14 May 2013

SPECIAL REPORT: ‘National Geographic’ returns for ‘Carib First Peoples’ DNA testing.

SPECIAL REPORT: ‘National Geographic’ returns for ‘Carib First Peoples’ DNA testing.

In March this year the first test, results of 25 members of the ‘Carib community’, newly named “Santa Rosa First Peoples Community”, confirmed that all have very strong ancestral links to Africa and to Native American Indians.

TNTFinder News Editor
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Caption: File photo of two elders of the Carib Community, newly named “Santa Rosa First Peoples Community."

The Santa Rosa First Peoples (Carib) Community is preparing for a second round of DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid) testing by the National Geographic Genographic Project to trace its members genetic history.

This was confirmed by the President of the community, Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez in a recent interview.

It was only on March 28, 2013 that the results of the testing carried out on 25 members were returned confirming that they all have very strong ancestral links to Africa and to Native American Indians.

First test of first people’s

The National Geographic Genographic Project was conducted on 25 members of the 600-strong Santa Rosa First Peoples (Carib) Community sometime in July of 2012.

Bharath-Hernandez, believes it is good for the community’s identity which is sometimes questioned.

It was only recently that pottery artefacts and bone fragments believed to be of Amerindian heritage dating back to AD 0-350 were discovered by workers doing restoration works at the Red House about three weeks ago.

The fragments are strongly believed to date back to the Amerindian era and Chief Bharath-Hernandez, who has visited the site is waiting for the results of tests on the bones before performing the necessary ancestral rituals.

He confirmed yesterday that he is still awaiting word from officials at the Red House as to what is the next move.

He explained that the community was excited to participate further in the Genographic Project in an effort to trace the paternal and maternal lineages of all of its 600 members.

The results of the project were released to Bharath-Hernandez on March 28, 2013 by Dr.Jada BennTorres from the University of Pennsylvania, who is responsible for administering the project to the local community.

In her letter, Dr. BennTorres thanked the Santa Rosa Karina (Carib) community for participating in the project and explained, “we have completed preliminary analysis of the mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome (NRY markers). These analyses will tell us about the maternal and paternal lineages of the community members.”

“Complex ancestry” revealed

According to her the findings of the genetic ancestry of community “indicate a complex ancestry that includes Africans, in addition to a very strong Native American ancestral component. “

She added that all of the 25 individual will receive their information at a later late and the community will be given more details of the analyses done.

Dr. BennTorres’s primary research area is the Anglophone Caribbean where she explores genetic ancestry and population history of African and Indigenous Caribbean peoples, according to her on-lin profile.

Bharath-Hernandez explained that swabs were taken from members' mouths and while members were fearful of giving blood, the tests did not involve blood samples. He said a lot of people were scared and sceptical so only a handful participated.

"But I hope to convince more people to test their DNA," he said.

Chief: Permanent home needed

Chief Bharath-Hernandez is however focusing on plans to construct a permanent home for his community on 25 acres of land given to the group by the State last December.

Already a work site is being constructed on the lands located on the Blanchisseuse Road.

" We only recently received some funding from the Ministry of Tourism and we are setting up the site to be used as a monitoring centre for the development of the lands" Bharath-Hernandez said.

“We plan to construct a modern Indigenous Amerindian Village, meaning we want to keep the village as authentic and traditional as possible but with all modern day amenities.

“It will comprise a main centre to be used as a meeting and cultural space which will be located in the centre of the village. We will also conduct spiritual rituals there. The Carib Queen, Jennifer Cassar will also have an official building and we will also build a cassava processing plant to make farine, cassava flour, cassava bread and casaripe."

Bharqth-Hernandez added that a craft centre will be built where the people can do indigenous craft, as well as an indigenous museum to display "our artifacts.”

The President added that there will be a guest house to accommodate visitors and students who wish to do ethnographic studies.

“The plan is to have 10 to 12 families living there permanently and they would be responsible for the management of the place. We are also going to have an agricultural focus, consisting of wild life and crop farming.

“We intend to conduct eco-tours and nature trails, because the intention is to keep a major portion of land its natural form,” the chief said.

He spoke of the need for a natural watercourse though the land, which he said would have been possible, had the State granted them the 200 acres they requested.

“There is one on adjacent lands, west of the village but that plot is privately owned and we may want to ask for that as well,” he said. Originally, he said the Amerindians were given 1300 acres of land.

“We have evidence that the Mission of Arima was established and the land was lost to the British but with the UN Declaration and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one of the articles states that governments should work with indigenous communities to redress some of those wrongs.

He said the 25 acres was 40 years in coming dating back to the 1970's.was long in coming.

‘Still without land deed’

Chief Bharath-Hernandez noted however that although the 25 acres were awarded in December 2012 he is yet to receive any official documents .

“We have also not yet discussed under what terms the lands would be given, we are hoping it is not a lease arrangement but a grant in light of the fact that the community once owned 1300 acres.

“It has been a long process, about 40 plus years, we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. It may not be finished in my lifetime but a major part would be established, “ he said.

The community observes a Day of Recognition on October 14 annually, and Bharath-Hernandez is hoping that with a permanent and spacious home, the community can do more to mark its heritage.

As to how soon the development is expected to start, Bharath-Hernandez said “it could start as soon as tomorrow.”

He spoke of forming partnerships with numerous agencies, including the Ministry of Tourism “who sees the village as having tourism potential.”.

He added that his members have mixed feelings about the Amerindian Village.”They are excited but because most of them are old they lament they might not be around to be a part of the development.

He added, “ but we are already seeing some interest expressed by the younger ones, because for the first time, they could have a livelihood and see ways for their own development.”

The newly registered name –Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, has also gone a long way in removing the stigma of the community being associated with an alcoholic beverage, a popular brand name chicken and cannibalism, he said.