Batu: The ancient game lives on

by: Jorge Estevez / Guest columnist

Imagine traveling back in time, 500 years to be exact, to the islands of the Caribbean. There you find beautiful sandy beaches with turquoise waters, palm trees, warm weather, soft winds and green mountainous landscapes.

In the distance, you hear the sounds of drums and maracas. You follow the pulsating music and reach the outskirts of a village. The people you meet are moving about excitedly in preparation for a ball game they call batu.

The game is played in a rectangular playing field called a batey. The batey is surrounded by huge stone slabs with carvings that bear a semblance to those found in other regions of the Americas, yet these are distinctly unique to the Caribbean. Two teams of players enter the batey. The teams have come together from different communities - perhaps to cement their political or social bonds, or just simply for the love of the game.

In any event, these games are central in the Taino social structure. The villagers begin praying and chanting to Koromo, Achinao, Rakuno and Sobaoko, the four directions. The rules of the game have long been established, but the players are reminded once again that one cannot touch the ball with their hands or feet. Only hips, elbows, shoulders and head are allowed. A heavy rubber ball is tossed in the center ... and the game begins.

After contact with the Spaniards in 1492, the Taino Indians of the Caribbean were enslaved and prohibited from continuing this ancient tradition. Just as our North American cousins who were forced into boarding schools, our people were forced into missions by the Catholic priests. Our Native customs and traditions were subsequently denied to us. Hence, our ancestors were unable to continue playing.

How and why we competed was gradually forgotten. Only in historical records do we find descriptions of how this Native sport was played. Today, archaeologists are continually finding remnants of these playing fields.

Huge bateys have been found in Kiskeya (Dominican Republic), Haiti and a few of the lesser Antilles. But the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) has yielded the highest number of bateys found to date. It is quite possible that the most important tournaments were held on this island.

In addition to playing fields, stone collars carved with motifs of religious significance have also been excavated. Batu and ulama (ball game played by the Mexica Indians of Mexico) and other similar games were played throughout Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Europeans.

One would assume that these Native games were lost forever, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the descendants of the first people to meet Columbus are reviving the game. In fact this revival has been going for quite sometime.

The southwest region of the island of Kiskeya bears a striking resemblance to the southwest United States. The area is mostly arid desert with a great deal of the flora consisting of cayuco and guazabara, both cacti. Many people of Taino descent live in this area.

In 1969, Aristides Estrada Torres, Danilo Perez, brothers; Ica and Rhadames Perez, and others formed a cultural group called Grupo Marcos. The group was concerned that our Taino cultural heritage was being neglected not just by academics, but by our own people as well. This group dedicated itself to the rescue of all aspects of Taino cultural continuities and the revival of others. In time, its main focus became the resurrection of the batu game.

Grupo Marcos became the inspiration for the creation of three additional groups: Batey Athene, Batey Azua and Batey Cubatay. With new leaders, renewed energy and total dedication, the groups used historical sources to reconstruct the ancient game of batu. Although individual members have different foci, the main objective remains the same - the games complete revival.

At first, the players would simply form a circle in the town square when they played. Playing mainly for fun, they started attracting huge crowds of tourists who visit the region each year. Soon, other people from the region wanted to join and play as well. As the numbers grew, so did the skill level. According to Rannel Baez, the main purpose of the game is to keep the ball suspended in the air. Every player must hit the ball to the opposing team. If a player fails to hit the ball or keep it in the air, he is automatically eliminated. Women play as well, sometimes challenging the men, but they are allowed to use sticks. Needless to say, the women always win. Spectators can bet on the game. The betting is called chuke'-chuke'.

In time, the individual groups evolved into leagues. Within each league are approximately four teams that play against each other. Each team has up to 40 members. As of this writing, the various leagues have not yet played against each other; however, they do collaborate as the game continues to grow in popularity. With each success, a greater ambitious endeavor began to materialize: playing the game at a national level and in schools throughout the country.

Like any other sport, strength and physical endurance must be maintained. The groups now have physical trainers. Roberto Brito, a physical education teacher who works for the regional Secretary of Education, trains the Batey Athene group and has been especially active in the revival efforts in Azua. Other Batey Athene trainers include Luis Pujols, Luis Vargas, Bayardo Ortiz and Hector Ortiz. Salvador Ubaez trains the members of Batey Azua, and Starling Diaz and Baez train the members of Batey Cubatay. Members hope to one day play in Mexico, where the game of ulama has been revived as well.

Batey Athene has traveled to the United States and Puerto Rico to play. Batey Athene has played with Taino players in Puerto Rico who are reviving the game as well. In fact, throughout the entire Caribbean region, a substantial Taino revitalization movement is spreading like wildfire. ''We will no longer tolerate the popular viewpoint of our ancestors' supposed extinction and the demise of our culture,'' said Baez of Batey Cubatey. Whether in isolated Native communities in Cuba or on the streets of San Juan or New York City, the descendants of the Classic Taino are making a stand.

Brito said, ''Our main goal is to rescue and spread the truth about our origins and our autonomous culture in the hope that our younger generations will learn through our Native sport that our ancestors were a great people. That we carry strong cultural elements passed down to us from the time of our ancestors - and no matter how hard certain people tried to erase this magnificent past, they were unable to do so.''

A warm breeze carries the aromas of ancient traditional cuisine such as chen-chen (corn cake) and casabe (yuca bread). There are women selling mabi and cacheo (traditional Native beverages). The sounds of wooden drums and maracas pulsate through the air.

Two teams of young men have made their way into the circle. A man enters and prays to the four directions. The rules of the game are established. A rubber ball is tossed in the air and the game begins. This scene is taking place in the here and now, not in the distant past. The batu game has been revived, hopefully never to disappear again.

Photos courtesy Rannel Baez -- The ball game called batu is central in the Taino social structure. The game is played in a rectangular playing field called a batey. The players cannot touch the ball with their hands or feet. Only hips, elbows, shoulders and head are allowed. (Bottom) The villagers pray and chant to Koromo, Achinao, Rakuno and Sobaoko, the four directions, before beginning the game of batu.

Story Source: Indian Country Today


UCTP Taino News Editor's Note:
See Related Story - "Batu is a Taino Ball Game" at


UN DPI/NGO Briefing: Climate Change and its Impact on Indigenous Peoples

20 March 2008
Climate Change Panel Summary

Climate change is altering the way in which human beings coexist with their environment. The briefing examined how the issue of climate change applied to indigenous peoples, who maintain an intimate relationship with the land. Speakers included H.E. Mr. Colin D. Beck, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Solomon Islands to the United Nations; Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou, Chief, Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Mr. Roberto Mukaro Borrero (Taino), Chairperson, NGO Committee on the International Decade for the World's Indigenous Peoples.

H.E. Mr. Collin D. Beck spoke about the effect climate change had on small island states and the challenges for indigenous peoples of the Solomon Islands. He noted the great diversity among the half million people living in his country, 90 percent of which belong to indigenous groups who speak 80 different languages. Ambassador Beck stressed that all of the basic needs of indigenous peoples came from natural resources, which were greatly influenced by the changes in the environment. Climate change issues varied within each indigenous community and were related to their specific geographical region. The frequent occurrence of natural disasters such as high tides, tsunami and cyclones in disaster prone areas caused the progress made in certain locations to regress. Ambassador Beck also mentioned the subject of indigenous peoples migrating to bigger islands because of climate change. With migration came the threat of conflict between different ethnic groups and the loss of traditional culture. Furthermore, urbanization contributed to increased poverty. The Ambassador called for the need to move away from policy making into taking action on the ground.

Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou discussed the importance of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which will be focusing on climate change and indigenous peoples during this year's session, more specifically the issues of indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands. Ms. Stamatopoulou stressed the importance of raising awareness on issues faced by the indigenous peoples, and said that the effect of climate change on indigenous peoples was a matter of survival. She stated that indigenous peoples were "hardly contributors to climate change, but suffered the gravest consequences". And yet, the voices of indigenous peoples have not yet entered the mainstream of the climate change debate. Ms. Stamatopoulou also mentioned a study on biofuel development and its impact on the territories and the livelihoods of the indigenous populations. For example, corn used to fill up one SUV tank with ethanol would feed one person for a year. Ms. Stamatopoulou cited the right to food and blamed development of biofuels for the 40 percent increase in food costs worldwide. Ms. Stamatopoulous concluded by stating that solidarity was an important factor in addressing indigenous issues.

Mr. Roberto Borrero greeted the audience and introduced himself in his native indigenous language. He said that climate change was about the kind of world we were going to leave for our children and their children. He called for long-term rather than short-term solutions. Mr. Borrero examined the importance of indigenous peoples to be actively involved in preserving their culture and land. He defended the right to ownership by indigenous peoples and discussed the difficulties indigenous peoples encountered when trying to protect or preserve the land they did not own. Mr. Borrero stated that indigenous peoples noticed climate change years before the climate change debate started. For example, some indigenous elders gathering plants for traditional medicines could no longer find those. Mr. Borrero also mentioned the difficulties indigenous peoples faced accessing mainstream healthcare. He concluded by saying "for many years people have seen ice melting around the world, now it is time to melt the ice in the hearts of men."

During the question-and-answer period, a question was asked in regards to the effects nuclear testing had on indigenous peoples. Ambassador Beck mentioned the nuclear treaty preventing any more testing in his country. He also responded to a question regarding the urbanization of indigenous peoples by stressing the importance of investing in the development of rural areas. This would result in indigenous peoples not having to travel to urban areas for school or work. A question was asked about what NGOs could do to help indigenous peoples. Mr. Borrero referred to the CONGO website as a source for practical ways NGOs could assist indigenous peoples. He noted one of the most important ways NGOs could help was by disseminating information on indigenous peoples to the mainstream media and local communities.

The briefing was attended by about 100 representatives of NGOs, United Nations and Permanent Mission staff. The 1 hour and 20 minute archived webcast of the event is available at http://www.un.org/webcast/2008.html

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Photo: Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou and Roberto Mukaro Borrero speaking on Climate Change at the United Nations on March 20, 2008. (UN DPI Photo)

Source: United Nations, DPI/NGO Resource Centre, Room L-1B-31


Taino Answer 8,000 Drum Call

UCTP Taino News The Otomi Nation of Mexico has issued a call to “Indigenous First Nations, Peoples, Communities and Organizations of the World and all Humankind” in an effort to fulfill a prophecy that speaks of healing Mother Earth. Entitled the “Grand Ceremony of the 8,000 Sacred Drums”, Otomi spiritual leaders and allies will conduct a ceremony on March 21st 2008 at the Otomi Ceremonial center at 12noon, (local time) in the Temoaya, State of México.

In collaboration with the International Indigenous University, the Otomi have called for solidarity for this ceremony on previous occasions and this year, they have renewed their efforts to “begin a a true Healing of Mother Earth, of All the Species and of the Human Family”. The Otomi feel that the state of the Earth today represents a “total imbalance” and that there is a need to “re-unify” and “re-discover” our connection to the earth and “cosmic energy”. Taino leaders in Boriken (Puerto Rico) and the Diaspora have responded officially to the Otomi Nation, and have pledged solidarity with the 8,000 Drums event on Friday, March 21st.

Council and community members of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos will conduct ceremony at 12noon at the Jacanas Ceremonial Grounds in Ponce, Puerto Rico. This site has been the center of controversy since last year as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their contractor, New South Associates, continues to conduct work in the sacred area without consultation with the local indigenous community.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New South Associates have removed sacred artifacts from our island with no accountability” stated Elba Anaka Lugo of the Consejo. “These entities, supported by the government, continue to ignore the calls for dialogue.”

In solidarity with the Otomi as well as the event in Jacanas, council and community members of the Caney Quinto Mundo will also gather at 12noon on their 400 acre land base located in the island’s central mountain region in Orocovis, Puerto Rico.

In New York, members of the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society and Iukaieke Guaynia will gather in the Bronx with the Friends of Brook Park later that evening to unify with the Otomi’s purification ceremonies also occurring on the 21st and throughout the weekend. The Bronx ceremony will be led by Kasike Roberto Mukaro Borrero and will begin at 5:30pm at Brook Park located at 141st St. and Brook Ave. Participants are urged to arrive at 4pm to assist in the preparations.

“We felt it was important to honor and unify our traditions on this special day not only with drums but through the purification ceremony known by the Otomi as Temascal and by Taino as Kansi or Guanara” shared Borrero, who is also a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP).

Another 8,000 Drums Ceremony will be held in Massachusetts and led by Claudia Fox Tree, a local representative of the UCTP. Fox Tree will begin her gathering at 2pm to link to the ceremony in Mexico at 12noon.

To participate in the ceremony at Jacanas, contact Elba Anaka Lugo at 1(787)568-1547. To participate in the ceremony in Orocovis, contact Awilda Lopez Molina at 787 867-2393. To participate in Massachusetts or New York, contact the UCTP at 1(212)604-4186. For more information on the Grand Ceremony of 8,000 Drums, visit the website at http://www.universidadindigena.org/uii/index.html.

Photo: Member of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos (Courtesy of Bohio de Attabey)

UCTPTN 03.19.2008


Caribbean Indigenous Photo Exhibition to Close

UCTP Taino News – The National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustuv Heye is closing its Caribbean Indigenous focused photo exhibition, “The New Old World” after several extensions on March 17, 2008.

The exhibition featuring photographs by Marisol Villanueva have been on display at the Heye since June 2007. According to Villanueva the concept of The New Old World project emerged from her being a witness of the demonstrations and protests of the indigenous people on the so celebrated five hundred anniversary of the invasion of the land that is today known as the Americas or the New World.

In an interview with UCTP Taíno News, Villanueva also notes that “the initial phase of the project Antilles: Living Beyond the Myth, currently exhibiting at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York, takes place in the Caribbean Antilles, where most people think all indigenous people vanished after the Europeans got there.”

She continued stating “this exhibition challenges that myth of extinction, represented not only by the survival of the indigenous people of the Caribbean, but also by the revitalization movements and legacy that still lives in our culture.”

NMAI is also working on updates to the exhibition’s online version, adding video interviews and excerpts of a forum that accompanied it when it traveled to Puerto Rico in 2005.

Villanueva hopes the project will provide the public with the “opportunity of learning a little more about the true story of the indigenous people of the Caribbean Antilles, their way of living and to be conscious of how much of our culture still lives on.”

Photo: Melanie Calderón, Trinidad (Credit: Marisol Villanueva)

UCTPTN 03.15.2008

Taino to bring attention to Suicide Crises

New York, NY (UCTP Taino News) - Taino community member Raul Kahayarix Rios will join hundreds of others in a 20 mile walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in June 2008. The walkers will travel through the night in this special event called “Out of the Darkness Overnight”, which is designed to raise funds and make a bold statement to bring the issue of suicide “out into the light.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is at the forefront of research, education and prevention initiatives designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. With more than 30,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, Rios notes that “the importance of AFSP's mission has never been greater, nor this work more urgent.”

Kahayarix Rios has a personal fundraising goal of $1000 for this cause and he is currently seeking support from the community at large. Rios has set up an “Overnight” fundraising page where donations can be made or the community can check on his fundraising progress. The page and additional information about the “Overnight” event is located at the AFSP website, is accessible at http://www.theovernight.org/?fuseaction=extranet.personalpage&confirmid=10010500.

The Out of the Darkness Overnight will start at 7:00 pm on Saturday evening, June 7, with a short, reflective and motivating Opening Ceremony framed by the setting sun. Upon completing the route, the walkers will gather back at the Ceremonies site on Sunday morning, June 8. Starting at 5:00 am, a Closing Ceremony will complete the event with a celebration of community.

UCTPTN 03.15.2008


LATIN AMERICA: Deforestation Still Winning

By Diego Cevallos*

MEXICO CITY (Tierramérica) - Never before have Latin America and the Caribbean fought so hard against deforestation, say experts and government officials, but logging in the region has increased to the point that it has the highest rate in the world.

Of every 100 hectares of forest lost worldwide between the years 2000 and 2005, nearly 65 were in Latin America and the Caribbean. In that period, the average annual rate was 4.7 million hectares lost -- 249,000 hectares more than the entire decade of the 1990s.

Deforestation remains difficult to deal with because there are many economic interests in play, according to Ricardo Sánchez, director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

At their latest forum, held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Santo Domingo, the region's environment ministers received a limited-circulation report that reveals, among other matters, the failure of strategies against forest destruction.

The document, "Latin American and Caribbean Initiative for Sustainable Development - 5 Years After Its Adoption" (ILAC), evaluates the official commitments made by governments in 2002.

"There is action by governments against deforestation like never before, but we are seeing that it is not an easy task, because there is strong pressure from economic groups," Sánchez told Tierramérica.

Logging results in the loss of biodiversity and degradation of soils, as well as contributing to extreme climate phenomena, added the UNEP official.

Between 2000 and 2005, the proportion of total land surface covered by forests fell in the Mesoamerica region (southern Mexico and Central America) from 36.9 to 35.8 percent, and in South America from 48.4 to 47.2 percent. However, in the Caribbean it increased from 31.0 to 31.4 percent.

According to Mexican expert Enrique Provencio, author of the ILAC report, the principal cause of the increased pace of deforestation is the advance of the monoculture farming frontier, a phenomenon that did not carry as much weight in the 1990s.

"There was a rise in international prices of products like soybeans, which drove the occupation and clear-cutting of forested areas, especially in Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay," Provencio told Tierramérica.

The ILAC report indicates that although forestry activity has maintained a positive performance in terms of improving productivity and advances in sustainable management and other practices, such as certification of sustainably harvested lumber, it has not prevented the loss of forests.

According to the study, in some countries the shrinking of forested areas continues to be associated with an increase in livestock-raising and the classic model of expanding pasture area by cutting down forests.

To combat deforestation, in recent years most governments have designed new monitoring and control mechanisms, with some even using the army to go after illegal loggers. Many countries have also passed laws that crack down hard on those who destroy forests.

Sánchez highlighted recent efforts, such as Argentina's passage in late 2007 of a Law on Forests following a campaign by environmentalists who collected 1.5 million signatures.

The new law stipulates that the authorities must draw up new forestry plans and that permits for logging will only be issued after the approval of an environmental impact study and the holding of public hearings.

Other positives the UNEP director has found in this environmental fight are the efforts of Brazil, which set up inter-ministerial mechanisms to deal with the question, and the creation in Chile and Peru of "super-agencies" against deforestation.

But the problem persists. "This shows that we continue to be economies dependent on the intensive use of natural resources and that the growing demand for food and other products has fuelled an advance of the agricultural frontier," said Sánchez.

Provencio, former director of the Mexican government's National Ecology Institute, believes it is too soon to know whether the deforestation rate will remain high in the coming years, but pointed to initiatives under way that could halt or even reverse it.

There are forestry defence and reforestation efforts that have been highly successful in Costa Rica, Cuba, Santa Lucia and Uruguay, he said. In contrast, "the situation in Brazil’s Amazon region is of great concern, and that could have an impact on the statistics from the entire region."

Another positive sign is the increase in the total area designated as nature reserves. In the 2000-2005 period, it grew from 19.2 to 20.6 percent of the territory in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing 320,400 square kilometres.

Although the increase in protected areas cannot compensate for the loss of forest, "the process gives us some hope," said Provencio.

(* is an IPS correspondent. Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.) (END/2008)

Photo: Honduras is among the leaders in destruction of forests. Credit: Fundación Democracia sin Fronteras


Poll on Taino Themed Video Game Still Open

UCTP Taino News – On February 14 a poll was created at the UCTP’s Taino News and Information Group focusing on a developing video game project that would place the player in the position of a Taino man or woman at the time of Christopher Columbus’ arrival. The goal of the game developer, Josh Samuels is to present historically accurate information regarding the Taino people and culture as well as their interactions with Columbus and his men. Samuels is seeking consultation from the UCTP on the project. The poll looks to survey initial community reaction to such a project. Community members can still register their vote at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Taino_News/surveys?id=12719570 until March 17, 2008 when the voting poll will close.

Spring Equinox 8,000 Drums Healing for Mother Earth

Ku Karey Spiritual Circle, Inc. in collaboration with the Native American Indian Special Emphasis Program and Yamocuno Tanama Yucayeke Taino will join indigenous people around the world on March 20, 2008 for the Spring Equinox 8,000 Drums Healing for Mother Earth. We will gather at the outdoor picnic area of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center located at 130 West Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY 10468 at 12:00 noon.

Join us in Spirit if you are outside of the New York area.

We will be joining indigenous people, sages and medicine people around the world that will be drumming for peace and healing.

For more information contact:
Bohike Marie Maweiaru


Caribbean Editor Appointed for Indigenous Portal

UCTP Taino News – The United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) has been appointed Caribbean Regional Editor for the International Indigenous Portal. Created by the Indigenous ICT Task Force (IITF), the International Indigenous Portal at http://www.indigenousportal.com/ is a developing project, which comprises a general web site and regional sub-sites highlighting various regions of the world including Africa, Arctic, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, North America, the Pacific, and Central and Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia.

Welcoming the UCTP officially to the project, Malia Nobrega (Hawai’i), a representative of the IITF and the Indigenous Portal Board stated that the interview committee “was very happy to learn about the exciting work that the United Confederation of Taino People has done and continues to do with Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean.”

Announced at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2006, the call for regional portal editors began during a special session, which launched the International Indigenous Portal. The announcement was distributed world wide through various internet networks and acceptance of applications closed February 28th. Regional editors for the portal will be responsible for site content, editing, technical support on site usage, community outreach, project development, and reporting.

“The portal will increase the visibility of the Taino and other Caribbean Indigenous Peoples internationally along with our other indigenous relatives from around the world” stated Ericc Diaz who is a lead member of the UCTP’s information technology team.

“We look forward to introducing this innovative technology to our communities throughout the region” said Diaz.

UCTPTN 03.10.2008


Native Representatives Invited for Historic Haitian Ceremony

Haiti - In an historic first since the earliest European trafficking of Africans to the Western Hemisphere for enslavement, the African derived Indigenous religions in Haiti have been united under one Spiritual leader. On March 7, 2008, Max Beauvoir, an internationally acclaimed bio-chemist, plant physiologist and traditional healer will be elevated to the new office of Spiritual Leader of the National Assembly of Vodouizan (KNVA) in Haiti. Vodou is a monotheistic, Creator-based, religion born out of a mixing of African and Native American spiritual practices with adherents numbering several million worshipers in the Western Hemisphere.

The move to form KNVA was decided among the leaders of the major branches of traditional practice in Haiti to better inform the world community about the ancient foundations of their spiritual presence in the Western Hemisphere. The position of the National Assembly is that, over time, uninformed sensationalist motivations of various conversion-driven religions have harmed the people of Haiti and have done great injustice to the character and diverse beauty of all Indigenous spiritual communities. A new spirit of tolerance and acceptance will foster religious freedom within the Haitian cultural context and serve as a positive influence for national and international progress.

On February 6, 2008 Beauvoir stated the following in a special Council with the National Assembly, "We honor the similarities and the cooperative nature of the Indigenous Native American and African spiritual communities in the New World reaching back hundreds of years. There is encouraging evidence of a new era dawning that can lead to a better understanding of the nature and patterns of worship which had sustained a thousand generations of the Original People from Africa and Native America. When colonial Europeans arrived the religious, political and economic balance was lost".

The National Assembly will convene on March 7, 2008 near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti to honor the past and close the 516-year circle of destruction. Haiti will, then, look forward to a future of respect among the world community of sovereign nations. Sovereign Native representatives and Indigenous Spiritual Elders from throughout the Americas are gratefully invited to attend this historic ceremony.