American Indians share their culture through Pow Wow

By Sandra Fischione Donovan

Miguel Sague of Verona is a member of the Taino tribe, the Caribbean Indians who greeted Christopher Columbus in 1492. So he has a ready joke about Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas, where he landed while searching for India.

"He was lost, and we found him," says Sague, a native of Santo Domingo, Cuba, and member of the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center since 1977.

While Columbus' voyages are known worldwide, information about the Taino tribe is not as readily available. But Sague will help familiarize people with his tribe Saturday and Sunday at the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center's 30th annual Pow Wow in Indiana Township.

Sague will tell stories that are traditional to the Taino and other tribes. He will wear different costumes for each tribe, including the Senecas, who settled in this area, he says. Sague, medicine man for the council, will invoke the male spirit of life and energy, and the female spirit of Mother Earth and nurturing.

Sague's extended family also will participate in the Pow Wow, or celebration. His sister, Rosa John, and her husband, Melvin John, of Alberta, Canada, will act as masters of ceremony. The Johns and members of their family will perform various dances as part of the Kehewin Native Performance Troupe of Canada.

Russell Simms, executive director of the center, says the Pow Wow is important for a variety of reasons.

"It's a place where Native American people gather in fellowship, make new friends, share our culture and have fun," Simms says. "Because of who we are and how we do things and view life, we do not have a problem with sharing portions of our life. We invite the public to take part. We're trying to encourage the general public to participate so they can learn."

The Pow Wow will open each day with a grand entry featuring all native dancers. Among the entertainment will be drumming, Aztec dancers, a hoop dancer, and men's and women's fancy dances. Native American crafts will be featured, and vendors will sell Native American foods such as buffalo burgers, native chili, fry bread and corn on the cob. American fare like hot dogs and traditional hamburgers also will be available.

Proceeds from the Pow Wow will go toward the Council of Three Rivers center, a United Way agency that promotes the socio-economic development of 8,000 to 10,000 American Indians in the Pittsburgh area.

The center operates a Head Start program, a child learning center, a foster and adoption program, an elder program and employment centers in three states and the District of Columbia, among others. Some of its programs are open to people from non-Indian backgrounds.


Taino celebrate Equinox and International Day of Peace in the Bronx

Bronx, NY (UCTP Taino News) – Taino People gathered in the South Bronx on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 in recognition of the Autumnal Equinox and the International Day of Peace. Organized by the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society, Bohio Attabei Women's Circle, and Iukaieke Guainia in collaboration with Friends of Brook Park the gathering included ceremonies, songs, music, food, and discussion. Along with representatives of the host organizations, also in attendance throughout the day were members of Casa Atabex Ache, and hip hop poetry duo “Taino Survivalists.” A focus on the protest campaign against a proposed Columbus monument in Boriken (Puerto Rico) was featured among the various discussions taking place. The plans to erect the Columbus statue are being initiated by the Mayor of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and The Holland Group Inc. The establishment of an international, inter-tribal coalition against the statue was announced. Follow-up on the campaign will be coordinated by the United Confederation of Taino People.

UCTPTN 09.22.2008


Amerindian Heritage Day to be celebrated in Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago (UCTP Taino News) - Amerindian Heritage Day will be commemorated this year in Trinidad and Tobago with a week long commemoration from October 13-19, 2008. Taking place in the town of Arima, the program will include ceremonies, lectures, and special cultural presentations hosted by the Santa Rosa Carib Community. Indigenous delegations from around the Caribbean region are set to attend the events, which will include a meeting of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (C0IP). “We are looking forward to attending this important regional meeting and continuing to work in solidarity with our relatives keeping our future generations in our hearts and minds” stated Roberto Borrero, a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People. Indigenous delegates from Guyana, Dominica, Suriname, Belize, Saint Vincent, Puerto Rico, and other countries are expected to attend.

UCTPTN 09.21.2008


Taino will gather to celebrate the equinox in the Bronx

New York, NY (UCTP Taino News) - In recognition of the Autumnal Equinox, the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society, Bohio de Attabey Women's Circle, and Iukaieke Guainia will host a ceremonial family gathering at Brook Park in the Bronx, New York on Sunday, September 21, 2008. In collaboration with the Friends of Brook Park, the gathering will begin at 12noon with the preparation of the sacred fire. The event is free and the organizers have requested that attendees please bring their own musical instruments - maracas, guiro etc. - and food to share. Brook Park is located at 141st Street and Brook Ave in the South Bronx. For more information on the gathering contact mukaro@uctp.org or call 1(212)604-4186.

UCTPTN 09.16.2008


Love dilemma for Caribbean people

By Andy Gallacher
BBC News, Dominica

In May this year, the chief of an ancient Caribbean people came up with a drastic solution to protect their heritage - and their future.

Chief Charles Williams of the Carib - or Kalinago - people of Dominica said they should not marry non-Kalinago people.

"The impact of colonisation has been so strong on us that if we do not take steps to protect the race, it will be soon extinct," he said.

Extinct is a word that the academics who study this people would never use, but Chief Williams has little doubt that the Kalinago could be in danger of disappearing altogether.

High ambitions

The Carib were famed for their skills as sailors and warriors and gave their name to the Caribbean Sea.

There are now about 3,000 tribal members left on the island, which has a total population of some 70,000 - and the chief's radical views have found support amongst other leaders.

"Well, for some people this is a ticklish issue," says Miranda Langlais, who refers to herself as the Kalinago's cultural queen.

She, like several of the elders, thinks that the Kalinago women hold the key and are to some extent to blame for the tribe's woes.

"You go out there, you see a nice white guy and you fall in love," says Miranda, talking about the young Kalinago women who have left or have married non-Kalinago men.

"You have to stick to your people, you have to stick to your traditions and that's the only way."

But that is not the only way for many of the Kalinago's younger generation who are keen to escape poor living conditions.

Take 17-year-old Arnique Volmand who has big plans for her future.

She does not envisage staying on the tribe's 3,700-acre territory (1,500 hectares), where poverty is a problem.

"I want to become a pilot and I don't think I will be staying here," she says.

Arnique helps her mother run a small shop on the reserve. It is little more than a wooden shack clinging to one of the island's steep volcanic hillsides.

"They want us to stay here to marry our own tribe but I don't think that will happen. It's already happening that we are marrying outsiders," she says.

"They cannot tell us what to do. If we want to be pilots or nurses, we have to leave the island."

New ideas

In a globalised world, where even the most unspoilt of Caribbean islands is feeling increasing influence from the outside, the survival of the Kalinago has divided the tribe.

Minister for Carib Affairs Kelly Graneau describes himself as an internationalist.

"I never pick a fight with my chief in public," says Mr Graneau, the first politician to hold a full cabinet post on behalf of the Kalinago.

"The world is getting smaller and smaller, it's almost at our doorstep. If we were to legislate and say a Carib man must marry a Carib woman, it means that the race will eventually finish, because your stocks will get thinner and thinner."

Mr Graneau is encouraging the younger tribal members to leave the island to be educated.

He is putting his faith in those who will then return to the Carib territory, bringing with them ideas and a real sense of hope for the future.

Young men like Che Fredrick who hopes to market Kalinago herbal tea and medicinal plants.

Che is 21 years old and holds his people's traditions dear.

"Our culture is very important. Basically I'm finding ways to create sustainable employment for the people of our community," he says.

Minor miracle

Che is not alone. He is a member of the heritage society here and he is bright, educated and determined to place the Kalinago people on the world map.

Getting the few tourists who do visit Dominica to make the Carib territory their first port of call is essential and the key to that lays with the tribe's next generation.

There is a generation gap here and while the elders' suggestion that the Kalinago people marry only each other has not gone down well with many of the younger members, there are those who are now going to university and returning to their heartland full of ideas and enthusiasm.

The Kalinago tribe have lived through colonisation, disease and slavery and it is a minor miracle that they have survived to this day.

But do not be surprised if you see Kalingo herbal tea on the shelves of your local supermarket soon.

As for the intermarriage of the tribe and the idea of legislating that as a rule?

That does not look likely and as several Kalinago people told me: "You can't tell someone who they should or shouldn't love."




UCTP Taíno News - September 13, 2008 marks the first anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration was adopted by overwhelming vote in the United Nations General Assembly and is recognized internationally as a significant milestone in the promotion and protection of universal human rights.

Former Chairperson of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus on the Declaration, Les Malezer noted “The adoption of this Declaration occurred at a critical time in the new Millennium when the role and effectiveness of the United Nations was under intense scrutiny.” He continued stating “For those of us who worked in the final negotiations for the adoption of the Declaration we were becoming acutely aware that the era of developing new standards was drawing to a close.”

Negotiated after more than two decades, the Declaration’s final outcome was seen by Malezer and many other Indigenous Peoples around the world as an outstanding success.

There are already clear indications that awareness regarding the Declaration is increasing around the world. Indigenous Peoples whose populations are estimated at over 370 million are citing the Declaration as a standard that needs to be met on the local and national levels.

Mildred Karaira Gandia, a representative of the United Confederation of Taíno People stated “in Latin America there are governments like Bolivia who are who are working to incorporate the Declaration’s standards into laws. In Belize, the Maya won a significant court case with the Declaration being cited in the Supreme Court decision.”

Highlighting the important role of the Declaration among indigenous communities themselves, Gandia notes that in a recent meeting of the International Indian Treaty Council held in Guatemala “at least two of the IITC conference’s resolutions focused on the Declaration.”

“It is important for our peoples to be familiar with this document” she said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, characterized the Declaration as a “remedial instrument.” Anaya said that the historic document “takes basic human rights principles that are applicable to all and elaborates upon them in the specific historic, cultural, political and social context of indigenous peoples.”

The Declaration seeks to overcome the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous people have faced due to “historical processes of colonization, conquest and dispossession,” he noted.

Anaya also cautioned that such legacies persist, and he urged States and the international community to renew their commitment to the Declaration and ensure that Indigenous Peoples are guaranteed the rights enshrined in this historic document as well as in other international treaties.

UCTPTN 09.13.2008


Curacao herbalist preserves traditional Caribbean cures

By Brian Ellsworth

CERRO GRANDE, Curacao (Reuters): For years Dinah Veeris ignored the traditional Caribbean medicine of her native Curacao, but while recovering from an operation she found only her mother's teas eased her stomach pains.

Casual chats with her mother about the herbs in her garden turned into a five-year study of herbal medicine that took Veeris from the island of Curacao through the mountains of nearby Aruba and Bonaire isles, just north of Venezuela.

"There was so much knowledge that I started to do an investigation with older people. They went with me to the mountains to teach me how to use the plants," she said.

Veeris, a former teacher, also collected native plants threatened by Curacao's economic development. In 1994 she opened a garden outside the capital of Willemstad to preserve herbal medicine and the traditions of an island of 130,000 residents that is a self-governing part of the Netherlands.

"When we were young if we were sick we wanted to go to the doctor, we didn't want to have anything to do with herbs," she said. "We were losing these traditions, that's why I wanted this garden that would have all the knowledge in one place."

The garden, called Den Paradera, now draws Curacao residents seeking natural cures, and tourists attracted by the bastion of tradition on an island increasingly populated by shimmering glass offices and glitzy tourist resorts.

On twice-daily tours, handfuls of foreign tourists or larger school parties wander through the maze of plants. The garden is home to species such as the Calabash, a tree with dense wood and gourd-like fruits, used to treat stomach aches, hypertension and breathing problems.

Another plant called Silik Cotton has green pods filled with cotton-like fiber whose aroma helps cure insomnia, while its leaves help ease headaches.

Veeris' treatments are a mixture of remedies used by indigenous Arawak Indians and African slaves, who had been brought to the island by the Dutch. Much of the Indian and African spirituality and medicine was banned by Roman Catholicism, Curacao's primary religion.

"It was forbidden to practice herbal medicine so people did a lot in secret. To this day you hardly talk about it because some people see it as negative," Veeris, 69, explained.

Twice a week she has consultations with Curacao residents seeking help for ailments and emotional or spiritual problems.

Den Paradera, which means "where people feel at home," is an additional attraction to the island's tropical beaches and historic Dutch architecture.

Veeris said tea made with oregano can improve digestion and relieve ear aches. Tropical sage can help women cope with menopause. Her remedies are meant to complement Western medicine.

"A lot of people go to the doctor and it doesn't help so they go to a spiritual healer or to an herbalist," she said.

Herbal medicine has become increasingly popular in the United States and Europe as people seek alternative treatments for problems such as chronic back pain and the side effects of chemotherapy.

Den Paradera also works to preserve island traditions such as digging wells by hand. The tour of her garden includes a well about 60 feet deep, dug in the 1920s. Visitors are also shown the Curacao tradition of trying to revive dying plants by singing to them while rocking them in hanging pots.

Children from the island's schools tour the garden's traditional huts where healers stored their medicines.

"This garden helps remind me that if you use your own herbal medicine, you don't need very much to live," said Veeris. "Once a year I do my medical exams, but if I have a headache, I still use my herbs. I feel very strong."


Indigenous people in Guyana encouraged to recognise development during Amerindian Heritage Month

By Kevin Lindon
Caribbean Net News Guyana Correspondent
Email: kevin@caribbeannetnews.com

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: The Ministry of Amerindians Affairs in Guyana on Monday launched the annual celebrations of Amerindian Heritage Month, which is being observed under the theme “Inspiring our nation to move forward in Unity”.
See full story at http://www.uctp.org/