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


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.


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.


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


Pasteles are Taino

Jeannie Karayani Calcano (Taíno) connecting to her roots by making pasteles.
Photo courtesy of Bohio de Atabey

by Roberto Múkaro Borrero

With the holiday season upon us, families across the Caribbean and the Diaspora will soon be serving up all manner of traditional meals. On the island of Borikén (Puerto Rico ), for example, no traditional holiday feast would be complete without a particular savory dish of indigenous Taíno origin known today as pasteles or "pasteles de hoja."

It should be understood from the outset that no matter what alterations they have undergone over the years, pasteles de hoja are indeed of indigenous origin. In fact, the elder relative of Caribbean pasteles is the “Mexican” corn tamale or tamalli in the indigenous Nahuatl language. The tamalli can be traced back as early as 5000 BC.

Pasteles, like other tamalli-like foods, consist 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, the masa is most commonly wrapped in plantain leaves and parchment paper before cooking.

Making pasteles is a family affair. It has always been a time to strengthen family ties, renew friendships, and share life lessons with the younger generations. There is a lot of work that goes into making pasteles. For example, one family member might be tasked with guayando (grating) the iuka (yuca) or guineo (plantain), while another will prepare the masa or perhaps be in charge of trimming the plantain leaves. Someone else might have taken on seasoning the meat to perfection, while another 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 original pastel was made from maisi (corn), one from iuka, and the other from the iautía (yautía). The term iautía refers to the plant Xanthosoma sagittifolium, not malanga (taro) as sometimes claimed. If you thought you were the only Boricuas making pasteles from iuka, surprise my sisters and brothers, our Taíno ancestors were preparing this earthy, culinary delight for generations. 

In fact, Mais(i), iuka, and yautia are Taino words. The Taíno word for pasteles is taiuio (tayuyo) with some type of filling, meat or vegetable or both.  The Taino word for another type of pastel, made from corn without any filling is called guanime. The term taiuio is still used today in parts of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. 

So while your family is enjoying what I refer to as an original Taíno comfort food, please keep in mind 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

*An earlier version of this article originally appeared in La Diva Latina Magazine


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


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


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


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


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


Farmers ravage virgin forests in Dominican Southwest, El Dia reports

PEDENALES, Dominican Republic. - Thousands of hectares of the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (southwest), in the area known as Los Brocosis, are being ravaged by farmers, with the Environment Ministry’s indifference, reports newspaper El Dia.

The farmers are lumbering virgin forests untouched even by the Taino Indians, said the biologist Nicolas Corona, who affirmed that more than protected area, the Bahoruco is becoming farmland. “Unfortunately the park is disappearing day by day, minute by minute. Right now they are cutting down thousands of tareas every year, and everything stays the same.”

Interviewed by newspaper El Dia, the scientist said farmers from the communities Pedernales, Las Mercedes, Aguas Negras and El Mogote participate in the activity, which he affirmed has already destroyed Bahoruco almost entire southwestern section, including Los Arroyos, Aguas Negras “and as rains erode the vegetal cover, those places no longer produce much, and so they destroy other places.”

After calling the practice a crime, Corona said 22 wildfires have occurred in the mountain range so far this year from farmers making clearings, especially in the higher part of Las Mercedes. “The farmers who are in Los Brocosis already depredated Los Arroyos, Las Mercedes, Aguas Negras, La Compañia, La Altagracia and Las Abejas.”

Source: Dominican Today


Third Puerto Rican Artisan Fair to be held in New York

New York, New York (UCTP Taino News) - The 3rd Annual “Comite Noviembre Artisan Fair and Exhibition" will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2008 in New York City from 11am – 6pm at 405 West 59th St. In keeping with its mission to promote Puerto Rican culture and art as well as to commemorate its 21st anniversary, the Comité has invited Puerto Rican artisans from Puerto Rico and the United States to participate in this event being held at the Church of ST. Paul the Apostle.

Of particular note is the participation of the artist company “Taino Spirit” featuring Aguilar Marrero and Reina Sipainaru Miranda. The works of the duo have been receiving increased attention with their exhibitions and displays being featured at the United Nations, the American Museum of Natural History, and other prestigious venues. Taino Spirit was recently acknowledged by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for their dedication to promoting Taino and Caribbean cultural awareness. Artist Aguilar Marrero received an additional distinction with one of his works being selected for the Comite Noviembre’s featured art poster for this year’s event. Marrero will be signing copies of these limited edition Comite Noviembre posters for visitors.

The Comite Noviembre seeks to create a “festive atmosphere” similar to the “fiesta patronales” that takes place in each town of Puerto Rico. The plan is to transform the event venue into a typical Puerto Rican plaza with artists, sculptors, vejigante mask makers etc. promoting and selling their wares while typical Puerto Rican food is sold from kiosks and musical acts entertain throughout the day. Workshops for children are planned such as mask making, the history of the three kings’ celebration, and other activities.

UCTPTN 11.18.2008


Study: Toxic metals in produce grown on Vieques

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico: A new study has found dangerous levels of toxic metals in produce grown on a Puerto Rican island formerly used as a Navy bombing range, despite U.S. government claims that the soil there is safe.

Some products from a research farm on Vieques Island had as much as 20 times the acceptable amount of lead and cadmium, according to the study released last week by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.

Researcher Arturo Massol said peppers, spinach and tomatoes showed higher levels of contamination than products from the nearby Puerto Rican mainland and would pose a health risk to humans. Food grown at the farm is strictly for research and is not meant for consumption.

A Navy spokesman, Cmdr. J.A. "Cappy" Surett, reiterated Monday that the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has determined the soil on Vieques does not pose a health risk to people. A 2003 study by the agency found that Navy training exercises elevated the levels of some metals in the soil, but islanders were not exposed to harmful levels of contamination.

Vieques' small farming community requested the analysis by Massol, who has also studied contamination among the island's fish populations.

After decades of being hammered by live rounds from warships and planes, the Vieques bombing range closed in April 2003 following years of protests.

Since 2005, workers overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been clearing mortar shells and unexploded munitions in a cleanup expected to take about 10 years.

Article Source: The Associated Press


2008 Joint Taino Report to the CERD Now Available

UCTP Public Notice: The 23 January 2008 Joint Taino Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is now available for review at www.uctp.org. To access this historic report at www.uctp.org, please visit the "Documents in English" section, and click on the heading "Taino Advocacy at the United Nations."

The Taino submission to the CERD was a joint effort of the United Confederation of Taino People - Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination; the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos; and the Caney Quinto Mundo in response to periodic reports of the United States of America, which were reviewed at the Committee's Seventy-second session held in Geneva, 18 February - 7 March 2008. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Alls Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. The report is 30 pgs in English only.


Punta Cana Resort inaugurates Taino Underwater Park

Santo Domingo - The destination Punta Cana Resort & Club took the first step to create the Underwater Park Igneri / Taino, in Playa Bonita, with the laying of the first two sculptures of a total of 12 that will complete the exhibit.

The project is headed by the artist Thimo Pimentel, with the support of the Punta Cana Group's Ecological Foundation.

Source: Dominican Today


Remembering the Tainos: Jamaica's First People

KINGSTON (JIS) - Jamaica is regarded as a cultural melting pot due to its unique history and the racial diversity that has contributed to the country's cultural heritage.

One such group that is often overlooked are the Tainos, who are featured on the country's Coat of Arms.

"Most people probably handle money with this symbol everyday but probably never give a thought to it and it is ironic that something that is so visible, people know so little about," Senior Research Fellow at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/ Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), Dr. Julian Cresser, says in an interview with JIS News.

"I do think that more needs to be done, (as) the Tainos are certainly a part of the history syllabus but in terms of just the wider public knowing about them, I do think more could be done to promote knowledge about our indigenous people," he maintains.

The Tainos were the focus of the ACIJ/JMB's recent Open House Programme. "Well throughout our various exhibition programmes we have highlighted various groups that have contributed to the cultural heritage of Jamaica. We have focused in the past on the Chinese in Jamaica, we have looked at German immigration, and this year we decided to look at the Tainos," Dr. Cresser explains.

"What we have realized is that not much attention had been paid to the legacy of the Tainos and so we decided that it would be good for us to have a feature on them," he continues.

The Tainos, who are generally referred to as Arawaks, are recognized as the earliest recorded inhabitants of Jamaica. On this matter, Dr. Cresser notes that there is a distinction to be made between the words Taino and Arawak with the former referring to the inhabitants and the latter to a language.

"We believe the Tainos were the first inhabitants of Jamaica. They would have migrated from South America and reached the Greater Antilles somewhere around 700 to 1000 AD," he informs.

"Most people are more familiar with the name Arawak, we now believe that these groups of people were Arawak speaking people so Arawak refers to a group of languages spoken by these people and you had different groups of Arawak speaking people in the Greater Antilles," he further explains.

In appearance the Taino were short and muscular and had a brown olive complexion and straight hair. They wore little clothes but decorated their bodies with dyes. Religion was a very important aspect of their lives and they were mainly an agricultural people although they did have some technological innovations. Today, some of their practices and different aspects of their culture such as their language, and food, are still in use in Jamaica.

"Some of the things that are definitely part of our cultural heritage today that came from the Tainos are things like the use of cassava, especially the making of bammy that is a very popular part of our food heritage. There is also the use of tobacco, which is not just a part of Jamaica but (is used) right throughout the world. The Tainos used tobacco in a number of their religious ceremonies and rituals and in their daily life for relaxation," Dr. Cresser says.

"The Tainos also cultivated cotton and they had a process by which they wove it and were able to make hammocks. The word hammock is a derivative of a Taino word and so is barbeque, which refers to a way in which they prepared meat. So a number of these things that we see around us we may not realize that it has come down to us from the Tainos," he affirms.

Another interesting aspect of the Tainos is in relation to one of the more popular Jamaican proverbs such as being given "basket to carry water". This proverb generally refers to a situation in which a person is given an impossible task to complete.

However, Dr. Cresser points out that what many people don't realize is that some types of baskets can actually be used to carry water and that this is one such task that was carried out by the Tainos.

"Just recently I was telling somebody that you may hear the phrase "given a basket to carry water" which really means that you have been given inferior tools to do a job. But the Tainos actually used baskets to carry water. They had a process by which they made baskets from very finely woven wreath. And they were able to weave these so intricately to form a water tight basket," he enthuses.

Another important feature of the Tainos was that they had no system of writing and Dr. Cresser cites this as a major reason why Jamaica needs to record its history because to ensure that its done accurately.

"The Tainos as far as we know had no system of writing. What we know about the Tainos comes from archaeological finds, rock and stone art. They were artists and they made a number of drawings in caves. We would have also learned from the writings of the Spaniards who encountered them, as subjective as those writings may be," Dr. Cresser says.

Additionally, he points out that, "it is also believed that some Tainos made their way into the hilly interiors of Jamaica where they would have met and mixed with the earliest African Maroons and it is believed that some of the practices of the Tainos would have filtered down to us through this interaction with the Maroons".

Although the Tainos became extinct centuries ago, Dr. Cresser remains passionate about keeping their memory alive and asserts that it is important to honour and remember them.

"Just generally it is important to understand the history of Jamaica just to see how we have reached this point. The Tainos are our first inhabitants and their contact with the Europeans played a role in shaping Jamaica and I think it is important that we look at that," he emphasizes.

"Some aspects of Taino life have survived until today and because they have survived they are a part of our cultural identity and I think it is very important for people to be aware of all of those things that make up our identity, it is a part of knowing who we are," he further affirms.

The ACIJ/JMB is a division of the Institute of Jamaica, which serves to examine all aspects of Jamaica's cultural heritage and make this information accessible to the public, through its library as well as exhibition and outreach programmes.

Author: Don Dobson
Source: Jamaica Information Service


Carribean Women Share Immigrant Voices in New York

New York (UCTP Taino News) - An evening of poetry and dialogue about the Caribbean immigrant experience will take place for one night only on Thursday, November 6, 2008 at Chelsea Studios in New York. The event entitled "Immigrant Voices: - Caribbean Women II" will feature several Caribbean women who will share their stories about leaving their homes and country in search of a "better life in the United States". Immigrant Voices is hosted by Back Home, Art by Mia and CARIB and the program will begin at 7:00pm and admission is $10 with proceeds befitting CARIB, a non-profit organization. Featured artist for the program include Maria Aponte, Cheryl Boyce, Taylor L. Deean Fontaine, Gloria Ester Fontanez, and Reina M. Miranda of Taino Spirit. For additional information on the program call 1(646)300-9650. Chelsea Studios is located at 151 West 26th Street, Studio 607 (6th Fl.), between 6th and 7th Avenues in New York City. (Photo: Reina Miranda of Taino Spirit)

UCTPTN 11.06.2008


It Came from the Caribs

By Tracy Assing

The hammock is sometimes used to illustrate the carefree, relaxed environment one associates with a Caribbean vacation. But that image wasn’t dreamed up by advertising – it’s symbolized the laid-back lifestyle for centuries.

Some sources credit Christopher Columbus with the “discovery” of the hammock when he saw it being used by indigenous peoples during his journey to the Caribbean. First mentioning the hammock in his logs during his first voyage in 1492, he was so impressed by these simple but efficient slings that he took several back to Spain with him.

Although the hammock was revealed to the world in this region, it was also used by Central and South American tribes at the time though it’s said to have spread from the Caribbean only centuries before the Spanish Conquest. The word “hammock” was derived from the Taino hamaca or yamaca, and the first hammocks are thought to have been woven out of tree bark. One of the oldest pieces of furniture in the history of mankind, the hammock has spawned a multi-million dollar industry, with distinctive styles and patterns emerging from different regions.

European explorers were so enchanted by it that they took careful notes of their observations. In an account of life in the West Indies, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes wrote in 1535 of the “natives”: The beds in which they sleep are called hammocks that are blankets of cotton well woven of beautiful and good quality fabrics…”

Indigenous tribes were labeled lazy by the conquistadors because they spent so much time in their hammocks, but the visitors were eventually won over by its perfection.

The hammock was lightweight and easy to set up: better than sleeping on the floor, where one could be vulnerable to snakes and damp; and it functioned as a bed, or a chair, or a sack, or a fishing net.

The hammock is not confined to terra firma, though. The English sailors whose efforts helped Britannia rule the waves adopted it in the 16th century, since they found it easier to catch 40 winks in a hammock than on a bunk bed while being tossed around at sea. Centuries later, American astronauts in the Apollo programme snoozed in hammocks between moonwalks.


Getting into a hammock
Turn with your back to the hammock and sit in the sling. As you sit, reach back with your hands to steady yourself and gently spread the bed apart. Once you are in the sitting position, lean back and then pull up your feet.

Getting out
Swing your legs out and then stand up


Article Source: Caribbean Beat magazine, Sept/Oct 2008, pg 96.

Native Artist Robby Romero’s Music Single Enters Top Ten

UCTP Taino News - The new single from American Indian songwriter and performer Robby Romero, "Who's Gonna Save You," enters the top ten at #9 on the National Aboriginal Music Charts. The hit single is now is available on Romero’s new album release Painting The World.

"Painting The World" celebrates the historical adoption of the United Nations' "Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples", a declaration that underwent the longest period of debate and negotiation of any other international human rights instrument in United Nations history. The album features an impressive array of Indigenous artists from around the world and is intended to “bridge the gap between Indigenous Peoples, human rights, and the environment.”

Guest artists featured on Painting The World include Brian Majloa (Zulu), the Gwich’in Children’s Choir (Gwich'in), Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet), Soni Moreno (Mayan/Apache/Yagui), Sofi Jannok (Saami), the P. Town Boyz (Ojibwe), George Gray (Maori), Ataahua Papa (Maori), Sixto Masaquiza (Quichua), Cameron McCarthy (Kuku-Yalanji),and Roberto Mukaro Borrero (Boriken Taino).

More information on the album and Romero’s discography can be reviewed at

The release of Painting the World took place during the United Nations Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues Cultural Event on Earth Day April 22 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City with a live performance by Romero accompanied by McCarthy and Borrero.

UCTPTN 11.05.2008

Barack Obama Elected President of the United States

Washington, DC (UCTP Taíno News) - History was made on November 4, 2008 as Sen. Barack Obama triumphed over veteran Sen. John McCain to become the 44th President of the United States. Obama is the first African American ever elected commander-in-chief in the country. Cheers for his victory were heard not only across the United States but around the world as his message of “change” resonated beyond race, age, and political party. The President-elect received a considerable amount of support from American Indians for example, with over 100 tribal leaders, tribal organizations and tribes endorsing Obama and his running mate Sen. Joe Biden.

In a poll conducted by UCTP Taíno News an overwhelming majority of Taíno people, 76.2%, felt that Sen. Obama would “best serve the Taino community and the country.” In contrast 10.5% felt the same about Sen. McCain while 13.3% of those polled did not seem connect to either candidate.

During the campaign, one of the longest in US history, Obama pledged a full partnership with American Indians. Some of the issues he promised to address include strengthening health care, improving economic opportunities, and creating a top level White House position focused exclusively on Native affairs.

In May, President-elect Obama was adopted by the Crow Nation who honored him with the name “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.” (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

UCTPTN 11.05.2008


Increased access to social services a priority among indigenous women

Guyana - Increasing access to social services is among the priorities identified by indigenous women leaders in the region as key to empowerment, against a backdrop of development.

Participants at the `Conference on Indigenous Women in the Caribbean:Voice, Participation and Influence for Development' that opened last Thursday found that many of their problems were the same. These include poverty, limited access to health, education and other basic social services, while trying to secure recognition of traditional land and rights. Another issue is gender-based violence. One of the challenges facing the conference was creating room for women's rights in the context of the collective indigenous rights. The two-day meeting was organized by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). It attracted across section of government and civil society participants from Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Suriname, Nicaragua and St Vincent.

Read the full story at http://coipnews.blogspot.com/


Yahoo recognizes Taino News and Information Group

UCTP Taino News – The United Confederation of Taino People’s Taino News and Information Email List Server has been recognized as a “Yahoo!Groups Power User” with the Yahoo Groups network. The distinction recognizes the Confederation’s dedication to building its ever-increasing subscription base and allows access to Yahoo’s Power User Program. The Taino News list on Yahoo currently serves over 2,600 subscribers.

The Groups Power User Program is a pilot program focusing on the owners and moderators of the top 2% of Yahoo Groups. Top percentile users were determined after a review of a several factors including the number of members in a group, group activity, and how long the group has been in existence. As one of the few list serves in the program, the UCTP can now take advantage of new services such as 24-hour online chat support.

One of the UCTP’s online moderators, Roger Guayakan Hernandez welcomed the news. “It is nice to see a company like Yahoo recognize the hard work we have put into our Taino News group resource.”

Hernandez, who is based in Puerto Rico, noted that Yahoo Groups is a free service that has been instrumental in “increasing the visibility of Taino and other Caribbean Indigenous Peoples within and out of the region.”

“We continue to see our Taino News digest and individual articles forwarded on other networks all around the world” he said.

An extension of the Confederation’s news distribution network, the Taino News and Information Email List is located on the internet at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Taino_News/ on the Yahoo network.

UCTPTN 10.21.2008

Miss Kalinago and Princess Natari 2008 Chosen in Dominica

Carib Territory, Dominica (UCTP Taino News) – 10 contestants competed for the Miss Kalinago and Princess Natari pageant crowns as part of “Carib Week” in September 2008. This year the annual pageant was held at the Karina Cultural Village in Bataca, Dominica and two of the contestants, Miss Juslyn Antoine and Miss Darylia Sanford, took home the coveted titles.

The contestants were required to demonstrate their talents, appear in traditional regalia, display craft items and in the case of Miss Kalinago, deliver a promotional speech. The Princess Natari contestants were not required to deliver speeches.

Leader of the Karina Cultural Group and coordinator of the pageant Miranda Langlais stated that contestants must be “dedicated” and “take pride” in the showcasing of their talent and culture.

Langlais, who is recognized by her people as a Kalingo Cultural Queen, also noted that “the very first Carib Queen pageant was organized by former Carib Chief Hillary Fredrick in 1996.”

A second pageant was held in 1998 and it has since become an annual event.

Carib Week is observed in commemoration of the Kalinago uprising that took place in Dominica on September 19, 1930.

In Photo: Carib Cultural Ambassadors Miss Kalinago Juslyn Antoine, 16 (left) and Princess Natari Darylis Sanford, 10 (Photo Credit: Wendy-Ann Duncan)

UCTPTN 10.21.2008


House Passes Baca Legislation to Establish Native American Heritage Day

Bill Will Designate Friday After Thanksgiving as Day of Tribute

Washington, DC – Late last night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto), and supported by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and 184 federally recognized tribes, to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day Bill, H.J. Res. 62, designates Friday, November 28, 2008, as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States.

“Native Americans have enriched American culture throughout their proud history,” said Rep. Baca. “It is critical we recognize these contributions and ensure all Americans are properly educated on the heritage and achievements of Native Americans.”

“Since my time in the California State Legislature, I have fought to ensure Native Americans receive the recognition they deserve,” continue Rep. Baca. “After introducing the legislation that established Native American Day in California, I am proud that both the House and Senate have passed my legislation to create a national day of recognition, which now awaits the President’s signature to become law. I Ihank my "good friend James Ramos, now Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, for standing with me from the beginning on this long journey to ensure the contributions of Native Americans are recognized and appreciated by all.”

The Native American Heritage Day Bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe Friday, November 28, as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies and activities. It also encourages public elementary and secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instruction focusing on their history, achievements, and contributions. As a state Assemblyman, Rep. Baca introduced the legislation that established the fourth Friday of September as Native American Day in California – which became state law in 1998.

H.J. Res. 62 was originally passed by the House of Representatives on November 13, 2007. The bill was passed with technical adjustments by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate on September 22, 2008. Last night, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass the legislation again, this time including the adjustments from the Senate.

“This bill will help to preserve the great history and legacy of Native Americans,” added Rep. Baca. “Native Americans and their ancestors have played a vital role in the formation of our nation. They have fought with valor and died in every American war dating back to the Revolutionary War. We must encourage greater awareness of the significant role they have played in America’s history. I urge the President to take quick action and sign this important legislation into law.”

The Native American Heritage Day Bill is strongly supported by NIGA and its 184 federally recognized member tribes throughout the nation. Congressman Baca has been an active member of the Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives since first coming to Congress in 1999.


Petition Calling for the Abandonment of Proposed Columbus Monument in Boriken (Puerto Rico)

Recalling that: In 1492, Christopher Columbus initiated a genocidal campaign against Indigenous Peoples that began with the Taíno, Karib, and Arawak Nations and extended throughout the Americas, and

Recalling that: Christopher Columbus was the first trans-Atlantic slave trader in the Western Hemisphere, and

Recognizing that: Christopher Columbus is a symbol, not of a man, but of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide, and

Further Recognizing that: Imperialism and colonialism are continuously manifesting with the exploitation of humanity and the Earth as well as in the ongoing violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: We, the undersigned call on The Holland Group, Inc and the City of Mayagüez to abandon their plans to erect a monument to Christopher Columbus on the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) in 2010. This proposed project is not only offensive to the local Taino, Karib, Arawak and other Indigenous Peoples but it is an offense to all peoples of good conscience around the world.

Sign petition at:


Amerindian Heritage Day in Trinidad

UCTP Taino News - Surinamese Carib Chief Paremuru
attending the Amerindian Heritage Day Celebration
in Arima, Trinidad on October 14, 2008 at Arima Town Hall

Photo: Wendy-Ann Duncan


Indigenous Peoples Across the Americas Say No to Columbus

UCTP Taíno News - As the U.S. gets ready to celebrate Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples across the Americas are mobilizing to call attention to the actual legacy of the 1492 arrival. Genocide, colonization, and globalization are some of the themes that will be focused on at anti-Columbus rallies, protests, marches, sit-ins, conferences, and memorial services. Events are scheduled to take place over the weekend through Monday, the official Federally recognized holiday, in Denver, Colorado, Alcatraz, California, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Honolulu, Hawaii, New York City and throughout Columbia to name a few.

Arguably America’s most controversial holiday, “Columbus Day” was created 100 years ago in Colorado and later became a National holiday. Opponents of the holiday have long pointed out that Columbus himself was an African slave trader according to his own writings. His actions in the Caribbean launched an era of modern colonialism, rape, pillage, genocide, cultural destruction, slavery, economic & environmental devastation.

With Colorado being the “birthplace” of Columbus Day in the U.S., it is no wonder that one of the most intense manifestations against the holiday takes place annually in protest of the Denver’s Columbus Day Parade. Actions there are organized by the Transform Columbus Day Alliance a coalition that rejects the celebration of Christopher Columbus historical misconceptions regarding Columbus and his "discovery" of the Americas. The Alliance includes a local American Indian Movement Chapter, several Peace and Justice organizations, and even a group called Progressive Italians to Transform the Columbus Holiday.

The United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP) is another member of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance that is also supporting several other anti-Columbus Day actions. The UCTP has endorsed the annual Papal Bull Burning in Honolulu, Hawaii, a “Remembering our Ancestors” memorial in New York City, and a protest in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico against the that city’s proposed erection of a Columbus monument. The action in Borikén (Puerto Rico) is being organized by a local group called Movimiento Indígena Chib’al’o Jíbaro-Boricua. In collaboration with local organizations, the UCTP is coordinating an international coalition against that project and plans to launch a web page dedicated to that issue.

The Annual Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island is scheduled to take place on Monday, October 13th in conjunction with the “International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples 2008.” These events are being organized by the International Indian Treaty Council and American Indian Contemporary Arts under the theme “Celebrating our Survival and Challenging the Myth of Columbus and “Doctrine of Discovery.”

In perhaps one of the largest manifestations taking place over the “Columbus Holiday” weekend, Indigenous organizations and communities throughout in Colombia will mobilize to protest the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Plan Colombia and the policies of the Bush-Backed Uribe Government. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, has announced that mass protests will join the forces of indigenous, peasant, and popular movement.

With regard to the mobilizations in Columbia, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) called on “national and international public opinion to express solidarity with the indigenous, peasant, afro-Colombian and working people of Colombia.” For the ACIN October 12th marks the date over 500 years ago when “European Colonialism clenched its predator claws on this hemisphere. Those claws have maintained a grip on our peoples ever since.”

The ACIN further notes that the mobilizations in South America and throughout the Americas are a demand for dignity, justice, liberty and respect for life.

UCTPTN 10.11.2008

Photo Credit: Indymedia


New Study Confirms Taino Ancestry Among Dominicans

Dominican Republic (UCTP Taino News) - According to a new DNA study conducted in the Dominican Republic a large segment of the country’s population retains indigenous Taino ancestry through their mother’s bloodline. The study, conducted by the University of Puerto Rico, reveals that approximately 15-18% of Dominicans have Native American Mitochondrial DNA out of a population of nearly 10,000,000.

The research is based on 1200 DNA samples taken throughout the island with some test areas revealing 90% of the subjects with Native ancestry. While the percentages are lower than similar studies conducted on the neighboring island of Puerto Rico, the estimates defy “popular” accounts that the Indigenous Peoples were completely exterminated on that island.

“This study is a confirmation of what we have already known and promoted for years” stated Roberto Borrero, a representative of the United Confederation of Taino People. “Our people continue to exist within the multi-cultural mosaic that is the Caribbean despite the genocidal campaigns that began against us 516 years ago with the arrival of Columbus.”

One interesting aspect of the study is that individuals tested in the Cibao region seem to have a different DNA sequence than those tested in the southern part of the island. While both sequences are indigenous the variants could shed some light on ancient migrations. The study also reveals that the Taino descendants from the Cibao area could have been relatively “un-mixed racially” until more recent times.

UCTPTN 10.10.2008


Expert Meeting on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Concludes First Session in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland (UCTP Taino News) - The United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) concluded its inaugural session in Geneva on Friday, 3 October with the adoption of a number of proposals to the Human Rights Council. The Durban Review Conference on Racism, the right of Indigenous People to education, and the participation of Indigenous Peoples in sessions of the Council and United Nations human rights treaty bodies were the focus of some of the proposals presented.

The Expert Mechanism is mandated to provide thematic expertise on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to the UN Human Rights Council. The group met from 1-3 October at the Palais des Nations in Geneva with more than 400 registered to the historic meeting. A majority of those attending the inaugural session were Indigenous Peoples who actively participated in the three-day meeting making recommendations to the newly formed body as well as relating human rights situations affecting their communities.

Among the many presentations made at the session a joint oral statement on the points of consideration of the EMRIP study on Education was presented by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP). The presentation was made by IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen. The IITC presented several other interventions during the session. Both the IITC and the UCTP participated within the Global Indigenous Caucus sessions to the EMRIP.

As mandated by the Human Rights Council through a resolution adopted at its session last week, the Expert Mechanism began to identify and suggest proposals for its consideration in 2009. In connection to the upcoming UN Durban Review Conference on racism taking place next year, the Experts were asked to assist the Preparatory Committee of the Conference by submitting recommendations as contributions to its outcome. The Experts recommended that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action should acknowledge that the right of self-determination and the principle of free, prior and informed consent are now universally recognized through the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, the Experts recommended that the Declaration be considered as one of the human rights standards in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process.

The Experts also began work on preparing a study on lessons learned and challenges to achieve the implementation of the right of Indigenous Peoples to education to be concluded in 2009. In another proposal, the Expert Mechanism invited the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to contribute to the study and requested the Human Rights Council to authorize a two-day technical workshop/review to finalize the study.

At the meeting’s opening, John Henriksen (Norway) was elected to serve as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the first session and Jose Carlos Morales (Costa Rica) as Vice Chairperson-Rapporteur. The other three members of the Expert Mechanism are Catherine Odimba Kombe (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Jannie Lasimbang (Malaysia) and Jose Molintas (Philippines).

The Expert Mechanism will hold its second session in 2009 with the date to be decided at the 10th regular session of the Human Rights Council scheduled to be held in March 2009.

UCTPTN 10.06.2008