12/31/2008

Taino Observe Winter Solstice in Miami

Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague, Mildrid Karaira Gandia, and Edgar Konuk Ceiba Rodriguez honor the winter solstice at a ceremonial gathering in Miami

Miami, Florida (UCTP Taino News) - Astronomically marking the beginning of shortening nights and lengthening days, many cultures link the Winter Solstice with the concept of rebirth. Honoring the significance of the occasion, over 40 Taino community members and friends gathered on December 27th at Women’s Park in Miami, Florida for ceremonial “celebration of life.”

The Miami ceremony called "Taino Winter Solstice celebration" is a tradition of the Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle, organized and facilitated by the Circle’s founder Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague. A Taino from the island of Cuba, Sobaoko Koromo stated “like our ancestors we recognize the [solar] cycle as a powerful spiritual element of our belief system.” He continued noting that this particular social ceremony honored a “return to the divine womb” which heralds rebirth.

Taino community members representing Cuba, Kiskeia, and Boriken were in attendance as well as members of other indigenous Nations including the Apache, Cree, and Mayan. Among the Mayan community of Guatemala the winter solstice is known as Wayeb’ or Uayeb and it represents the days leading up to the end of their solar calendar cycle.

Mildred Karaira Gandia, a Boriken Taino representative of the United Confederation of Taino People in Florida also attended the ceremony with her son Justin and community elders Santos and Annette Irizarry. Karaira was honored to take a role in the ceremony as the representation of Attabey, the Earth Mother.

Remaking on the importance of the gathering Karaira stated “I am honored to be representing the UCTP at this ceremony in Miami as it is an opportunity to bring our people together as family as well as to honor this land area, which is a part of our ancestral homelands. Our ancestors - be they Taino from Cuba, Kiskeia, or Boriken - knew Florida as Bimini and many settled here. As descendants of those peoples we are not immigrants, this is also our home.”

The ceremony culminated with
guaitiao (friendship) dance led by Edgar Konuk Ceiba Rodriguez and a feast featuring traditional Taino staples such as Yuka and Casabe bread.

The winter solstice occurs annually some time between December 20 and December 23 in the northern hemisphere, and between June 20 and June 23 in the southern hemisphere, during either the “shortest day” or “longest night of the year.”


UCTPTN 12.30.2008

12/29/2008

UA professor leads archaeological dig in Cuba

(Photo provided by the University of Alabama) Former UA grad student Paul Noe carefully digs within an excavation square at the site of a former native village in eastern Cuba.

A joint University of Alabama and Cuban archaeological dig in eastern Cuba is revealing how the natives there lived when Christopher Columbus found them and, more importantly, how Indians reacted to the Spanish.

“We have very few cases in the Caribbean where we can point to a certain place and say, ‘This is exactly what happened when Europeans hit the scene,’ ” said UA professor Jim Knight. “Of course, we have the Spanish documents, but archaeology can tell a different story sometimes. Some of these documents tend to whitewash what happened, but artifacts won’t lie.”

It took Knight nearly seven years to get permission and forms signed for UA to led an expedition in Cuba.

For the past two summers, UA graduate students worked alongside professional archaeologists with the Central-Eastern Department of archaeology of the science ministry of Cuba to dig through El Chorro de Maita, a large Indian settlement on a hillside off island’s eastern shore. The effort was sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

“It’s extremely rare for a U.S. institution to partner with a Cuban institution. It’s been our hope we could work something out from our end, and it worked out,” he said.

Cubans have long worked with European archaeologists and researchers, and the site UA wanted to work is widely known in Cuba. There is a museum there, and Knight compared it to Moundville here in Alabama.

Knight is well-versed in Native American culture in the Southeast and studying their encounters with Spanish conquistadors is a natural transition for the UA professor. The dig in Cuba recovered several thousand Spanish artifacts, far more than on any site Knight had ever seen, he said.

But archaeologists also found small stone idols, evidence the society had a hierarchical structure. The Arawakan Indians were similar to those at Moundville, the Mississippian Indians, in structure and sophistication when Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492. Although it’s likely that the explorer landed near El Chorro de Maita, it’s impossible to tell, Knight said.

The site was an Indian town from the late 1300s to the early 1500s, when Spain conquered Cuba and essentially wiped out Arawakan society. It is that interim time period from Columbus’ landing to Spanish society’s dominance that Knight and other researchers in the project are interested in understanding.

For instance, among the Spanish artifacts at the site were fancy tableware, which could mean Spanish settlers lived in the old Indian huts for a time or that Indians picked up the habits of their conquerors.

To understand more of the two cultures’ interaction, John Worth, a professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida, joined the team to decipher Spanish government documents from the day. Written in a Spanish barely recognizable as such by today’s standards, Worth is hoping to align the documents with the timeline established by the dig in order to understand how the Arawakans eventually melded into Spanish culture.

“We’ll eventually narrow down and pin down who we’re talking about, what the nature of the Indian contact was there because we really don’t know yet what kind of operation there was in that particularly district,” Knight said.

Author: Adam Jones
Source: Tuscaloosa News.com

*UCTP Taino News Editor’s note: This article is posted for information purposes and does not necessarily reflect the views of the UCTP Taino News Service or the United Confederation of Taino People.

12/26/2008

Ancient Family Heirlooms Used to Snort Hallucinogens

Inhaling bowls — shallow vessels with two adjacent spouts — are artifacts found on many Caribbean islands. Early Amerindians probably used them to snort hallucinogens, liquid or powdered, through the nose.

Now ponder this. Three inhaling bowls unearthed on the island of Carriacou, near Grenada in the Antilles, were made around 400 B.C., according to an analysis of radioactive isotopes conducted by Scott M. Fitzpatrick of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and several colleagues. Yet Carriacou was first settled 800 years later, around A.D. 400. Moreover, one of the bowls was found among archaeological deposits dating from about A.D. 1000. And the mineral content of the bowls indicates that they probably weren’t manufactured on Carriacou.

So the bowls must have come from another island — one possibility is Puerto Rico, 465 miles away, where other bowls of similar antiquity have been discovered. And they must have been kept around for at least eight, if not 14 centuries.

What could account for such endurance? The bowls were not buried in the manner of ritual offerings. Fitzpatrick thinks they were probably passed on from generation to generation as useful or treasured heirlooms.

The findings were detailed in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Author: Stéphan Reebs, Natural History Magazine
Source: http://www.livescience.com/culture/081223-nhm-family-artifacts.html#comments

*UCTP Taino News Editor’s note: This article is posted for information purposes and does not necessarily reflect the views of the UCTP Taino News Service or the United Confederation of Taino People.

12/16/2008

Taino Spiritual Leader Crosses Over to Koaibei


Vega Baja, Boriken (UCTP Taino News) - Boriken Taino community elder and spiritual leader, Ángel Manuel Galagarza, 84, crossed into Koaibei (the Spirit World) on Sunday, December 13 at 5:00am. A resident of the Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, elder Galagarza was a respected activist, husband, father, and grandfather. He was a founding member of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos.

“He was and remains so very special to so many Taino as his home was always open to his people whether they lived on or off the island” stated Roberto Borrero, Chairman of the United Confederation of Taino People. “Aracoel Manuel was the kind of person you don’t meet often these days - like Albizu Campos and Gandi put together. He was always a gentleman and his council will be deeply missed.” continued Borrero.

“He was a humble but strong advocate for our sacred sites and a spiritual caretaker for the Caguana Ceremonial Center in Utuado” stated Carmen Rodriguez Bracero of Vega Baja. Rodriguez Bracero was a long time friend, student, and care-giver to Galagarza after the passing of his beloved wife Monsita.

She also noted “Visitors to Caguana come to the batei and see that each one is dedicated to a kasike from historic times. Abuelo Manuel was the person who initiated and made those signs. ”

A viewing for the elder will take place on 16 December only and a memorial service will soon be announced.


UCTPTN 12.16.2008

12/13/2008

Pasteles are Taino

Jeannie Karayani Calcano-McDonald connecting to her roots by making pasteles.
Photo courtesy of Bohio de Atabey


by Roberto Borrero


With the Holidays upon us, families across the Caribbean and beyond will soon be serving up all manner of traditional meals. On the island of Boriken ( Puerto Rico ) for example, no traditional holiday feast would be compete without a particular savory TAINO delight known as PASTELES.

To begin, it should be understood that Pasteles are indeed of indigenous origin. In fact, a type of pasteles – the “Mexican” tamale or tamalli in Nahuatl – can be traced back as early as 5000 BC.

Pasteles are a food consisting of boiled or steam-cooked “masa” (dough) with or without a filling. Pasteles can be filled with meats, vegetables or really any preparation according to taste. Today, pastels are generally wrapped in plantain leaves and parchment paper before cooking.

In any case, as food is a particularly favorite subject of mine I thought I would share a little of what I know about pasteles from my family oral tradition as well as what I have learned from other elders I have shared meals with over the years.

Making pasteles is a family affair. It has always been a special time to strengthen family ties, renew friendships, and share life lessons with the younger generations.

Even today, making pasteles is still a family affair, for example, your Mom might grate the yucca or guineo, while an aunt will prepare the masa, grandma could be seasoning the meat to perfection, and a cousin can literally wrap the whole process up nicely.

As I understand it, in Boriken, there were at least three and possibly more original “pasteles” - one made from mais (corn), one from yuka, and another from yautia. If you thought you were the only Boricuas making pasteles from yuka, my sisters and brothers, – we Tainos taught you that hundreds of years ago.

In fact, yuka and yautia are Taino words. “Mais” derives from the Taino word maisi. And the Taino word for pasteles made from corn is guanime.

So while your family is enjoying what I call an original Taino comfort food, please keep in mind and share that by eating pasteles you are actually continuing an indigenous tradition thousands of years in the making.

If seen in this light, sayings like “you are what you eat” may take on a whole new meaning.

Roberto Borrero is on staff at the American Museum of Natural History in its Department of Education. He also serves as Chairman of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and President of the Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination for United Confederation of Taino People

*This article originally appears in La Diva Latina Magazine

12/10/2008

Caribbean Indigenous Peoples at the OAS

Washington DC (UCTP Taino News) - A special guest was introduced this week to the Indigenous Peoples Caucus working on the Organization of American States (OAS) draft Indigenous Rights Declaration, Chief Oren Lyons of the Six Nations Confederacy of North America. Chief Lyons gave an inspirational address to the caucus giving some background information on the three generations of Indigenous activism where he has been at the forefront.

Chief Lyons was made internationally famous in a 1985 National Geographic article featuring the Six Nations Confederacy - where he proudly displayed his Six Nations Passport, a professionally made passport that they created entirely of themselves. This indigenous passport has been accepted by over 25 countries worldwide, much to the chagrin of the United States and Canadian governments.

It is a great inspiration to genuine Indigenous freedom fighters worldwide to see just how far the Six Nations have asserted their 'inherent and undeniable right to self-determination'- to use existing terminology in the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

35 year old Damon Corrie of Barbados who is himself of Guyanese Arawak descent remembered the National Geographic article from 1985 and commented: "I was a boy of 12 when I first read that article and I still have the copy."

Corrie continued "I was inspired by the Six Nations example to revive the Pan-Tribal Confederacy that my great-grandfather started over 150 years ago in Guyana with the Arawak, Akawaio and Makushi tribes, now under my leadership it has grown into the world's only multi-racial pan-tribal confederacy with member tribal Nations in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific; and all headquartered in the little Caribbean island of Barbados. We can't afford to produce our own passports yet, but we did produce our own ID cards, and these are being improved and re-issued with security features in the USA with the collaboration of our closes allies."

Mr Corrie also took the opportunity to voluntarily relinquish his position as Caribbean Co-Chair for the Indigenous Caucus at the 11th session of the OAS on the draft American Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples - in favor of his Caribbean compatriot, the respected Taino Elder Naniki Reyes Ocasio of Puerto Rico. Both Corrie and Ocasio are delegates for the United Confederation of Taino People, a respected regional body with representation throughout the Spanish and English speaking islands.

"I had only intended to temporarily fill the seat - which is normally given to our honorable elder brother the Carib Chief of Dominica, until he had arrived; unfortunately he could not attend this session due to pressing tribal matters" Corrie explained.

"As the interaction with the State Ambassadors and representatives will begin in earnest, and since Naniki is bilingual and has more years experience at the OAS than I do; I think it best that she take charge in the Carib Chief's absence. As for myself, it was an honor to have been granted the seat, but I am happy to fill my autodidact in-house journalist role and help get the news of the proceedings out to the wider world. I will also have more flexibility to meet privately with various OAS Ambassadors and lobby the cause for greater Caribbean States involvement in this process."

UCTPTN 12.10.2008

CARIBBEAN STATES MADE INDIGENOUS PARTICIPATION AT THE OAS POSSIBLE

Washington, DC (UCTP Taíno News) – Indigenous Peoples from throughout the Americas are gathered in the U.S. capital to participate in the Organization of American States (OAS) negotiations on the points of consensus of the draft American Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

Among those in attendance is the highly respected 'veteran' Indigenous rights activist June Lorenzo of the Laguna Pueblo Tribal Nation of the USA. During the "Day 2" morning caucus session, Lorenzo shared a very interesting fact of OAS history. She noted that in 1999, at the 1st session the OAS held concerning the draft American Declaration, the few Indigenous representatives who could afford to attend at their own expense were not allowed to participate in any meaningful way. They were relegated to sitting at the back of the room as observers and were allowed one 10 minute speech at the very end of the entire week.

This situation changed when the then OAS Ambassador for Antigua & Barbuda (a country that does not even have an existing pre-Colombian Indigenous population) realized the wrong being perpetrated on the First Nations of the Americas and heroically gave up his seat to Hector Huertas, a Kuna representative from Panama. This act set the precedent that gave Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to fully participate in all the OAS proceedings concerning the Draft American Declaration.

Subsequently, a Specific Fund was established by the OAS to enable many more indigenous representatives from all over the Western Hemisphere to be able to travel to wherever the sessions were being held in the Americas.

Also in attendance at the meeting, Barbados born Damon Corrie is deeply interested in finding out why after first opening the door to Indigenous Peoples - have Caribbean States have seemingly ignored the draft American Declaration process. Corrie who is of Guyanese Lokono-Arawak descent, has attended 6 of the 11 sessions and has only seen 3 Caribbean State representatives in attendance during his entire time at the OAS.

Corrie added that "At the very least I would expect the OAS Ambassadors of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Belize - all countries with existing descendants of pre-Colombian Indigenous populations - to be in attendance at every one of these sessions "

"Moreover, just for the very tremendously significant fact that the Caribbean was historically the first area of the Americas to suffer from the arrival of Columbus and the ensuing European invasion and colonization of the 'New World', should make the Caribbean States take interest in these modern day historic proceedings, which avail them the opportunity to right some of those wrongs."

He continued stating for example that "Barbadians think Indigenous issues do not concern them, but this is only because they do not know their own history. Barbadians do not know that before the African Slave Trade that Barbados was the key commercial center in the Caribbean for the Amerindian Slave trade - buying and selling & importing and exporting Amerindian captives from North America, South America and other Caribbean islands" These are facts recorded in Corrie's book 'The Forgotten Amerindian History of Barbados".

Corrie also noted that "Caribbean people universally condemn the genocide initiated by Columbus on the Amerindian Peoples of yesteryear, and Caribbean political leaders are quite fond of the topic when it suits them, but here and now in the 21st century - when Caribbean States can actually make a huge positive difference and help the surviving remnant populations of that heinous historic injustice - they choose instead to turn their collective backs."

Expressing frustration with the situation, Corrie stated "This on-going 'no-show' by Caribbean States at these OAS Draft American Declaration proceedings is a real source of embarrassment for Caribbean Indigenous representatives. We leave our families to travel thousands of miles to be here and try to make a positive difference in the world for our present and future generations only to see time and time again that the Caribbean States' OAS Ambassadors who are based right here in this very building cannot even make the effort to walk down the hall to participate."


UCTPTN 12.10.2008

12/09/2008

Barbados born activist co-chair of Indigenous Caucus at OAS

Washington D.C. (UCTP Taino News) - Damon Corrie, the sometimes controversial Barbados born Indigenous Rights activist of Guyanese Arawak descent was 1 of 30 persons selected by the Organization of American States (OAS) to once again to attend the current 11th session (Dec 6-12) of negotiations on the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; being held in the Colon Room at the OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

Hard negotiations between the Indigenous representatives and the diplomatic representatives of all the member states of the OAS will be held from December 9-12th.

Of the 30 Indigenous representatives from around the Hemisphere present so far, only 2 are from the Caribbean (Barbados and Puerto Rico) and both are delegates for the United Confederation of Taino People.

The other countries currently represented in the Indigenous Caucus are as follows Canada (4), USA (7), Guatemala (2), Honduras (1), Nicaragua (1), Peru (1), Argentina (2), Ecuador (1), Paraguay (1), Colombia (1), Costa Rica (1), Bolivia (1) and El Salvadsor (4) - with additional representatives from the USA, Panama, Dominica and St. Vincent expected.

On day 1 the Caucus voted for 4 Co-Chairs to head the Indigenous Caucus and the un-opposed nominated candidates were June Llorenzo of the USA (North America co-chair), Jaime Arias of Colombia (South America co-chair), Jose Carlos Morales of Costa Rica (Central America co-chair) and Damon Corrie of Barbados (Caribbean co-chair). Corrie was nominated by respected Taino elder Naniki Reyes Ocasio from Puerto Rico. He agreed to act as Caribbean co-chair only until Carib Chief Charles Williams of Dominica arrives.

Chair of the OAS Working Group, Ambassador Jorge Reynaldo Cuadros of Bolivia gave a very inspirational opening address to the Caucus. The Ambassador reminded the indigenous representatives gathered that "Bolivia should be viewed as the motherland of the Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere because Bolivia - with the only Amerindian head of state and government in the entire Western Hemisphere - is quite literally the sharp end of the spear in the Amerindian rights struggle for equity in the Americas".

In November 2008 President Evo Morales of Bolivia became the first Amerindian Head of State to have ever addressed the OAS.

Leonardo Crippa and Armstrong Wiggins of the Indian Law Resource Center presented evidence to the gathering that attested to the fact that as Global conflict over scarce natural resources escalates, indigenous peoples have increasingly become targets of human rights violations associated with efforts to confiscate, control, or develop their lands, territories and natural resources. Many countries in the OAS project a public image of respect for human rights while permitting and committing human rights violations at home.

The representatives were also reminded that the process to achieve the American declaration has been on-going for over 19 years, and the UN declaration took almost 21 years to finally be achieved.

There is a strong sense of hope that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama will enact real change such as finally ratifying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is something the outgoing Bush administration strongly opposed.

UCTPTN 12.08.2008

12/05/2008

Most Dangerous Show on Radio Discusses the Human Spectrum

UCTP Taino News - "The Most Dangerous Show on Radio" with host Jay Winter Night Wolf will broadcast a discussion entitled "The Human Spectrum: The Red, the Black, the White and the Yellow" tonight, Friday, December 5, 2008 from 7 – 8pm (EST) on WPFW 89.3 FM – Pacifica Radio. Special guest interviews will include acclaimed American Indian musician and activist Robby Romero; Stacey Thunder - host of "Native Report" on PBS; and Roberto Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People. The show will also be available Live via webcast at www.WPFW.org.

UCTPTN 12.05.2008

12/02/2008

Tradition Counts More Than Beauty at a Pageant

JAYUYA, P.R. — The seven girls posed, preened and smiled with all the energy of Miss Universe contestants, but this was no ordinary pageant.

The competitors, from about 6-years-old to 16, had just paraded through a downpour to a small stage surrounded by mountains, where they displayed elaborate outfits handmade from wood, plants or, in one case, jingling shells. And the judges also sought a special kind of beauty: those who most resembled Puerto Rico’s native Indian tribe, the Taíno, received higher marks.

“It’s different,” said Félix González, president of the National Indigenous Festival of Jayuya, of which the pageant is a part. “It’s not white culture and blue eyes; it says that the part of our blood that comes from indigenous culture is just as important.”

Puerto Ricans have long considered themselves a mix of African, European and Native American influences. But since the 1960s, the Taíno — a tribe wiped from the Antilles by European conquest, disease and assimilation — has come to occupy a special place in the island’s cultural hierarchy.

The streets of Old San Juan are lined with museums and research centers dedicated to unearthing Taíno artifacts and rituals. Children are taught from a young age that “hurricane” is Taíno in origin, from the word “huracán,” while no Latin pop music concert is complete without a shout out to Boricuas — those from Borinquen, the Taíno name for Puerto Rico, which means “land of the brave noble lord.”

The ties may be more than cultural. In 2003, Juan Martinez Cruzado, a geneticist at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, found that at least 61 percent of Puerto Ricans possess remnants of Taíno DNA — and nearly all seem to believe they belong in that group.

“The Indian heritage is very important because it unites the Puerto Rican community,” said Miguel Rodríguez López, an archaeologist with the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, an independent graduate school in San Juan. “There is a feeling that it represents our primary roots.”

He added, “It is our symbolic identity.”

In Jayuya, a town of a few thousand people in the mountains north of Ponce, Taíno celebrations began decades ago. When local leaders discovered in the mid-60s that the town was named for a Taíno chief, they commissioned a sculpture to honor him. It was dedicated in November 1969 at the first indigenous festival, and every year since, the chief’s stern eyes have looked out over the event from a perch above the central plaza.

At times, he has been forced to share space with the more modern forces that decimated his people. One of the city’s major archaeological sites, discovered here two years ago, sits across from a Burger King. And before the pageant began on Saturday night, a performance of traditional Taíno dance competed with a pop song from Maná, Latin America’s biggest rock band.

Mostly though, the Taíno influence in Jayuya seems to have merged with its surroundings. The standard Taíno sun symbol, called a guanin, is now carved into the Spanish-style plaza. Many of the crafts being sold at the festival, like jewelry, purses and soap, also included Taíno symbols.

And even the pageant is a hybrid. Actual Taíno women wore only loincloths. But with the influence of local teenagers, the costumes have become exponentially more extravagant A few years ago, organizers had to limit their size to 8 feet high by 6 feet wide.

Even with those boundaries, which, of course, the teenagers tried to push, the costumes amounted to a mix of homecoming queen, Halloween, “Last of the Mohicans” and Las Vegas showgirl.

Mr. Rodríguez, the archaeologist and a former judge of the pageant, compared it to Brazil’s carnival. “It’s a sincretismo,” he said, using the Spanish word for “syncretism.” “They mix different cultures, different beliefs.”

Some scholars have scoffed at the concept, saying it is more a reflection of the joke that Puerto Ricans love festivals enough to have one for every cause or crustacean. But Mr. Rodríguez defended the idea. “You have to enjoy it because it’s for the people,” he said.

The contestants clearly love it. Natalia Fernandez, 16, said she had spent a month and half building her outfit, which required her to carry on her back a wooden Taíno dancer weighing at least 25 pounds, with a sprout above his head the size of a small coffee table.

Her bangs had been cut, her dark hair was straight (in a nod to what is considered Taíno style) and her naturally copper-colored skin made her appear as Native American as Chief Jayuya. But she was also 100 percent teenager. Asked before the contest how she thought she would do, she fiddled with her cellphone and said, “I’m going to win.”

The event started an hour late, and the rain and competition seemed to surprise Natalia. She frowned under the downpour, looking chilled with a bare midriff and no shoes, as she glanced nervously at the girl with shells and starfish netted in a four-foot-high headdress.

But her fears were unfounded. After all the girls introduced themselves and explained their outfits, the judges called Natalia’s name last, like all great pageant winners. Her friends and family cheered loudly from beneath umbrellas as she smiled and twirled for the digital cameras.

“It’s about a beautiful culture,” she said before taking the stage. “It’s not about just beauty.”

Author: Damien Cave
Source: New York Times