, is of especial relevance to the contemporary indigenous experience in Canada. What I am not seeing is how any of these issues, debates, and questions are being addressed by this struggle, and the discourse tossed across the barricades does nothing at all to shed any light on these subjects.

Other Links
For those who wish to investigate some of the issues raised above in a little more depth, one may visit the following pages:

While I certainly wish for an outcome that satisfies all parties and brings real justice, I suspect that divisions on both sides of the barricade will continue to deepen until this protest reaches a climax. Already it seems that what began as a reclamation has bow begun to feel like a state of siege for those involved. In the meantime, the best thing that I can do is to disengage myself from writing any further on this topic. I would still appreciate any commentaries from visitors, and I encourage ideas from all perspectives to be expressed, including if not especially those that are severely critical of anything that I have written.