Boriken Taino National Congress 2005

Orocovis, Boriken/Puerto Rico (UCTP Taino News) - A national congress of Indigenous Peoples was convened on the island of Boriken from June 21st – 25th 2005. Organized by the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, the meeting was hosted by the Caney Quinto Mundo and took place on Caney lands located in the beautiful mountainous interior region of the island.

The Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos is a national indigenous council under the direction of community leader Elba Anaca Lugo. The Caney Quinto Mundo is a community-based learning center and organic farm founded and maintained by Naniki Reyes Ocasio and Mauricio Guatuel Hernandez in Orocovis.

In collaboration with the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP), invitations to attend the meeting were distributed to Taino groups and individuals throughout the island and the Diaspora.

Activities included a solstice gathering at La Piedra Escrita, a large sacred stone adorned with ancient petroglyphs in the mountain town of Jayuya. Additional meetings and an “areito” (traditional celebration) at the Caney Quinto Mundo were also scheduled. Meeting times were organized into official business meetings and community consultations.

Events began on June 21st in Jayuya to not only honor the solstice and “La Piedra Escrita” but to express solidarity with other Indigenous Peoples gathering at the same time. Solidarity and prayers were expressed for Chief Arvol Loooking Horse of the Lakota Nation, as well as for the Haida Nation of Canada. Chief Looking Horse is at the lead of an international initiative to recognize sacred sites called World Peace and Prayer Day. The Haida Nation of the Queen Charlotte Islands was celebrating the end of their successful campaign to repatriate their ancestral remains from institutions around the world.

The ceremonies in Jayuya were led by Elba Anaka Lugo and Naniki Reyes Ocasio and included blessings from local community elders such as Manuel Galagarza and Shashira Rodriguez Valentin. Community members were also invited to share sentiments and songs in a large community circle. Throughout the ceremony the importance of unity and respect were stressed and these ideals set the tone for the rest of the gathering.

Back at the Caney, among the first official business items were reports of work being done by UCTP representatives in the U.S. The UCTP’s work with local communities, educational initiatives, the UCTP Census project, international campaigns and internet initiatives were well received by the local community.

Following the reports by the UCTP delegation, introductions and presentations were made by representatives of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos. The presentations cited worked accomplished and work in-progress such plans to develop direct actions to publicize the situation of the Boriken Taino. Accountability of current affiliated and non-affiliated indigenous leaders was also discussed. Accountability was an important issue also stressed during the community consultations. Other issues were presented and debated by the diverse group of local leaders, elders, and various representatives of families and community groups. Sacred sites, ancestral remains, solidarity and communications between island communities, local environmental concerns and the establishment of local "yukayeke” were all addressed. A major cross-cutting theme was the need for more action at the island level and how relatives off island can contribute to and support an island developed agenda.

Two important resolutions were affirmed at the gathering by consensus. One item supported the international presence of the UCTP, in collaboration with the Consejo General de Tainos Boricanos, at the United Nations and the OAS. Another was the unanimous affirmation of the indigenous term "Taino" to collectively describe our diverse community. This motion was initiated by respected community elder Manuel Galagarza. After some debate, it was acknowledged that although our ancestors used various forms of identification, ‘Taino’ is an indigenous term, which is both positive and appropriate as a unifying ethnic identification in Boriken and throughout the Greater Antilles.

At the close of the events an overall feeling of satisfaction was expressed by attendees and organizers. Although some logistical challenges arouse due to translation issues and the non-scheduled, but welcomed participation in the  re-internment of ancestral remains at the CEDETRA Museum in Jayuya, participants from on and off the island shared feelings of empowerment and the desire to take a more active role in community affairs. The re-internment of the Taino remains at CEDETRA was an historic and precedent-setting event in terms of collaboration between local groups and that Taino community members took the lead role in the ceremonial preparation and burial of the remains on site. Plans for an educational plaque to be displayed on the tomb are being presented to the municipality of Jayuya. 

Follow-up on the meetings will be forth coming from the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, the Caney Quinto Mundo, and the UCTP.

Author: Roger Guayacan Hernandez

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