UN Expert Meeting on Indigenous Languages

United Nations (UCTP Taíno News) - An Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Languages was held from 8-10 January 2008 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Organized by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the meeting was held in accordance with a UN Economic and Social Council decision, which authorized a three-day international expert group meeting on indigenous languages and requested that the results of the meeting be reported to the Permanent Forum at its seventh session.

The meeting was attended by indigenous language experts, UNPFII members as well as interested Member States, UN Agencies, Indigenous Peoples' Organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations. Some of the issues discussed included the importance of linguistic diversity, the connection between language rights and all other fundamental rights, a concern for the lack of urgency while a majority of all indigenous languages are threatened with extinction and proposals for the revitalization, promotion and protection of indigenous languages.

Represented at the meeting, the United Confederation of Taíno People was one of several organizations submitting interventions which form part of the final report now available at the PFII website.

UCTPTN 01.29.2008


Ancient Antillean Sloth Exhibited in Havana

Havana, Cuba (UCTP Taino News) – A recent discovery of an ancient sloth and other fossils are set to be exhibited in Havana’s Natural History Museum. Cuban scientists believe the sloth fossil, which was found in the central province of Sancti Spiritus, is between 18 and 20 million years old.

Similar discoveries of what are termed “the Caribbean’s oldest fossils” have also been made in the area known as Domo Zaza since the 1970s. Fossil remains found at the site include giant sloth, giant ostriches, giant crocodiles, rodents, a shark, a new species of primate, turtles, and several manatees. Research indicates that the occurrences of some of these animal groups are as old if not older then similar groups on the South American mainland. The fossils were found close to the banks of the Cayajana River, 350 km east of Havana.

The Domo Zaza site is known as a “unique” and an important paleontological and geological investigation area as the only other Antillean locality that has yielded similar land-mammal materiel of significant antiquity is located in Yauco, Puerto Rico.

Having undergone significant study in cooperation with American Museum of Natural History in New York, the fossil of the most ancient sloth of the Antilles is now a part of the permanent collection of the Havana Museum of Natural History.

UCTPTN 01.27.2008


Tracing Taíno Ancestry in Puerto Rico

Since 1994, Dr. Juan Carlos Martínez Cruzado has been working on the quest to find the origins of the Taínos. The genetic professor from the Biology Department of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez (UPRM) confessed that the only thing that he knew before about the first inhabitants of our island was what his 5th-and 11th-grades history classes taught him.

He recalls that the archaeologist Juan José Ortiz Aguilú, director of the Archaeology Program of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, was the person who awoke his interest on this topic, when he offered Martínez Cruzado the chance to investigate the mitochondrial genetic material (mtDNA) of an ancient skeleton.

Although the majority of our genetic material is inside the nucleus of our cells, the mtDNA can only be found outside the nucleus in an organelle called mitochondria. Martínez Cruzado, a Harvard Ph.D., clarified that the mtDNA is 200,000 times smaller than the nuclear DNA.

“We all possess the mtDNA, but it’s only transmitted by mothers,” explained the
professor. Also, in the mtDNA a mutation or change in composition occurs each 3,000 years.

Because of this, the mtDNA can be preserved through many generations and help trace human migrations around the world. Although racial mixing has been a common historical phenomenon in the Caribbean, there are mtDNAs that have maintained their original state and can be identified as African, Taíno or Caucasian. “The evolution of human kind is written on the mitochondrial DNA”, he stated.

At the beginning of his research Martínez Cruzado searched for Taíno ancestry by
extracting mtDNA from bones. This technique was discarded because the results didn’t show variety in the genetic material extracted, and the technique was too expensive and complicated.

The professor, then decided to collect hair, saliva and blood samples from people with typical Taíno traits to obtain their mtDNA. Between 1998 and 1999, the investigation was based on analyzing the mtDNA of voluntaries from UPRM and Indieras, Maricao. The study revealed a higher incidence of Taíno DNA in people from Indieras whose physical appearance resembled Taínos: black hair and slanted eyes.

The professor then obtained funding from the National Foundation of the Science of United States to analyze the mtDNA of a representative sample in Puerto Rico.

Martínez Cruzado found 19 maternal lineages; nine of which have enough frequency and variability to suggest that they go back to the pre-Columbian period. “All the members of each lineage share a great-great-grandmother. These great-great-grandmothers are responsible for all the lineages in the world and share an African great-great-grandmother,” explained the scientist.

The study shows that the majority of the Indian lineages in Puerto Rico originated in the Amazonic region.

Martínez Cruzado’s study has been published in many scientific journals, including the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in September, 2005. The professor has extended the investigation of Indian migrations in the Caribbean region to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where he has also found mtDNA with Indian heritage. The results are expected in 2008.

Author: Margarita Santori López, PRENSA RUM
Source: http://www.uprm.edu/news/docs/UPRMNews2008009.pdf


A relic José Martí had in his offices in the USA was donated to the Museum – House of Martí in Cuba.

“A document recently found at the National Archive shows also the authenticity of the ax. It is a document writen by hand by Marti’s friend in which he tells how effectively he gave it the ax to Martí in New York for his 41 birth date”.

“I had the ax in my house among my dearest souvenirs for a Little more than 27 years” says profesor Jorge Juan Lozano Ros.

The day he brought the Taino Petal ax to the editorial department – considered the oldest object the Hero had in his office in the USA – he gave the chance to the journalists to touch it with the pride of someone who keeps a very valuable object and with the wish of its energy accompains all us.

“I carry the request made by Gonzalo de Quesada y Michelsen, who gave it to me in 1980 in his home located in Paseo 656 and until now it has been my dearest talisman”, comented to the newspaper Professor Lozano, a specialist of the Office of the Program of Marti in Havana City.

The piece will be donated with the request that it can be exhibited at the Museum Birth House of José Martí in Old Havana.

The donor also explained that this valuable piece was used by Martí as paperweight in his offices at the 120 – 122 Front Street in Manhattan, New York, a place that later became the seat of the Delegation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC, after its initials in Spanish), while, at the same time, the publishing house of the Patria newspaper.

“This ax – cleared Lozano – is a work instrument and a combat weapon that belonged to the ancient Cuban agro – potter culture of our indigenous population and it was given by Fermín Valdés Domínguez to Martí the 28th of January of 1894 when the Maestro was getting 41 years old”.

“It was already time that the work object of Martí, made out of rock by one of our remote ancestors, belonged to all the Cubans”, confessed Lozano.

He added: “Having keep it for such a long time was a healthy pride for me, as it was also very proud to have had the revolver of the Hero a mambi (Cuban Independence fighters) gave it to him in 1868 and that is exhibited today at the Fragua Martiana Museum of Havana University”, indicated.

The ax – a solid and mysterious object, rounded on one end and sharp on the other – was obtained by Fermín Valdés Domínguez in Baracoa, when he was working as a doctor in that fabulous part of the Eastern Cuban geography, where he was doing at the same time, archaelogical researches about the taino cultura.

“The same day Martí received the gift from his soul brother – as he called Fermín once – he placed it in his working table of the stated New York office. Martí always used the ax as a paperweight and always caressed it because, he cofessed, “this way I touch Cuba”.

The idea that the ax must be exhibited in the Museum – House is because the working table is on exhibition at that Museum. It was there where the Swedish painter captured the image of Martí as a writer, thinker, lawyer and journalist.

“I know that the shiny souvenir belonged to the Hero due to the oral tradition of Gonzalo de Quesada y Aróstegui, his son and his grandson. Aróstegui, who was the sectretary of Martí, told that when he received the letter of Martí, considered his literary testament, the first of April 1895, he said:

“Out of the portraits of my office you should choose two of them and the other two to Benjamin (Guerra) and to Estrada (Palma), Wendell Phillips*”.

Aróstegui chose the one of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and the petal ax, the Hero had in the same table where he wrote his leters and articles for the Patria newspaper.

Source: Juventud Rebelde


Biological Diversity Convention Working Group Meets in Geneva

Geneva (UCTP Taino News) The sixth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) opened on 21 January 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Continuing the work of the fifth meeting of the Working Group, held in October 2007, the Working Group will work toward the elaboration and negotiation of an international regime on ABS.

The meeting is being attended by over 520 participants, representing Parties to the Convention and observer States, indigenous and local communities, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, United Nations sister agencies, and the business community.

Representatives of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, International Indian Treaty Council, Foundation for the Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge, Juventud Indigena Argentina, Consejo Autonomo Aymara, Centro Estudios Multidisciplinarios Aymara Bolivia, and the United Confederation of Taino People are among those actively engaging the process.

In a statement to the plenary, these organizations affirmed that the proposed “international regime should only apply to genetic resources, derivatives and products and associated traditional knowledge that have been accessed with the free prior and informed consent of, and mutually agreed terms with, Indigenous peoples who are the owners of such resources and knowledge under traditional systems and customary law and consistent with international human rights law.”

The results of the deliberations of the Working Group are scheduled to be submitted for consideration by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD at its ninth meeting, to be held from 19-30 May 2008, in Bonn, Germany.

Photo (IISD): Indigenous representatives attending the sixth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS)

UCTPTN 01.25.2008


See also:

Access, Benefit Sharing, and the Convention on Biological Diversity


Columbus Blamed for Spreading Syphilis

UCTP Taino News - A recent genetic study is being touted as evidence to support the theory that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World.

According to a report by Reuters, U.S. researchers said “a genetic analysis of the syphilis family tree reveals that its closest relative was a South American cousin that causes yaws, an infection caused by a sub-species of the same bacteria.” Kristin Harper, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta states that “syphilis or a progenitor came from the New World to the Old World and this happened pretty recently in human history."

Harper believes the new genetic data supports what has come to be known as the “Columbian theory," which links the first recorded European syphilis epidemic in 1495 to the return of Columbus and his crew.

Sampling strains of bacteria, which included two strains of “yaws” from Guyana, the study concluded that while yaws is an ancient infection, venereal syphilis came about fairly recently. Harper suspects a nonvenereal subspecies of the tropical disease quickly evolved into venereal syphilis that could survive in the cooler, European climate. She admits that it is not clear how this process took place.

Harper also admits that while the study indicates that “the ancestor of syphilis came from the New World,” what exactly it was like the scientist still don’t know.

Don’t Blame the Venereal Disease on Native People

“With regard to this data, our concern is that its sensational aspects will be misinterpreted to refuel attempts to link the venereal disease to the Taino People since we were the first to meet Columbus and his crew.” stated Roberto Borrero, a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People. “This would be unfortunate especially as this new study only claims that a progenitor of the disease came from the so-called New World.”

Borrero explained that “a few of our ancestral stories do mention a particular skin condition called karakarakol, which according to what we know today describes yaws.”

Yaws is an infectious disease that occurs mainly in tropical regions. Caused by the bacterium Treponema pertenue, the disease features characteristic bumps on the skin of the face, hands, feet, and genital area. Over a period of time, the bones as well as the joints are affected as well. Most cases of yaws occur in children under 15 years of age and it is spread by direct contact with skin lesions or cuts. Treponema pertenue is described as a subspecies of the organism responsible for syphilis.

“European colonizers mention karakarakol or ‘bubas’ in their reports along with the indigenous treatment of the affliction being medicine derived from the Guaiakan tree” Borrero continued. “According to these early reports the Europeans seemed to be quite familiar with this type of disease as they refer to it as the French disease.”

Some scientists are have already voiced disagreement with the new findings indicating Harper’s conclusions relied too heavily on genetic changes from the Guyana samples.

"The debate about the origins of syphilis has continued for nearly 500 years," noted Borrero who added “In a climate that glorifies Columbus and attempts to justify the genocide of indigenous peoples by denigrating the lifestyle of our ancestors as savage and immoral, one important aspect of this research is that it suggests the disease may not have been transmitted through sex until it adapted to the environment in Europe.”

UCTPTN 01.15.2008


Museum Focuses on Water as a Precious Resource

New York (UCTP Taino News) - In conjunction with its dazzling exhibition Water: H2O = Life, the American Museum of Natural History’s annual public program series, “Living in America” will focus on the symbolic and community values of this precious resource. The programs will be held on January 12, 19, and 26 and will feature dynamic performances, discussions, films, and workshops for adults and families; highlighting local, national, and international stories.

This Saturday, January 12, the program is entitled “New York Water Stories”, and highlights the historical relationships that indigenous peoples had with rivers and estuaries to current water-related issues. The events begin at 12noon with an opening water blessing ceremony with Zen Buddhist priest, Sensei Bonnie Myotai Treace followed by a special presentation with the Mohawk Singers and Dancers at 1pm and 4pm. The Mohawk group will present traditional songs and social dances honoring water, such as the fish and thunder dances. Excerpts from the Iroquois Thanksgiving Address will be presented by Mohawk elder Tom Porter.

At 1:30pm, author Evan Pritchard will present “Native New Yorkers: These Ancient Waters” and discuss the importance of rivers and estuaries to the Algonquin speaking peoples of Manhattan Island. Pritchard is the author of Native New Yorkers and No Word for Time and a book signing will follow his presentation. Additional presentations and demonstrations will be given by Dale Estus, a New York City tunnel builder (2:30pm), and Long island bayman, John Buczak, fisherman Bill Hamilton, and clammer Flo Sharkey.

Completing this unique set of programming on the 12th is an AMNH Water Fair that will be held from 1pm – 5pm in the Museum’s Grand Gallery at 77th Street. The AMNH Water Fair will feature water-related demonstrations, information tables, and art displays with Long Island fisherman; Mohawk Craftsmen; Friends of Brook Park (a local environmental advocacy group); Origami U.S.A; The Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy; and Taino Spirit with Reina Miranda and Aguilar Marrero.

The American Museum of Natural History’s Living in America programs are free with suggested Museum admission.

UCTPTN 01.07.2008


Successful CARIB Art Exhibit Closes in NY

New York (UCTP Taino News) - The first annual CELEBRATE: CARIB Art exhibition closed on December 29 after its successful premier showing. Sponsored by CARIB (Caribbean Association for Resource, Information & Building), the exhibition was held at the World Culture Open Gallery (19 W. 26th St.) in New York City from December 16-29, 2007. According to the exhibition organizers, the show was an opportunity to “celebrate artwork inspired by the vitality, beauty and diversity of the Caribbean region.”

Among the Caribbean artists from “near and far, of many languages, and interpretations” who showcased an impressive display of multi-media artworks in the exhibition was Taíno elder, Mildred Mucara Torres-Speeg. An award winning, internationally recognized master portrait artist, Torres-Speeg’s contribution to the exhibition included “Guabancex: Taíno Spirit of the Hurricane” and “Taíno Warrior II”. These unique works as well as other pieces from her collection can be viewed at http://www.worldsbestart.com/ and http://www.nighteaglestudio.com/.

UCTPTN 01.05.2008


Comment Period on Proposed NAGPRA Rule

Deadline for public comments on a proposed rule on “Culturally Unidentifiable” Native American human remains is January 14, 2008. The final rule will specify a process for the disposition of human remains listed on museum and federal agency inventories as Native American, but where the decision makers lack a reasonable basis to determine the cultural affiliation of the remains to a present day tribe. The remains of more than 100,000 Native American individuals will be affected by the rule. The text of the proposed rule and instructions on how to comment are on the National Park Service’s National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act program website at http://www.nps.gov/history/NAGPRA/

UCTP Taino News Editor’s Note: Bo’matum to Joanna Soto Aviles for forwarding this message concerning NAGPRA


Taino People affiliated with the International Indian Treaty Council

UCTP Taino News - The United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) has been formally accepted as affiliates of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) by consensus of the IITC Board of Directors. The Taino affiliation will be reconfirmed by the indigenous assembly gathered at the upcoming IITC Treaty Conference which will be held from 4-7 April 2008 in Guatemala. The theme of the 2008 IITC Treaty Conference will be “Implementing the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Free Prior Informed Consent”.

The IITC is an organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central, South America and the Pacific working for the sovereignty and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of indigenous rights, treaties, traditional cultures and sacred lands. The IITC was founded in 1974 at a gathering by the American Indian Movement in Standing Rock, South Dakota attended by more than 5000 representatives of 98 Indigenous Nations.

The UCTP represents indigenous Taino People from throughout the Caribbean region at the international level as well as supports local Taino organizations and community representatives at the local and national levels.

UCTPTN 01.01.2008