Large Ancient Settlement Unearthed in Puerto Rico

Kelly Hearn
for National Geographic News

Bodies, structures, and rock art thought to belong to an indigenous pre-Columbian culture have been unearthed at an ancient settlement in Puerto Rico, officials recently announced.

Archaeologists say the complex—which dates from A.D. 600 to 1500—could be the most significant of its kind in the Caribbean.

"This is a very well preserved site," said Aida Belén Rivera-Ruiz, director of Puerto Rico's State Office of Historic Preservation.

"The site seems to show two occupations: a pre-Taino and a Taino settlement."

The Taino are thought to be a subgroup of the Arawak Indians who migrated to the Caribbean from Mexico or South America hundreds of years ago, experts say.

They were among the first tribes to encounter Europeans.

Huge Plaza

The ancient Taino settlement was discovered in southern Puerto Rico.

Archaeologists have known since 1985 that the area contained indigenous artifacts.

But the scope of the site became clear only recently, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on a new dam meant to protect the region from flooding.

Perhaps the most significant find is a large plaza covering an area of about 130 by 160 feet (40 by 50 meters).

Rivera-Ruiz said the plaza appears to be a batey, a rectangular area around which the Taino built their settlements.

The plaza, which contains stones etched with ancient petroglyphs, might have been a court used for ceremonial rituals or ball games.

"If this information is confirmed, this would be the largest known indigenous batey in the Caribbean," Rivera-Ruiz said.

Roberto Mucaro Borrero, a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, agreed.

The site "could be the largest ancient Taino cultural area found not only in Puerto Rico but throughout the Caribbean," Borrero said.

And petroglyphs of a masculine figure with frog legs could prove especially important in understanding the culture's roots, he added.

"They could reveal evidence of direct links between the Taino and the Mayan peoples," he said, although other experts strongly refute that the two cultures are related.

Storm of Controversy

Confusion and criticisms are already swirling amidst excitement over the findings.

Initial reports about bodies found in several graves at the site suggest that the people were buried in unique positions.

The bodies were "buried facedown with the legs bent at the knees—a style never seen before in the region," the Associated Press reported.

But Miguel Rodriguez, a member of the Puerto Rican government's archaeological council, said the burial positioning isn't unheard of in the area.

Kit Wesler, a Taino expert at Murray State University in Kentucky, also said that the "facedown position is unusual but probably not unprecedented."

Rivera-Ruiz of the state preservation office stressed that any claims about the uniqueness of the burial arrangements must await a full excavation and studies of any funerary objects.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based New South Associates—a private archaeology company contracted by the Corps of Engineers to salvage the site—is at the center of controversy over their excavation methods.

According to AP, the company had initially been using a bulldozer that caused damage to centuries-old bones.

Members of the Taino who visited the dig on Saturday "witnessed damage to the site, particularly to some human remains and stones" that was apparently caused by a backhoe, Taino representative Borrero said.

Rodriguez was adamant that the company should be pulled off the project.

"This is a textbook case of what they shouldn't do," he said. "They are using mostly diggers and bulldozers and they must stop."

Rodriguez also accused the company of violating Puerto Rican law by failing to register artifacts it had taken off the island.

"They haven't told us anything about the materials, so they are not following the rules," he said.

An official from New South Associates said the Corps did not permit them to answer press inquiries.

But Rivera-Ruiz, of Puerto Rico's historic conservation office, defended the Corps and its contractor.

"The contractor was originally hired by the Corps of Engineers to conduct a salvage data recovery operation on a site that was essentially doomed," she said via email.

"Once preservation became an option, the scope and invasive nature of the project was shifted in favor of the more low-key, less intrusive hand excavation of already exposed features."

About 80 percent of the site will be left intact, Rivera-Ruiz added, allowing for the long-term preservation of most of the site.

She added that Puerto Rico's State Historic Preservation Office has overseen the company's operation, and the parties are complying with the law.

And Corps spokesperson David McCullough told National Geographic News via email that his agency stands behind New South Associates and is reworking its plans based on the new findings.

"When the Corps recognized the extreme significance of this site," he said, "we redesigned the parts of the dam project that would create the greatest adverse effect to the site."

Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/10/071029-puerto-rico.html


Puerto Rican archaeologists accuse U.S. Army Corps of taking artifacts without permission

The Associated Press

Puerto Rican archaeologists on Monday accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of illegally shipping two dozen newly discovered pre-Columbian artifacts off the island without permission.

Diana Lopez, a University of Puerto Rico archaeologist, said the Army Corps should be fined for sending ceramic pieces, stone tools and bones, which may date from 600 A.D. to 1500 A.D., to Atlanta for testing without approval from a local archaeology council.

"They never told us that they were going to take those pieces," said Miguel Rodriguez, a member of the council who claimed such tests could have been done on the island.

Jose Rosado, chief of the corps' San Juan construction office, has promised that engineers will return the pieces to Puerto Rico once tests determine their origin and value. Calls and e-mails to his office went unanswered Monday.

The artifacts were discovered earlier this month when an Army Corps team began work on a dam project in southern Puerto Rico. Archaeologists said the find could shed light on most aspects of Indian life in the region, from sacred rituals to eating habits.

They called for a halt to the corps' heavy digging, which they warned could expose the pre-Colombian site to wind and rain.


Taino Artists Continue to Gain Recognition

Taino Artists Aguilar Marrero and Reina Miranda
exhibiting their works at the 106 Street Festival
in Spanish Harlem, New York

New York (UCTP Taino News) - Taino artists, Aguilar Marrero and Reina Miranda, are continuing to gain recognition for their work and the Taino culture. The two have been busy not only with their collective art exhibitions but with informative presentations as well. They recently represented indigenous Caribbean culture at the Roosevelt Island "Falls for Arts Festival", the HealthPlus "Hispanic Heritage Month" celebration, and various Art Fairs around Manhattan.

Their selected art works were part of an exhibition held earlier this year at the United Nations in conjunction with the 2007 session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Both Marrero and Miranda maintain a website at Cafepress (http://www.cafepress.com/aguilar) where prints works dedicated to promoting the Taino culture can be obtained. The next New York area appearance for these popular Taino artists will be at the Second Annual Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Artisans Exhibition and Fair, November 17, 2007. The event will take place at the Hunter College West Building from 11am-5pm.


Taino Concerned over New Archeological Find in Puerto Rico

Ponce, Puerto Rico (UCTP Taíno News) – Tomorrow at 9am, the President of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, Elba Anaca Lugo will issue a public statement concerning a recent archeological “discovery” in Ponce, Puerto Rico via University of Puerto Rico Radio (WRTC 89.7 FM). Lugo’s statement will highlight the declaration issued by the Consejo General and the Caney Quinto Mundo in response to this major archeological find said to date back from 600 A.D. to 1500 A.D. Lugo will also note violations observed by the local indigenous Taíno community in relation to this already controversial case.

The Taíno archeological site was uncovered last week while land was being cleared for construction of a dam to control flooding in the area.

At the site a number of unique archeological finds have already been documented including monolithic stones displaying petroglyphs (carvings) that are surrounding ceremonial plazas as well as burial grounds. At least one of the stone monoliths depicted a human figure with frog legs similar to one found at another site – Caguana - in the island’s mountainous interior.

Although local archeologists have been aware of the historic importance of the area since at least 1985, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture has called for the construction to stop as heavy machinery has already destroyed important artifacts. The investigation and the “discovery” is one that is sure to bring the subject of ancient indigenous culture back into to the spotlight on the island. The case however is already amidst controversy regarding the construction permits, their relation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the island’s Institute of Culture.

Same Old Story

Local Taíno leaders and activists are all too familiar with the scenario unfolding in Ponce. In July 2005, a group of indigenous community leaders entered the Caguana Ceremonial Center in Utuado to mount a peaceful protest to not only bring attention to condition of that “park” but the ongoing destruction of sacred sites around the island. This historic action, which ended in the arrests of several Taíno leaders, is known locally and internationally as “El Grito Indigena Taíno de Caguana.”

Reports indicate that at this new archeological discovery in Ponce, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave permission for the construction to begin with evidence that there was the potential for a major find in the area. As in other similar cases, the U.S. Army Corps is said to have already removed major artifacts to undisclosed locations in the U.S. One question locals have concerns the Puerto Rican Institute of Cultural and if it was aware of and allowed the U.S. Army Corps to engage in this practice without challenge.

At least a year before “El Grito de Caguna”, local Taíno leaders raised the alarm about another major archeological site that was being destroyed to make way for construction. This case occurred in Arecibo at “Ojo del Agua.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Institute of Culture were also involved in this case and again, many unique artifacts have left Puerto Rico without pubic knowledge or consultation. The Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos and the Caney Mundo brought the destruction at Arecibo to the attention of both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Institute. The local Taíno called for a halt to the construction and for consultative meetings to discuss their concerns but their requests were ignored. The construction continued and the destruction to that site remains an inconceivable loss barely mentioned by local media.

“The lack of respect for the local community and the continuous destruction and looting of our national patrimony were among the major reasons why we chose to enter Caguana and symbolically reclaim the site through our protest.” stated Elba Anaca Lugo.

“These corrupt practices have been going on in Boriken (Puerto Rico) for many years and we, the Taíno People have continuously attempted to bring these cases to the attention of the government authorities who in turn continue to ignore our concerns.” continued Lugo. “This is a violation of our basic human rights.”

Speaking on behalf of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP), Roberto Mucaro Borrero stated “The UCTP is in full support of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos and the Caney Quinto Mundo with relation to their declaration concerning the ancient Taíno site recently found in Ponce, Puerto Rico.”

“As they represent the concerns of the local indigenous community, the UCTP looks toward the Consejo General and the Caney Quinto Mundo for guidance in this situation and will do all that it can to highlight their exclusion from the consultation process” noted Borrero.

Representatives of the Consejo General visited the site on Saturday, October 27, 2007 to survey the situation first-hand as well as to perform traditional ceremony on behalf of their ancestors. Lugo’s statement and commentary on UPR radio tomorrow morning is the first in a series that the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos will dedicate to this issue.

Photo: Prof. Elia Vega García


Declaraciones del Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos y el Caney 5to Mundo en torno al hallazgo del yacimiento Tibes/Bucana Baramaya (Portugués)

Declaraciones del Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos y el Caney 5to Mundo en torno al hallazgo del yacimiento Jacanas -Tibes/Bucana Baramaya (Portugués) en Ponce.

La Nación Taino/ Buricua representada a través del Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, órgano unificador de nuestra madre tierra Boriken y el Caney 5to Mundo:

  1. Declara que en este hallazgo han habido innumerables violaciones de leyes al patrimonio del pueblo Buricua Taino de Boriken (Puerto Rico), así como al patrimonio universal.
  1. Exige que se detenga las excavaciones y saqueos inmediatamente.
  1. Exige la repatriación al Consejo General de Tainos Boricanos y al Caney del Quinto Mundo de las osamentas saqueadas del yacimiento para su retorno a la madre tierra con todo el protocolo espiritual ceremonial según nuestras costumbres y tradiciones.
  1. Proclama el yacimiento Tibes Bucana/Baramaya Tierra Sagrada y Santuario del patrimonio cultural indígena de Boriken.
  1. Denuncia que el gobierno federal, a través del cuerpo de ingenieros, así como el gobierno estatal y las instituciones que manejan nuestro legado cultural y ancestral han incurrido en una clara crasa violación de leyes de derechos internacionales indígenas de las Naciones Unidas y la Organización de Estados Americanos, leyes arqueológicas estatales, constitucionales y federales.
  1. Denuncia que el pueblo Buricua Taino ha sido discriminado y excluido de su plena y efectiva participación, el procedimiento de consulta previa y del consentimiento libre, previo e informado en el manejo y destino de nuestra herencia cultural ancestral por las instituciones gubernamentales.
  1. Exige que se detenga las profanaciones a nuestros enterramientos y yacimientos indígenas.
  1. Reclamamos respeto y dignidad para con nuestros enterramientos, restos y objetos Sagrados Fúnebres Ancestrales..
  1. Exige la preservación de este yacimiento para pasadas, presentes y futuras generaciones.

Nota: anexos A, B, C, y D, fundamentos legales.


Photo: Prof. Elia Vega García


UN Declaration Assists Caribbean Indigenous Peoples

Belize (UCTP Taino News) - The Supreme Court of Belize, on October 18, cites the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples to justify its decision upholding the rights of Mayan People to their traditional lands.

The Supreme Court decision involved the Maya villages of Conejo and Santa Cruz and noted that their customary land tenure practices give rise to property rights that are protected under the Constitution of Belize. The Court found that that the failure of the government of Belize to recognize and protect those rights constitute a violation of the constitutional protections of property, equality, life and security of the person. The judgment, which took approximately two and a half hours to read, affirmed that Belize is obligated not only by the Constitution but also by international treaty and customary law - including the recent United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - to respect and protect Maya customary land rights.

The decision is being hailed as a landmark in Belize as well as throughout the Caribbean region and beyond as it is the first judgment applied specifically to the United Nations' declaration, which was adopted Sept. 13 by the U.N. General Assembly.

The victory is expected to result in more protections and land rights for Indigenous People in Belize and potentially affects more than 40 Maya villages. Community leaders are calling it Mayan Independence Day.


Puerto Rico & the House Natural Resources Committee

UCTP Taino News - On Tuesday, the Committee on Natural Resources will meet in open markup session to consider H.R. 900, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007. The legislation would provide for a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico by directing the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission to conduct a plebiscite during the 111th Congress. The plebiscite would give voters the option to vote for continued U.S. territorial status or for a path toward a constitutionally viable permanent nonterritorial status. Visit Web site for additional information. The meeting will take place at 11:00 a.m., in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, DC.

Terrorism Act used Against Indigenous People in New Zealand

Aotearoa/New Zealand (UCTP Taino News) – Last week, New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act was used to carry out nationwide raids against indigenous Maori sovereignty groups, environmental organizations, and even a school bus.

It has been widely reported that approximately three-hundred officers including an elite anti-terrorist “special tactics group” took part in the raids following an investigation into what are alleged to be “military-style” training camps in the Eastern Bay of Plenty - home to the Tuhoe Maori. In Tuhoe Country, the entire community of Ruatoki was blockaded by armed police, with no cars allowed in for several hours.

There have been seventeen reported arrests so far, including well-known Tuhoe Maori activist Tame Iti. At least sixty persons are reportedly being detained for questioning while others who have not yet been taken into custody have had “open warrants” issued against them. An “open warrant” in New Zealand means that the police can return to search their homes at any time, day or night, over the next month. Maori activists are also reporting that police have entered homes with unsigned search warrants, aggressively displaying firearms, intimidating children, and confiscating computers.

Responding to the crises, Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell stated “Maori always predicted it was only a matter of time before the Terrorism Suppression Act would be used against them.” Flavell also noted that the “over-the-top” operation has left Ruatoki school children and families fearful.

Although some non-Maori were arrested during the raids, mainstream media is seizing the opportunity to promote racially biased reporting. The BBC ran a headline reading “Alleged Maori plot against whites" while a headline from London’s Daily Telegraph read "Maori weapons seized in terror camp raid." According to that headline, it would seem even weapons have an indigenous identity in New Zealand.

Across the globe Indigenous Peoples are justifiably concerned with the events unfolding in the South Pacific. The International Indian Treaty Council and other international organizations have issued urgent communications to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapportuer on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others.

While the raids are a source of outrage, many long-time indigenous activists are not completely surprised by the actions of the New Zealand Government. With the rise of politically conservative controlled governments, aggressions against indigenous rights activists are increasing.

From the military incursions against Indigenous Peoples in Columbia and Australia earlier this year to last year’s Mohawk stand off with Canadian forces in Caledonia as well as the special weapons police operation against unarmed, hunger-striking Taíno activists in the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico in 2005, renewed policies of government-sponsored aggression against First Nations are fast becoming a rule rather than an exception in some countries.

Looking at these events collectively, a pattern of government hostility emerges that one cannot help but to link to the controversy surrounding the recently adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As most of the world voted to adopt this standard-setting human rights instrument, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States voted against it while Columbia abstained.

If their recent aggressions and votes at the UN are used as a guide, one can conclude that from the perspective of governments, the solution to their “problems” is simple: Indigenous Peoples can sing and dance to bring in tourism revenue but if they speak up about respect for their basic human rights they will be militarily targeted, forcibly removed from their lands, and jailed.

Maori in Aotearoa (New Zealand) are now experiencing this reality. Although The Terrorism Suppression Act was passed in 2002, a Bill currently before New Zealand’s Parliament would amend it, creating a new offence of committing a terrorist act punishable by a sentence of up to life in prison. So far all but one of the current accused has been declined bail. If a bail application is declined in the District Court, an appeal to the High Court can be made but if application is again refused, the accused will remain in custody until the time of trial. Considering the factors in these cases, there is a strong possibility that many freedom fighters and social and environmental activists could face two years imprisonment without trial.

As Indigenous, Human Rights, and Environmental activists worldwide continue to closely monitor the events unfolding in Aotearoa, one can be sure that certain “democratic” governments are also monitoring this situation just as closely in anticipation of their own possible actions against Indigenous Peoples.


UCTP Taino News Editor's Note: A support website for the arrestees has been created with information on support groups, background details, how to write to prisoners and more, at http://www.civilrightsdefence.org.nz/.


From Hatuey to Che: Indigenous Cuba Without Indians and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On October 19-20, 2007, Michigan State University College of Law was fortunate to host the 4th Annual Indigenous Law Conference. This year, the theme was American Indian Law and Literature. My thanks to Matthew Fletcher and Wenona Singel for an excellent conference. My own contribution to that event focused on my work in Latin America, and specifically Latin American engagement in international law and national self constitution. What follows is an abstract and then an extended version of my presentation at the Conference. Comments and reactions, as always, are most welcome.

ABSTRACT: Indigenous peoples have been quite useful to political elites in Latin America almost since the time of the conquests by Spanish and Portuguese adventurers in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, indigenous people supplied the foundations for a trope, both literary and political, essential for the construction of cultural, ethnic, racial and political identities distinct from the traditional colonial masters of emerging Latin American states, as well as from that great power to the North. This paper looks at one aspect of this rich development by focusing on the "noble savage" and the construction of Caribbean (and principally Cuban) political identity and the formation of governance ideals. The heart of the paper examines essays of José Martí in the broader context of Latin indigenismo.


Indigenous peoples have been quite useful to political elites in Latin America generally, and in the Caribbean specifically, almost since the time of the conquests by Spanish and Portuguese adventurers in the 15th and 16th centuries. But they have been most useful dead. Or, where the vestiges of Taíno culture are hard to avoid, at least erased from living national memory. In their place, a political racialized mestizaje was deployed against the political purity of race deployed by North Americans in their quest to replace Spain as the dominant colonial power in the Hemisphere, and against Spanish race hierarchies of the colonial period.

Dead, the Indian could be transformed, generalized, denatured, and repackaged for the benefit of emerging elites. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, indigenous people supplied the foundations for a trope, both literary and political, essential for the construction of cultural, ethnic, racial and political identities distinct from the traditional colonial masters of emerging Latin American states, as well as from that great power to the North. This trope, in turn, was part of a larger discussion within Latin American pitting a mestisaje based political and literary theory among nations with large mixed populations and a more North American perspective in places like Argentina and Chile with smaller indigenous and African populations. Indigenismo thus fractured in meaning—pointing to either original peoples, or the blended post conquest populations, or the indigenous characteristics of a dominant European population in its new territory.

See full article at:


Taino Welcomed by Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples

Arima, Trinidad (UCTP Taino News) – On October 16th, 2007 Indigenous leaders from throughout the Caribbean meet in Arima, Trinidad to discuss critical regional issues under the auspices of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (COIP). Hosted by Trinidad’s Santa Rosa Carib Community, delegates attending the COIP meeting represented Indigenous Peoples from Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico.

In an historic affirmation of Caribbean Indigenous solidarity, COIP officially welcomed Puerto Rico’s Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos as full voting members. As COIP is a recognized by Indigenous Peoples, governments, inter-governmental organizations as a Caribbean regional organization, the inclusion of the Consejo General now provides an opportunity for Boriken Taino to officially raise their concerns within this collective.

During the meeting, another important agenda item focused on COIP representation at International Forums such as the United Nations. The increasing visibility of COIP at this level is already evident as a communication from the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was received and transmitted to the participants during the opening ceremony for the meeting.

Held in Arima’s Town Hall, the opening ceremony for the important meeting began with welcoming remarks from the honorable Mayor of Arima, Adrian Cabralis, as well as Government Ministers, Excellencies Penelope Beckles and Joan Yuille-Wiliams.

Funding for many of the delegates to attend the meeting as well as the concurrent activities celebrating Trinidad’s “Amerindian Heritage Week” was made available by the government of Trinidad and Tobago.


Carib and Taino Nations Sign Historic Treaty

Chief Charles Williams and Roberto Mucaro Borrero
Unite the Carib and Taino Nations in Trinidad. UCTP Photo

Arima, Trinidad (UCTP Taino News) – The Kallinago Carib Nation of Waitikabuli (Dominica) and the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) ratified an historic "Declaration of Unity" on October 16, 2007.

Kallinago Chief Charles Williams and Roberto Mucaro Borrero, the President and Chairman of the UCTP’s Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination signed the declaration on behalf of their respective communities during the celebration of Amerindian Heritage Week in Arima, Trinidad.

“Indigenous Peoples need to support each other as there is strength in unity” declared Chief Williams.

The declaration promotes solidarity between the Kallinago and the Taino at the local, national, and international levels.

“Treaties between Indigenous Nations are tangible demonstrations of our sovereignty and our internationally recognized right to self-determination” noted President Borrero. “This declaration makes it clear to all that the Kallinago and the Taino recognize each other as Indigenous Peoples of the region”.

The Kallinago Carib Nation is the only indigenous community in the Caribbean islands who maintain an officially recognized territory via a treaty with the government of Dominica. The UCTP represents Taino People throughout the region and the Diaspora.

The “Declaration of Unity” with the Kallinago Nation follows a series of similarly historic treaty ratifications by the United Confederation of Taino People. Currently, the UCTP maintains treaty relationships with the Santa Rosa Carib Community of Trinidad, the Joboshirima Arawak Community of Venezuela, the Guyanese Organization of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), and the Eagle Clan Arawaks of Barbados and Guyana.


Caribs Celebrate Amerindian Heritage Week in Trinidad

Ameridian Heritage Week Ceremony, Arima, Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago (UCTP Taino News) – October 14 thru 19 2007 is designated Amerindian Heritage Week in the “Twin Republic” of Trinidad and Tobago. Celebrations, ceremonies, and educational activities are being led and organized by the Santa Rosa Karina (Carib) Community with the support of the government of Trinidad.

Some highlights of the week long celebration include ceremonial processions, ceremonies, crafts exhibitions, visits to sacred and historic sites, meetings with high-level government officials, and a meeting of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (C.O.I.P.).

In solidarity with the Santa Rosa Carib Community, indigenous delegations representing Guyana, Surinam, Belize, Venezuela, Dominica, Puerto Rico and from as far as Canada are participating in the celebration.

Under the leadership of Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, the Santa Rosa Community continues to raise the prominence of Trinidad’s indigenous descendants. At last year’s celebration the government announced the formation of a cabinet committee to review and issue recommendations regarding the island’s Indigenous Peoples. The committee, which includes government and Santa Rosa Community representatives has recently submitted its first report.

During a speech given in Arima this week, Chief Bharath-Hernandez stated that while the community appreciates the government’s support “much more needs to be done”. The Chief then referred to their Community’s outstanding land-base issue and their desire for an official holiday to recognize the contribution of the Twin-Island Republic’s Indigenous Peoples.


Arawak Master Woodcarver Names Son After Bolivian President

Pakuri Territory, Guyana (UCTP Taino News) – Internationally renowned master woodsculptor, Foster Simon of Pakuri Lokono Arawak Territory (St. Cuthberts Mission) celebrated the September birth of his newborn son by naming the child “Evo” Simon after President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia.

President Morales is hailed as the hemisphere’s first “full-blooded” indigenous Head of State in over 450 years of the European and neo-colonial occupation of the Americas. Many Indigenous Peoples throughout the Caribbean and the Americas consider President Evo Morales to be “their President”; he is a well-respected and revered personage among First Nations of the Hemisphere.

Foster Simon’s wooden sculptures form part of the Presidential collections of Guyana, Venezuela, and Bolivia. One of Simon’s most recent art works was presented to Bolivian Ambassador Reynaldo Cuadros who received the unique piece on behalf of President Morales. The work was gifted to the Ambassador by Simon’s brother-in-law, Damon Corrie (Arawak), who was invited to make the special presentation at the Presidential Palace in La Paz during a session of the Organization of American States held there in April 2007.

Photo: Proud Arawak parents, Margaret and Foster Simon with new
baby "Evo Simon" in Pakuri Territory, Guyana


See related stories at:

Caribbean and North American Indigenous Peoples present sacred gifts for
President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia.

Bolivians mark Columbus Day and Indians' return to power

President of Bolivia Meets with Indigenous Leaders in New York


An announcement from the Transform Columbus Day Alliance (TDC):

The Rocky Mountain News made a public records request and received all our TCD Defenders' summons and complaints from the police. They have posted them all as PDFs on their website, redacting only social security numbers.

This means people's home addresses and other personal info, including their charges and the terms of their arrests, are now on the web. This is legal, but extremely invasive; the Rocky doesn't do this for all arrests.

This is a special act of nastiness towards us.

Arrests are public information, but this is highly irresponsible journalism, and clearly part of the Rocky's ongoing malevolence towards this alliance, the American Indian Movement and Indian people generally.

Call or email the Rocky Mountain News and demand they remove this information from their websites. It serves no public need and is clearly intended as a form of harassment of our defenders and their families.

Main number 303-954-5000
Main newsroom number 303-954-5201


Related Article:

Protest lawyer cites international law
Gerash takes case in Columbus Day demonstrations

Related Archived Interviews Online:

Challenging Columbus Day: Denver Organizers Discuss Why They Protest the Holiday (Friday, October 6th, 2006)

Indigenous Activists Blast Columbus Day as "Propping Up of Racist Propaganda" (Monday, October 10th, 2005)


Access, Benefit Sharing, and the Convention on Biological Diversity

Indigenous Latin American delegates reading the
statement of the International Forum on Biological Diversity
in Montreal, Canada. Photo: Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Montreal, Canada (UCTP Taino News) – Delegates from around the world are attending the fifth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended working group on Access and Benefit Sharing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montréal, Canada. In relation to the CBD, the Working Group - convening from 8 – 12 October 2007 - is negotiating elements of an international regime on access and benefit-sharing. The items being discussed include access to genetic resources; fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of their use; measures to support compliance with prior informed consent (PIC) and mutually agreed terms (MAT); an internationally recognized certificate of origin/source/legal provenance of genetic resources; capacity building; and indicators for ABS.

Among the participants to this important session are representatives of Indigenous Peoples who are collectively represented by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) and the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network (IWBN). The effectiveness of indigenous participants is further increased as IIFB and IWBN proposals are backed by statements from indigenous regional caucuses that reflect the diversity of issues.

On the opening day of the session, both the IIFB and IWBN welcomed the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The IIFB recalled that the Declaration’s Article 18, which affirms Indigenous Peoples’ right to participate in decision making in matters that affect them and, along with IWBN, stressed that “without recognition of indigenous rights, especially “free prior and informed consent (PIC), there can be no access.”

In an interview with local media, Roberto Mukaro Borrero (Taino), a Caribbean indigenous representative attending the session stressed the importance of the meeting stating “Indigenous Peoples need to be aware of and continue to engage this process as states are attempting to codify ‘sovereign rights’ over genetic resources and derivatives.”

Borreo continued noting that “Indigenous Peoples who have been following this process since its inception remain very concerned that states are misinterpreting their rights over natural resources as state sovereignty does not amount to absolute political or legal freedom. The sovereignty of states is limited by the UN Charter and by international human rights law.”

While some states parties spoke out strongly with regard to the rights of Indigenous Peoples, not all state delegations were as supportive. Canada for example objected to citing the UNDRIP, pointing out that the declaration is not legally binding.

The Working Group continues its negotiations on ABS until Friday, 12 October. This meeting will tie into the session being held next week on the CBD’s Article 8j. This article which focuses on "Traditional Knowledge" specifically mentions Indigenous Peoples and the need for states to respect, preserve, and maintain indigenous knowledge, innovations, and practices.

Negotiations on the international ABS regime will continue at the Working Group’s sixth session to be held from 21-25 January 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland.


Columbus Day protest in Denver leads to arrests

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - About 75 protesters, including American Indian activist Russell Means, were arrested on Saturday after blocking Denver's downtown parade honoring the Italian-born discoverer Christopher Columbus, an event they denounced as "a celebration of genocide."

Police loaded protesters onto buses after they refused orders to disperse. Most will be charged with obstruction of a roadway or disrupting a lawful assembly, Denver Police Lt. Ron Saunier said.

Police delayed the parade's start for more than an hour as they tried to head off confrontations.

American Indian groups and their supporters have disrupted the city's annual Columbus Day parade every year for nearly two decades, leading to clashes with Colorado's Italian-American community over the century-old celebration, the longest-running such commemoration in the United States.

Columbus Day, marked this year on October 8, is an official holiday for most U.S. federal government workers, many public schools, state and local agencies and the U.S. bond market. It recalls the October 12, 1492, landing of Columbus in the Americas on his search for a naval route to India, an event that spawned an era of European interest in the New World.

Means, talking to Reuters before his arrest, said Columbus was the "first trans-Atlantic slave trader" after landing in the Americas in 1492. He said Columbus started centuries of oppression of native peoples.

"By all accounts, Christopher Columbus was personally responsible for thousands of deaths of the original inhabitants of this hemisphere," Means said.

Parade organizer George Vendegnia of the Sons of Italy said his group would honor Columbus' legacy until the U.S. Congress changed the holiday's name. Some cities including Berkeley, California, have already changed the name to "Indigenous People's Day."

"It's a day for us to celebrate our heritage," Vendegnia said.

Parade opponent Glenn Spagnuolo, an Italian-American, said Columbus' legacy should not be celebrated.

"To honor someone who, by his own writings, was a slave trader, is immoral," he said. "I don't see any of my Italian culture in celebrating the occupation and destruction of native cultures."

© Reuters 2007 All rights reserved


Opinion: Columbus Day Celebrates Genocide

By Roberto Mukaro Agueibana Borrero

As Columbus Day fast approaches so does the realization that it is one of the most controversial of 8 U.S federal holidays. At least 17 States do not celebrate or recognize the holiday and plans for annual protests and related educational initiatives are well under way across the United States.

While some Americans question why there is so much controversy directed toward the “discoverer of the New World”, I am reminded of the collective “human spirit” that brought together the nations who developed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. The United States was among the original signatories of this Convention whose second article states that genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members
of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of
life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births
within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to
another group.

In light of this definition, as we review the legacy of Columbus - from the acts he personally committed to atrocities committed by his “countrymen” and successors - one would be hard pressed to not see the connections to the genocide of Caribbean and other Indigenous Peoples throughout the hemisphere.

Whether “mixed or full blood”, the contemporary descendants of the first Indigenous Peoples to meet Columbus, the Taino, Carib, and Arawak Peoples are survivors of what can be considered a centuries-old campaign of genocide committed against our communities. From the encomienda system to the sterilization of our women to the commodity and genetically modified foods that have been imposed on our rural or urban “ghetto-ized” communities, this genocidal campaign continues albeit in subtle forms. These vestiges of old colonial regimes masquerading as a new world order affect the well-being of not only our present but our future generations.

Although Columbus himself never set foot in the United States, Indigenous Peoples throughout the country recognize that the celebration of the federally (tax payer) funded holiday called Columbus Day is a symbol of genocide. Promotion of Columbus as a “hero” is racism as its one-sided mainstream presentation attempts to sanitize the injustices committed during his time or the injustices that continue to be committed against our Peoples today. Indeed, Columbus Day supporters vindicate the celebration of these injustices under the guise of an alleged “civilizing” of savage, non-European peoples.

With regard to racism, I refer to the Webster’s definition, which holds that it is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” In the same definition, racism is further defined as “racial prejudice or discrimination.”

Again, by reviewing the motives behind the Columbus enterprise as well as his actions toward and against the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean, we can link not only the man himself but his legacy and symbolism directly to racism. This link can be made much in the same way there was an outcry against flying the Confederate Flag on U.S. government grounds. The Confederate flag is linked by many to the legacy of slavery and it is generally accepted that slavery in the past or present constitutes a gross human rights violation unacceptable by “civilized” standards today.

Columbus was a slave trader and the majority of his contemporaries promoted and exported this institution. Fueled by his philosophy of racial superiority, Columbus instituted systems on behalf of the King and Queen of Spain, which fundamentally denied the self-determination of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples. This racist philosophy has been supported at all levels of imposed government regimes including past and present educational systems.

Contemporary Taino descendants should have a particular interest in this subject as government and educational institutions continue to deny our right to self-determination by denying our existence. The denial of our right to self-determination is a violation of our basic human rights. Our right to self-determination was recently acknowledged by the United Nations with its adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Non-Taino academics who are elevated to the status of “experts” on our culture without any consultation with our communities are intentionally or unintentionally parties to these human rights violations. While we remain “invisible” peoples with no rights, “they” remain free to say and promote what they want to say about ancestors, our people and our heritage.

Make no mistake if you are a Taino, your rights are being violated everyday whether you want to admit it or not. These violations do not discriminate against “full bloods or mix bloods” as they are violations against our communities as a whole. Our most recent example of the violation of our rights as Taino people is evidenced by the “Grito de Caguana” protest in Boriken (Puerto Rico) and the arrest of Taino people occupying our sacred ceremonial grounds. These violations, these examples of racial prejudice and discrimination as well as the promotion of symbols of genocide against our ancestors and our peoples must not be tolerated even at the most subtle level.

Referring back to Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 3 states that along with genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; attempt to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide are all punishable by law.

As we turn our attention toward the state-sponsored promotion of symbols of genocide such as Columbus and Columbus Day, it becomes ever clearer that our present and future generations can not afford our complicity. While the legacy of Columbus is a part of our collective history, it is not a legacy that should be sanctified with a national celebration at the expense of those whose ancestors gave their lives defending their liberty against a brutal and unjustifiable oppression.

Roberto Mukaro Agueibana Borrero is the President of the United Confederation of Taino People`s Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination. He is also the current Chairperson of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World`s Indigenous Peoples, a Special Committee of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations - CoNGO.