Public Notice Concerning the Commercialization of Ancestral Cultural Heritage Items

Takahi Guaitiao:

On behalf of the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP), we extend warm greetings and blessings, trusting you are all in good health and spirit. We are confident that this official statement responds to a recent issue that required our collective attention, and reflection.

On Jun 12, 2007, an e-mail communication alleging the sale of several Taino artifacts on the EBay auction site was received by the UCTP's Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination (UCTP-OIRRC). The e-mail implicated an unnamed community member as the seller, which evoked a range of reactions and concerns throughout our diverse communities. As a result, the UCTP-OIRRC received a request to follow-up on the situation.

On June 14 2007, the UCTP-OIRRC contacted the author of the original email and learned that, the seller was a UCTP community Liaison Officer who has served in this capacity honorably for the last 5 years.

Following this communication, the UCTP-OIRRC sought the council of community members, leaders, medicine people, and elders. All agreed that while this was an individual action, as a "public face" of the collective, Liaisons have a great responsibility to uphold the principles set forth in the UCTP Declaration of 1998. Faced with this realization, the Liaison involved issued an apology to the UCTP and the larger community for these actions and resigned from the UCTP Liaison program effective June 21, 2007. The UCTP-OIRRC, community members, elders, and medicine people respect this decision to resign and have accepted the resignation.

Even as this case represents a complex set of issues, the founding principles and work ethic promoted by the UCTP clearly do not support the commercialization of ancestral cultural heritage items. It is further recognized that although the UCTP has developed internal protocols and mechanisms to address these situations; these mechanisms may need to be strengthened by the development of new initiatives to integrate them at the local, national, and international level.

Having concluded our internal and ancestral protocols relating to this case, the UCTP-OIRRC reaffirms its commitment to the protection, promotion, and revitalization of indigenous Taino cultural heritage and spiritual traditions for past, present and future generations as enshrined within the UCTP founding Declaration of 1998.

In the Spirit of our Ancestors,
Roberto Mucaro Borrero,
President and Chairman,
United Confederation of Taino People,
Office of International Relations and
Regional Coordination


Taino Women's Bohio de Atabex said...

Dear UCTP community:

On behalf of the women of the Bohio Atabei Taino Women’s circle,The families of Yukayeque Tayaboa as well as members of P.T Yarabi Taino the Ramirez family,Boriken Machisteque family and Pastrano family Texas and Boriken ,I’m writing to
Say Thank You for the posting of this
Public notice with respect to this most serious issue for our

We appreciate the time and effort that was put into
The notice and for being included in the community
Consultations and outreach. We appreciate the dignified and respectful way in which you approached the concerns of the community over this sad occurrence...

We appreciate the fact that you handled this problem with the proper measure of ancestral respect. We thank you for not using vulgar and obscene dialogue in your communications. We thank you for not using the internet as a cyberspace makana of hateful lies, acusations and ill intended insinuations. We thank you for respecting our spiritual values. Lastly we thank you for not allowing the voices of darkness and the hollow hearts of others sway you into acting out of the council of the proper moral and spiritual approach to situations such as this issue.
Thank you for not resorting to degrading actions and tactics od dishonor, by doing so you have demonstrated the wisdom of the elders, the courage of the warrior and true love and respect for our cultural heritage.
Know that we fully support your position
Statement on this issue.

We praise your organization for it clearly has demonstrated once again that the Noble Taino is alive and well,thus giving us hope for the future of our people.
We will continue to keep the UCTP and ALL of its members and affiliates in our circles of prayer. We will strive to support the goals of the UCTP not only for today but for our future generations as well.
We wish you well and may you triumph over all who seek to stand in the way of truth.

The leadership role taken with this notice is
Commendable and we look forward to continuing to
Work together in a good way for our present and future

Dr Michael de La Concepcion President P.T. Yarabi Taino
Joanne Marie de la Concepcion Bohio Atabei Executive officer Presencia Taino
Elder Yuyaboarau Metzili Bohio Atabei,P.T.Yarabi Taino
Elder and head council Anani Nihiwe Yukayeque Tayaboa
MS Yvette Perez Negron Chicana/Taino Bohio Atabei program director Yarabi Taino.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the protection of Taino artifacts

My name is Francisco J. Gonzalez, and I am mostly a listener on Internet discussion lists but I have had an interest on rediscovering our Taino roots for
many years. In fact, for the last 12 years I had followed with
immense pride and admiration the growth in interest, involvement and
passion that this so-called Taino revival has sparked amongst
boricuas, quiskeyanos, cubanos and our brothers and sisters in the
Caribbean diaspora. I also noticed the growing pains of this
revival: the disputes about turf, the exaggerated claims of
legitimacy as descendant of Taino royalty claimed by some early
cacikes, the insistence that one particular group was the only true
Taino nation. Back in the early 1990's I communicated with Peter
Guanikeyu, Rene Cibanakan, Bobby Gonzalez, and other pioneers of the
movement to request information of their activities and to gather a
history of their involvement on Taino issues.

The one thing that all these individuals had in common is a desire to see the spirit force of our great Taino ancestors return to us,their children. I could say that, while I disagree with some of the actions taken by these individuals, but I will never question their sincere belief in wanting to rescue our collective Taino heritage.

I mention all of the above as preamble to my comments on the matter of the selling on eBay of sacred relics. I am an attorney with experience in non-profit law (I practice law in Minnesota, also
attended law school at the Univ of PR-Rio Piedras), and also have an
interest in antiquities law and Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) issues. The recent discussion on
several Taino Internet lists regarding this matter, I think, has
been most welcome and productive despite the personal attacks and
other side-issues that came into play. I think that now we are all
aware of the great damage being done to our heritage by past and
present looting and the commercial trading of Taino relics. I
personally felt physically sick when I saw some of the extraordinary pieces put up for sale on eBay, specially a superbly crafted manatee bone spatula that certainly was used for sacred ceremonies by a behike somewhere in Quiskeya or Boriken. I have seen other artifacts that are better than what is currently on display at museums in Puerto Rico.

The problem, as we all can imagine, is the fact that Taino artifacts can be found across many islands, with different laws and policies guiding heritage protection. In addition, collections gathered in
the 19th and 20th centuries, when artifacts were more easily found
and could be legally obtained, are now up for sale. All of this
makes it almost impossible to try to come up with a scheme to
regulate the sale of to request the repatriation of these artifacts.

A more practical approach would be to try to protect, document and,
where possible, acquire these pieces. Below are a series of ideas
that we all as children of the Taino can agree on, and that could
serve as rallying points for all the different Taino organizations
to support.

On protecting sites and preventing looting:
1.Contact the modern governments of the Taino ancestral homeland
(Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, and relevant
metropolitan and local authorities of dependent/colonial governments
of Turks and Caicos, Caiman Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands) to request information of their current laws regarding the
trade in antiquities. Also to ask what measures are they taking to
protect archaeological sites and prevent looting.

2. We should think on ways to use our talents. We could offer
assistance to these governments or, even more effective, local
community-based groups interested in heritage preservations. For
example, raise funds to help build a fence that limits access to a
sacred site in order to prevent looting or vandalism; organize
student and volunteer groups to travel to the Caribbean to help
local museums care for and properly display artifacts, etc.

On documenting:
1. We should establish an online photographic catalog or registry of
known Taino artifacts. Museums in the US, Europe and the Caribbean
have priceless artifacts that we will never be able to see in person
or successfully claim to be returned. The next best thing would be
to have a central place were we could see images of these pieces,
with information on provenance, condition, etc. Also private
collectors may be willing to cooperate, which would be great to
track the whereabouts of individual pieces. There are similar
catalogs already in existence on Maya ceramics, for example, and
these are very useful for the production of modern replicas for
daily us and also to create economic opportunities for modern

On acquisition:
1. We could develop a fund to purchase significant pieces offered in
the open market. Besides the fund, we must think of where to keep,
display and preserve these priceless objects. I would suggest a place like el Museo del Barrio or a similar entity that could assist
in the creation of a depository of rescued artifacts, which would be
available for careful use on sacred ceremonies.

Last, but not least, I think that all the Taino organizations, from
UCTP, Nacion Taina, Jatibonicu tribe, etc. should adopt a unified
membership document, under which anyone wanting to become a member
of the individual group must agree never to purchase original
artifacts for personal use and also agreeing to report any activity
that misuses our sacred artifacts, such as looting, selling of
artifacts, etc.

I hope that the members of this forum would accept these ideas as
suggestions on how to take positive, proactive steps to protect our
shared Taino heritage.

Francisco J Gonzalez
Isabela, PR-Cottage Grove, MN