UDC opens refurbished Two Sisters Cave

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) added a new attraction to its portfolio with the official opening of Two Sisters Caves in Hellshire, St Catherine on December 8.

Welcoming visitors to the attraction, President and CEO Marjorie Campbell said that "Two Sisters represents one of the jewels in the UDC's crown of natural attractions, which include the world-famous Dunn's River Falls and Park and Green Globe-certified Green Grotto Caves and Attraction".

Campbell also said that Two Sisters Caves' close proximity to Kingston makes it an important part of the tourism and recreation product of that section of the island.

The attraction also received high praise from acting director of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) Barrington Payne, who represented the minister of tourism, entertainment and culture.

"A true gem has been unearthed, one that fits into the master plan for sustainable tourism development, of being a cave, community-based and environmentally sustainable," said Payne.

Two Sisters Caves, which is believed to be a Taino ceremonial site, was refurbished by the UDC which, in addition to improving the stairs and supporting infrastructure, built a nature trail.
Refreshment and souvenir kiosks have been added as well as sanitary conveniences and a children's play area.

Hellshire has been a designated area of the UDC since 1968 and projects currently under way include the 165 two-bedroom Hellshire Glades Housing Development, the phased refurbishing of the Fort Charles Beach Park and the implementation of the Hellshire Environmental Management Plan (HEMP), which will guide future developments.

Source: Jamaica Observer



by Roberto Múcaro Borrero (Taíno)

Early examples of the ancient Caribbean pharmacopoeia

In recent years, interest in phytotherapy or the use of traditional herbs, herbal remedies and medicinal plants has continued to gain momentum. According to analysts, this interest has been increasingly stimulated by the rising cost of prescription drugs and transnational bio-prospecting for the development of plant derived drugs (applicably termed “the new gold rush”). While the social and economic implications of this trend merit attention, increased financial investments and current research seem to indicate that medicinal plants will continue to play an important role as a “re-emerging health aid”.

As the use of medicinal plants and the practice of traditional medicine is the norm for significant portions of populations in many so-called “developing countries”, this paper will take a closer look at the development, usage and legacy of medicinal plants, and their particular relationship to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. Further, it should be of no surprise to the reader that coinciding with the increased attention on medicinal plants, the “global community” has also been witness to an increased focus on the world’s Indigenous Peoples.

Indeed, the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the “close and traditional dependence of many indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles on biological resources” and that governments “subject to national legislation, respect, preserve, and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity”. The CBD also recommends the “approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices” and encourages “the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations, and practices”.

As the United Nations is considered an international standard setting body, this recognition is an extremely important development as industrialized societies continue to exploit medicinal plants, developing drugs and chemotherapeutics not only from these plants but also from herbal remedies traditionally used by rural/local communities and Indigenous Peoples. Today, because of the ever-increasing cost of health care and public demand, there is a great risk that many medicinal plants have already become or face extinction and/or a loss of genetic diversity’.

As the patenting of life forms, and genetic research/engineering have also become increasingly relevant factors in this field, another international organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has begun to research and analyze the implications of these developments under the intellectual property system via the headings “traditional knowledge and folklore”.

Medicine: A Concept or Product?

Using a wide range of disciplines and resources (archeology, ancient text, anthropology, linguistics, etc.), scientist have ‘confirmed’ that plants have been used as a source of medicine in virtually all cultures. The widespread use of traditional herbs and plants reveals the medicinal properties inherent in many natural products.

It is generally accepted that medicine is linked to health, and the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. As an indigenous person I would also include the idea of “spiritual well being” as the sum total of the various states of “being” identified by the WHO.

Traditionally, for many Indigenous Peoples the concept of medicine was and is still not as compartmentalized as generally practiced and promoted by Western society today. Indigenous communities throughout the world recognized the sacredness and all encompassing scope of the concept of medicine and this is historically demonstrated by the way of life of communities and individuals; especially with regard to interaction with and respect for the natural world. It is interesting to note that “Western” medical systems of today, which developed via the “man conquers nature” attitude now seem to promote a market driven philosophy of “specialized and prolonged treatment”.

In contrast, indigenous medicine was developed with the understanding that all things are interrelated and co-dependant and this worldview promoted the practice of “holistic prevention and cure”. This fundamental difference between Western philosophy and traditional indigenous worldview offers an important insight into not only why these traditional practices have remained even till today but also why they are now sought after by other sectors of the global community.

The Columbian Exchange

For quite a number of “developing” countries in the Americas, medicine based on local tradition is still a main stay of health care. Within this context, the development, use and legacy of medicinal plants and herbal remedies has an historic and fundamental relationship with “American Indians”. From at least the 15th century, the use of medicinal plants (and food crops) has been consistently documented in the Western Hemisphere, even as many of the cultures responsible for these innovations have disintegrated or in some cases disappeared.

It is estimated that Amerindians developed 60% of the world’s food crops and there are no food plants native to the Americas that were not first cultivated by Indigenous Peoples of the region. As my own Taíno ancestors, and their close relatives the socalled “Carib”, were the first peoples in the Western Hemisphere to be called “Indians”, it must also be acknowledged that many of the medicinal plants and food crops that are now staples in Europe, Africa and Asia, were first encountered in the 15th century Caribbean. The Caribbean’s tropical environment was a virtual “pharmacopoeia” of medicinal plants and herbal remedies and the use of these important resources were not only accessed by so-called “Shamans/Medicine Women or Men” but by most members of the community.

Many Caribbean indigenous plants now identified solely as food crops were also valued by my ancestors for their medicinal properties. That I have included food crops as medicinal plants again speaks to the overall concept of medicine that Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas observed.

Further, while scholars debate on the effects of introduced foreign diseases, medicine, and religion on the Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere, we can be sure that pre-Euro-contact lifestyle was a healthier one and a place where diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, lung cancer, and AIDS were not a part of the peoples’ consciousness.

Just a few of the food crops and medical plants that my ancestors and relatives throughout the hemisphere developed, used and contributed to the world community include: maisi (maize/corn); white potatoes; sweet potatoes; manioc (yuca/cassava); mani (peanuts), chili peppers; cashews; tomatoes; okra; squash (including pumpkin); yayama (pineapples); bija or achiote (Bixa orellan); papaya; avocado (aguacate); kidney beans; lima beans; black-eyed peas; wild rice; blueberries; strawberries; pecans; quinoa; maple syrup; vanilla; cacao (chocolate); mint; aloe; ginger; and sage.

Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have also cultivated non-food crops such as cotton, sisal, indigo, basalms, latex (rubber), and chicle (chewing gum). Even some non-food crops that have a negative connotation today like tobacco and coca were used for spiritual and medicinal purposes. For example, tobacco was not only smoked but also used to cure aliments of the stomach, induce vomiting, and to treat snakebites, etc.

Early Woodcut of Caribbean Indigenous Tobacco Use. Tobacco is a Taino word.

Coca leaves have been used by South American Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years, yet they are now the center of the “Drug Wars” as a result of their exploitation by non-indigenous people. Some of the traditional medicinal use of the coca leaves (which were chewed or ingested as a tea) included relief of hunger and fatigue, altitude sickness, increased respiratory capacity, cerebral and muscle stimulant, as well as relief of nausea and pains of the stomach without upsetting digestion.

As for food crops, fruits, and plants which were and are still harvested in the Caribbean region, just a few examples of medicinal uses include the wild sage (Lantana camara) used in tea to treat colds and chills, soursop or guanabana (Annona muricata L.) used as a sedative for children, the jobo (hog plum or golden apple) used to stop diarrhea or dysentery, and the silk cotton tree or ceiba/kapok (Ceiba pentandra) used in baths to relieve fatigue and to counteract certain poisoning. Allspice (Pimenta dioica) was used not only to preserve meat and fish but also as a remedy to promote digestion, toothache relief, and the alleviation of muscle pain. Aromatic allspice berries have a long history in Caribbean “folk healing”.

In Jamaica, people drink hot allspice tea for colds, menstrual cramps and upset stomach. Some Costa Ricans use it to treat indigestion, flatulence and diabetes while it is considered a refreshing tonic in parts of Cuba. Guatemalans apply the crushed berries to bruises, joints and muscle pains. Culantro or Recao (Eryngium foetidum L., Apiaceae), not to be confused with its close relative cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L.), was use to treat fevers and chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and in Jamaica for colds and convulsions in children. The leaves and roots of culantro are boiled and the “tea” ingested to treat pneumonia, flu, diabetes, constipation, and malaria fever.

Many of these traditional indigenous practices continued to be observed today especially within the rural and urban populations of Caribbean society. As in earlier times, access to this traditional knowledge is not limited to “local specialist” sometimes called “Curandera/os” but to various members of the community.

Today, one of the most notable contemporary examples of the popular use of traditional medicinal practices in the Caribbean is the use and prominence of “Green Medicine” in Cuba. This practice has been a main stay in heath care for decades in this country and includes traditional indigenous plant and herbal remedies as well as alternative and holistic healing methods.

Another example of the prominence that traditional indigenous based medicine has attained in the Circum-Caribbean region is that in 1993, the Belizean government established the world’s first medicinal plant reserve. This 6,000-acre reserve, dedicated to the preservation of potential lifesaving herbs, is called the Terra Nova Medicinal Plant Reserve. Seedling plants rescued from rainforest areas in danger of destruction due to “development” are sent to Terra Nova for transplanting. The Belize Association of Traditional Healers runs this reserve.

As we move from the Caribbean islands on through the Americas, the importance of the tropical rainforest of South America in the discussion of medicinal plants and traditional healing practices must be acknowledged.

It is estimated that 90% of the rainforest flora used by Amazonian Indians as medicines have still not been examined by modern science. This situation represents a horrible irony as these unique ecosystems, which have been developed over millennia with the direct influence of Indigenous Peoples, are now disappearing at an alarming rate and the potentially catastrophic implications of this trend on the rest world are staggering. Further, this scenario is true not only of rainforest in the Americas but around the entire world. Of the few rainforest plants that have been studied by modern medicine, treatments have already been found for childhood leukemia, breast cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, and scores of other illnesses.

Indeed, 70% of the plant species identified by the US National Cancer Institute as holding anti-cancer properties come from the rain forest and an estimated 37% of all medicines prescribed in the U.S. have active ingredients derived from rainforest flora.

As we move into North America, an incredible amount of plant-derived medications have been identified in Mexico alone. Before contact with Europeans, the Maya and Aztec peoples kept many written records of the uses of medicinal plants in books that are now know as Codices. In the 16th Century many of these ancient text books of knowledge were literally burned by zealous Christian clerics who linked traditional indigenous knowledge to alleged “idolatry” and other so-called “pagan practices”.

The potential loss of that wealth of information is incomprehensible, and represents another one of the countless tragedies, which occurred as a result of these early forms of religious intolerance, xenophobia and racism promoted by the early Europeans colonist. Perhaps, as Walter R. Echo-Hawk contends “it is difficult for a culture with an inherent fear of ‘wilderness’ and a fundamental belief in the ‘religious domination’ of humans over animals to envision that certain aspects of nature can be sacred.”

Among the diverse communities of Indigenous Peoples who lived throughout the lands that are known today as the United States and Canada, the development, usage and contributions of medicinal plants are similarly as substantial and significant.

Just a few medicinal plants used by “Native Americans” included yarrow (for headaches), echinacea, golden seal, wild sarsaparilla (for blood, and sores), mugwort (dysentery), wormwood (sprains), bearberry (headaches), wild ginger (indigestion), common milkweed (diseases of women), and prairie sage (convulsions, hemorrhage, and tonic). American Indians were even using the dandelion long before the discovery of America for a wide variety of ailments. The plant was a sort of panacea (cure for everything) and recent scientific evidence exists to substantiate these uses.

Native Americans also used bearberry, or kinnikinnick as they called it, in their ceremonial pipe in place of tobacco. The Arikaras cultivated sacred tobacco and mixed it with dried bearberry leaves and the dried inner bark of red dogwood. Some Native American tribes even mixed tobacco with bearberry to make a milder smoke. The use of tobacco and the smoking of the sacred pipe throughout the Americas cannot be seen in isolation from the use of other medicinal herbs like sage, cedar, black berry, and so many others, which were at times either chewed, brewed in teas or used as poultices.

A Matter of Respect

Like the sacred pipe, and even the ceremonial use of cigars, socalled “hallucinogens” have been part of the health and spiritual well-being of indigenous communities throughout the Americas for thousands of years. Even today, the sacramental use of sacred medicine plants like ayahuasca, peyote (Lophophora williamsii), cohoba/yopo (Piptadenia peregrina/Anadenanthera peregrina), certain mushrooms and others are still well respected by those Indigenous Peoples who interact with these “holistic purgatives” on a regular basis. However, misunderstanding, abuse and exploitation of these sacred plants by non-indigenous people highlight other fundamental differences between Western and indigenous concepts of traditional medicine.

Indeed, it is important to again acknowledge the all-encompassing/holistic concept of traditional medicine for Indigenous Peoples and link this to the ideal of spiritual health as a primary goal for the community. With this in mind, Indigenous Peoples in the Americas have revered and used natural “hallucinogens” for their healing, cleansing and transformative properties “since time beginning”.

While modern science is just beginning to recognize, explore and even “validate” some of these traditional views, through the centuries writers have continually commented on the advanced medical systems of many South and North American Indigenous Peoples. Some writers have even acknowledged that indigenous medical traditions in the Americas were actually more advanced than those being practiced in Europe at the time of the Conquest.

In fact, while Europeans were still “bleeding” people to treat aliments, the so-called “red savages” of the Americas were in comparison leading much healthier lives and even performing complex medical procedures like brain operations, c-sections, setting bones, and using anesthetics etc. All of these traditional medical procedures were used in conjunction with medicinal plants, other natural resources and socio-religious ceremonies, which were and still are respected and considered sacred by many Indigenous Peoples.

To emphasize the similarity of Indigenous Peoples philosophy with regard to the sacred in all these processes, I will return my focus to the Caribbean where the Taíno Indian descendants in rural areas still honor tobacco as a sacred herb. Even before other herbs are picked for special teas or “un cocimiento”, tobacco seeds are used as an offering to the medicinal plants.

As one can see the popular phrase, “you are what you eat” was something my ancestors and their relatives throughout the Hemisphere were very familiar with and this is an ideal that is today worthy of attention and respect. As my community and other communities around the world are falling victim to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high bold pressure, high cholesterol etc. as well as being enticed, coerced or unknowingly introduced to genetically modified foods, traditional knowledge is not only worthy of attention but it is a literally a matter of life and death.

But as with all aspects of life, the use of medicinal plants is ultimately a matter of respect for as the Taíno Grandmothers say the “plants know and can help you or hurt you, depending on how you approach them”.

*This article was published by the International Center for Cultural Studies and presented at the First International Conference & Gathering of Elders held 4-9 February 2003, in Mumbai, India.


Endangered and Threatened Species of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Part I)

"Of the 78 species protected by the Endangered Species Act in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, 29 are animals and 49 are plants. These species are disappearing and it is the responsibility of everyone to protect them."

Amphibians (3):
a) Golden Coqui – This species is a small frog attaining a maximum size (snout-vent length) of slightly less than 2.54 centimeters, having an indistinct tympanum and lacking prevomerine teeth. The color is olive-gold to yellow-gold without pattern. The Golden Coqui gives birth to it's young, carrying them in skin pouches and can reproduce more than once a year. Juveniles resemble the adults. The golden coqui (Eleutherodactylus jasperi) is found only in Puerto Rico.

The Golden Coki

b) Puerto Rican Crested Toad (Sapo concho) – The Puerto Rican crested toad is a medium-sized toad, 64 to 12O millimeters (2.5 to 4.5 inches) in snout-vent length, yellowish-olive to blackish-brown in color, with prominent supraorbital crests and a distinctive long, upturned snout. Males are considerably smaller than females, and exhibit less prominent crests. No studies have been conducted on the Puerto Rican crested toad's feeding habits, but as a general rule toads are opportunistic feeders that primarily consume insects and other invertebrates. This toad is presently known to exist only on the main island of Puerto Rico. A single large population is known from the southwest coast in the Guanica Commonwealth Forest, and a small population is believed to survive on the north coast. Historically, the Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) has been collected on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The known historic distribution on Virgin Gorda is very limited and the species has not been observed there for at least 2 decades. It is assumed to have been extirpated from that island.

Puerto Rican Crested Toad (Sapo concho)

c) Puerto Rican rock frog (Guajon) - The guajon (Eleutherodactylus cooki) or Coqui Guajon, also known commonly as is a relatively large frog, approximately 8.5 centimeters (3.3 inches) in length. It is solid brown in color, although attending and calling males may have a yellow throat. The guajon may be the only species of Eleutherodactylus in Puerto Rico that exhibits sexual dimorphism in color (Joglar et al. 1996). In both sexes, the frogs have large, white-rimmed eyes, giving the species a specter or phantom-like appearance. The species is characterized by having large truncate discs and by a peculiar, melodious and low voice which is completely different from any other species of Eleutherodactylus in Puerto Rico (Rivero 1978). Rivero (1978) states that its peculiar calling and phantom-like appearance made many local people fearful of the species, believing that the mere sight of an animal would be fatal.

The Guajon



Editorial: The OAS & CARICOM: Missing in Action*

In prior negotiations with the Organization of American State (OAS) on the draft American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United States has usually stood alone in its opposition to the advocacy efforts of the Indigenous Caucus. It was sad to see at the recent 8th session on the elaboration of the Declaration that the USA is now playing 'second fiddle' to the delegation of Canada (led by Mr. Paul Gibbard) who now have become the most strident opponents facing the Indigenous Caucus.

I must also take this opportunity to again highlight the fact that despite all of their flowery rhetoric (usually around election time) citing 'deep concern for their Amerindian citizens' - not a single CARICOM government representative participated during the 8th session, which was held in the Simon Bolivar Room at the OAS Headquarters in Washington DC. Caribbean government representatives were in the OAS building however, and I made notes of the times I saw various CARICOM delegates entering and leaving the building, having lunch at the OAS cafe etc.

Seems it was too much trouble to expect them to fill their seats like other OAS member States who were with us every day proving that actions do speak louder than words. I applaud the Latin American countries who were the staunchest allies of the Indigenous Caucus yet again.

At the very least I expected to see Guyana, Suriname, Belize, Dominica and Trinidad represented officially, for they all use the Amerindian component of “their” societies to promote various national tourism efforts. It is interesting to note however that here, amidst a discussion on an issue of the direst importance to the present and future generations of their “beloved” Amerindian populations - they show no interest in the process whatsoever.

This is an unfortunate but very revealing development indeed, especially when less than one month ago with the exception of Dominica, these same CARICOM States helped to essentially block the passage of the most important Indigenous Rights Declaration in the history of the United Nations. These states mimicked the clearly dishonest argument that African states flaunted, which was that 'they needed more time to review the Declaration". Let us all bear in mind that this Declaration process at the UN has been in existence for over 20 years!

With that in mind, Indigenous Peoples rigthtly ask 'What is it exactly that the CARICOM diplomats do besides draw large salaries from the taxpayers and live in luxury abroad?' Please give us an answer as it relates to the Indigenous Peoples on whose lands your Neo-Colonial States exist.

Submitted by Damon Gerard Corrie (Lokono Arawak)
Member of the Indigenous Caucus working Group
on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples.

*The Caribbean Community and Common Market or CARICOM was established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas[8] which came into effect on August 1, 1973. The first four signatories were Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.


Crops of the Americas flourish on new stamps...

Crops of the Americas flourish on new stamps *

Five new "Crops of the Americas" postage stamps depicting corn, chili peppers, beans, squashes and sunflowers, were unveiled yesterday.

"We understand the influence American plants have on cuisines around the world," said Charles E. Bravo, an executive with the U.S. Postal Service. "These stamps are a beautiful tribute to those plants and a great way to celebrate the rich history of our nation."

Artist Steve Buchanan created the stamp designs, using slide photographs made by his wife, Rita Buchanan, who conducted research in the late 1970s on indigenous agricultural methods in the southwestern United States.

*UCTP Taino News Moderator's note: Bo'matum (Thank you) to Danny Nieves for sharing this news.




New York - A United Nations-backed international treaty to preserve the rich diversity of the world’s means of cultural expression from the dangers of globalization, including its many languages, will enter into force on 18 March after it topped the needed total of 30 ratifications yesterday.

“The rapidity of the ratification process is unprecedented,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General. Koïchiro Matsuura said today of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2005.

“None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many States in so little time,” Mr Matsuura added. Another 13 countries, as well as the European Community, yesterday deposited their instrument of ratification at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, bringing the total to 35.

As examples of the kind of cultural consolidation threatened by globalization, UNESCO notes that 50 per cent of the world languages are in danger of extinction and that 90 per cent of them are not represented on the Internet. In addition, five countries monopolize the world cultural industries. In the field of cinema, for instance, 88 countries have never had their own film productions.

Besides promoting diversity in those areas, the Convention seeks to reaffirm the links between culture, development and dialogue and to create a platform for international cooperation, including the creation of an international fund for cultural diversity.

It highlights “the importance of intellectual property rights in sustaining those involved in cultural creativity” and reaffirms that “freedom of thought, expression and information, as well as diversity of the media, enable cultural expressions to flourish within societies.”

It also supports UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted in 2001, which recognized cultural diversity as “a source of exchange, innovation and creativity,” a common heritage of humanity that “should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The new Convention reaffirms the sovereign right of States to elaborate cultural policies with a view “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and reinforce international cooperation” while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Latin America is preparing to settle accounts with its white settler elite

The political movements and protests sweeping the continent, from Bolivia to Venezuela, are as much about race as class

by Richard Gott

The recent explosion of indigenous protest in Latin America, culminating in the election this year of Evo Morales, an Aymara indian, as president of Bolivia, has highlighted the precarious position of the white-settler elite that has dominated the continent for so many centuries. Although the term "white settler" is familiar in the history of most European colonies, and comes with a pejorative ring, the whites in Latin America (as in the US) are not usually described in this way, and never use the expression themselves. No Spanish or Portuguese word exists that can adequately translate the English term.

Latin America is traditionally seen as a continent set apart from colonial projects elsewhere, the outcome of its long experience of settlement since the 16th century. Yet it truly belongs in the history of the global expansion of white-settler populations from Europe in the more recent period. Today's elites are largely the product of the immigrant European culture that has developed during the two centuries since independence.

The characteristics of the European empires' white-settler states in the 19th and 20th centuries are well known. The settlers expropriated the land and evicted or exterminated the existing population; they exploited the surviving indigenous labour force on the land; they secured for themselves a European standard of living; and they treated the surviving indigenous peoples with extreme prejudice, drafting laws to ensure they remained largely without rights, as second- or third-class citizens.

Latin America shares these characteristics of "settler colonialism", an evocative term used in discussions about the British empire. Together with the Caribbean and the US, it has a further characteristic not shared by Europe's colonies elsewhere: the legacy of a non-indigenous slave class. Although slavery had been abolished in much of the world by the 1830s, the practice continued in Latin America (and the US) for several decades. The white settlers were unique in oppressing two different groups, seizing the land of the indigenous peoples and appropriating the labour of their imported slaves.

A feature of all "settler colonialist" societies has been the ingrained racist fear and hatred of the settlers, who are permanently alarmed by the presence of an expropriated underclass. Yet the race hatred of Latin America's settlers has only had a minor part in our customary understanding of the continent's history and society. Even politicians and historians on the left have preferred to discuss cclass rather than race.

In Venezuela, elections in December will produce another win for Hugo Chavez, a man of black and Indian origin. Much of the virulent dislike shown towards him by the opposition has been clearly motivated by race hatred, and similar hatred was aroused the 1970s towards Salvador Allende in Chile and Juan Peron in Argentina. Allende's unforgivable crime, in the eyes of the white-settler elite, was to mobilise the rotos, the "broken ones" - the patronising and aderisory name given to the vast Chilean underclass. The indigenous origins of the rotos were obvious at Allende's political demonstrations. Dressed in Indian clothes, their affinity with their indigenous neighbours would have been apparent. The same could be said of the cabezas negras - "black heads" - who came out to support Peron.

This unexplored parallel has become more apparent as indigenous organisations have come to the fore, arousing the whites' ancient fears. A settler spokesman, Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-now-Spanish novelist, has accused the indigenous movements of generating "social and political disorder", echoing the cry of 19th-century racist intellectuals such as Colonel Domingo Sarmiento of Argentina, who warned of a choice between "civilisation and barbarism".

Latin America's settler elites after independence were obsessed with all things European. They travelled to Europe in search of political models, ignoring their own countries beyond the capital cities, and excluding the majority from their nation-building project. Along with their imported liberal ideology came the racialist ideas common among settlers elsewhere in Europe's colonial world. This racist outlook led to the downgrading and non-recognition of the black population, and, in many countries, to the physical extermination of indigenous peoples. In their place came millions of fresh settlers from Europe.

Yet for a brief moment during the anti-colonial revolts of the 19th century, radical voices took up the Indian cause. A revolutionary junta in Buenos Aires in 1810 declared that Indians and Spaniards were equal. The Indian past was celebrated as the common heritage of all Americans, and children dressed as Indians sang at popular festivals. Guns cast in the city were christened in honour of Tupac Amaru and Mangore, famous leaders of Indian resistance. In Cuba, early independence movements recalled the name of Hatuey, the 16th-century cacique, and devised a flag with an Indian woman entwined with a tobacco leaf. Independence supporters in Chile evoked the Araucanian rebels of earlier centuries and used Arauco symbols on their flags. Independence in Brazil in 1822 brought similar displays, with the white elite rejoicing in its Indian ancestry and suggesting that Tupi, spoken by many Indians, might replace Portuguese as the official language.

The radicals' inclusive agenda sought to incorporate the Indian majority into settler society. Yet almost immediately this strain of progressive thought disappears from the record. Political leaders who sought to be friendly with the indigenous peoples were replaced by those anxious to participate in the global campaign to exterminate indigenous peoples. The British had already embarked on that task in Australia and South Africa, and the French took part after 1830 when they invaded Algeria.

Latin America soon joined in. The purposeful extermination of indigenous peoples in the 19th century may well have been on a larger scale than anything attempted by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the earlier colonial period. Millions of Indians died because of a lack of immunity to European diseases, yet the early colonists needed the Indians to grow food and to provide labourers. They did not have the same economic necessity to make the land free from Indians that would provoke the extermination campaigns on other continents in the same era. The true Latin American holocaust occurred in the 19th century.

The slaughter of Indians made more land available for settlement, and between 1870 and 1914 five million Europeans migrated to Brazil and Argentina. In many countries the immigration campaigns continued well into the 20th century, sustaining the hegemonic white-settler culture that has lasted to this day.

Yet change is at last on the agenda. Recent election results have been described, with some truth, as a move to the left, since several new governments have revived progressive themes from the 1960s. Yet from a longer perspective these developments look more like a repudiation of Latin America's white-settler culture, and a revival of that radical tradition of inclusion attempted two centuries ago.

The outline of a fresh struggle, with a final settling of accounts, can now be discerned.

Article Source: The Guardian - Nov 15, 2006 - This article is based on the third annual SLAS lecture, given to the Society for Latin American Studies in October. Richard Gott is the author of Cuba: A New History (Yale University Press)

Want your Opinion to be Heard? Post A Comment...

Mabrika Guaitiao (Greetings Relatives):

It is our hope that this message finds you all well and in good spirit. Since our posting of information/ articles/ commentary etc. concerning Mel Gibson's film Apocalypto, the UCTP has received a large number of response postings from our readers.

As it is not our intention to flood the UCTP Taino News and Information Service (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Taino_News/) with ongoing commentary on this particular film, we have added a "comments" option to the UCTP blog site, "The Voice of the Taino People" at http://www.uctp.blogspot.com/

The UCTP welcomes your comments on Gibson's film or other articles at this site. We will however not accept any "Anonymous" comments. To post your comment on Apocalypto specifically, please visit the "Boycott Mel Gibson's Apocalypto" page at:


We are also adding two comments below as they are representative of the over-all attitude toward Apocalypto, which the UCTP again urges you and your family to boycott and speak out against.

Oma'bahari (With Respect),
Roberto Mucaro Borrero,
President and Chairman,
UCTP Regional Coordinating Office
http://www.uctp. org/

************ ********* ******* ********************

Reader Responses:

1.) From Danny Nieves (New York):

Tao, I have been reading the reviews and the different comments on the Mel Gibson movie "Apocalypto" ; I was able to get a cd copy of the film, which I saw last night. Being that I had read the reviews and the comments from various people on the different forums, I knew what to expect from Mel Gibson's film. I would like to say that I am surprised that no one has criticized the scene where the City Mayans are leading their captives through a village where they encounter a crazed, emaciated old man. The crazed emaciated old man screams out "Salvation" and the antagonist of the movie says, "He has the laughing sickness, he likes you".

I was wondering if someone on this forum could tell me why Mel Gibson would mention a disease that is associated with Cannibalism in the film Apocalpto? It seems to me that Mel Gibson is portraying the Natives as cannibals in this film just like the recent film "Pirates of the Caribbean", but in a more subtle way.

2.) From Rosa John (Canada):

I had already decided not to see it, well before this e-mail, but thank you so much for the review. Unfortunately, it was too late for my husband and daughter (who are in the United States at this time), who insisted, against heeding my better judgments and pleading with them not to see it (even with only the previews), I knew it was more Mel Gibson Bloody, horrific garbage. So, Now what?! Will we sit quietly while people watch this film and feel pleasantly washed away of their sins against humanity during that time of "discovery"? I want to tell the world that these lies and unspeakable horrors happened only at a time when a peaceful people wanted nothing more that to honor visitors.... guests, who later both committed and praised themselves historically about their crimes.

Please excuse the wrath in my words, but it is these public humiliations that have buried the souls of our people for too long. It's time to speak out...not just between ourselves, but to the nations and people who will watch this movie and think it historically correct. Again, accept this as my humble thoughts and inform me if we will as a people rise up against this injustice. Thank you.


Elder Hu'acan: Brother, Leader, and Friend

Taino'ti Guaitiao,

I write with both sadness and relief in my heart.

Taino elder Hu'acan (John P. Vidal) crossed just after midnight this morning. The cancer that came to take him finally lost to the ancestors who came to take him. He had been in increasing pain over the past two weeks, having stopped any attempts to fight the cancer with chemo months ago. The caring and deeply loving staff members at the hospice he was in were more than accommodating, allowing ceremony to happen all evening. He was surrounded by drummers, singers, medicine, and love in those last days and hours. Our sister, Gina Reyes, was there when he passed; he was far from alone.

Below are quotes from an email Hu'acan posted back on September 28, 2005 about love that I think speak accurately to Hu'acan's gift to all of us. I am honored to have been given the gift to know him at all, and to have been with him in these days leading to his crossing. He was, is, and will remain a well-loved man.

Oma'bahari and Good Journeys Hu'acan…
I love you,

Sarobei (Deanna Rivera),
UCTP Liaison Officer,
State of California

"Love is something that you can leave behind you when you die. It's that powerful."

"The Old Ones say, love is all anyone needs. Love doesn't go away nor can love be divided. Once you commit an act of love, you'll find it continues. Love is like setting up dominos one behind the other. Once you hit the first domino, it will touch the second one which will touch the third one and so on. Every love act or love thought has an affect on each person as well as touching the whole world. If you live a life filled with love, the results will affect your friends, relatives and other people, even after you go to the other side. So... Love."

"My Creator, let me love. Let me put into action the love dominos."

- Hu'acan (John P. Vidal)

Hu'acan (John P. Vidal) , 20 August 1949 - December 15, 2006

UCTP Liaison Officer for the State of California, Community and Ceremonial Leader, Veteran, beloved Father, Brother, Uncle, Councilor and Friend...


Indigenous Languages in Final Throes

By Diego Cevallos*

MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica) - Hundreds of languages disappeared from Latin America and the Caribbean over the past 500 years, and many of the more than 600 that have survived could face the same fate in the not-so-distant future.

United Nations agencies and many experts maintain that it is an avoidable tragedy, but there are those who see it as the inherent fate of all but a few languages.

Faced with Western culture and the dominant presence of Spanish, Portuguese and English in the Americas, indigenous languages like Kiliwua in Mexico, Ona and Puelche in Argentina, Amanayé in Brazil, Záparo in Ecuador and Mashco-Piro in Peru, are just barely surviving, the result of their continued use by small groups of people -- most of whom are elderly.

But there are others like Quichua, Aymara, Guaraní, Maya and Náhuatl whose future looks a bit rosier, because overall these languages are spoken by more than 10 million people and governments support their survival through various educational, cultural and social programmes.

Around the globe there are some 7,000 languages in use, but each year 20 disappear. Furthermore, half of the existing languages are threatened, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

This agency, which promotes the preservation and diversity of the world's languages, maintains that the disappearance of even one language is a tragedy, because with it go a unique culture and cosmovision.

But not everyone sees it that way. "The extinction of languages is a phenomenon inherent in their very existence, and it has been happening since humans emitted their first sound with a linguistic meaning," José Luis Moure, a University of Buenos Aires philologist and member of the Argentine Academy of Letters, told Tierramérica.

In contrast, Gustavo Solís, a Peruvian linguist with expertise in vernacular and author of language studies of the Amazon region, says "there is nothing in the languages that says one should disappear and another should continue."

"Every disappearance of language and culture is a great tragedy to humanity. When it occurs, a unique and irreplaceable human experience is extinguished," Solís said in a conversation with Tierramérica.

There are cases, says this expert, that show it is possible to plan the revitalisation of languages so they won't die, but such efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean fall short.

When the Europeans arrived in the Americas in the 15th century, there were 600 to 800 languages in South America alone, but with the colonisation process "the vast majority disappeared. Today there are languages on their way to extinction because of the unequal contact between Western society and some indigenous societies," Solís said.

Fernando Nava, director of Mexico's National Institute of Indigenous Languages (INALI), said languages disappear through natural evolution, which is understandable, or through cultural pressure and discrimination against its speakers, which is preventable..

It is the second cause that many governments, international agencies and academics are fighting, because it is considered an unacceptable phenomenon, Nava told Tierramérica. In this area, Latin America and the Caribbean are just in the stage of raising awareness, he added.

According to UNESCO, half of the languages existing in the world today could be lost within "a few generations", due to their marginalisation from the Internet, cultural and economic pressures, and the development of new technologies that favour homogeneity.

In May, the UN agency will publish an extensive study about the languages of the Amazon region, many of them spoken by very few individuals. The study is a bid to draw international attention to their plight.

Surviving in the Amazon jungles are isolated indigenous groups, who refuse to have contact with the Western world and its "progress". They total around 5,000 people belonging to various groups of the Amazon Basin, among them the Tagaeri in Ecuador, Ayoreo in Paraguay, Korubo in Brazil and the Mashco-Piro and Ashaninka in Peru.

According to Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and basic freedoms of indigenous peoples, these groups are facing "a true cultural genocide".

"I fear that under current circumstances it will be difficult for them to survive many more years, because so-called development denies the right of these peoples to continue being peoples," he said.

Although the list of languages and dialects in use worldwide is very long, the vast majority of the population speaks only a handful of languages, like English, Chinese, and Spanish.

To ensure that linguistic diversity is maintained, the international community agreed in recent years on a series of legal instruments, and experts hold regular meetings to discuss the issues.

One such meet took place Mar. 31 to Apr. 2 in the western U.S. state of Utah, where officials and academics from across the Americas studied ways to prevent the disappearance of dozens of languages in this hemisphere.

Since 1999, through a UNESCO initiative, Feb. 21 is celebrated as International Mother Language Day. There are also agreements in the UN system, like the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and its Action Plan, from 2001, and the Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, signed in 2003.

Also dating from 2003 is the Recommendation on the Promotion and Use of Multingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace, and from 2005 the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The Argentine expert Moure says it is important to work towards preserving languages, even when the number of speakers is small, because "they are markers of identity that merit maximum respect and scientific attention."

But "I am not so sure that the death of a language necessarily means the disappearance of the associated cosmovision, because its speakers never stop talking (unless they themselves disappear through disease or genocide), but rather, after a period of bilingualism, they adopt another language that is more useful to them because of its greater insertion in the world," he said

"This a fact of reality, and I believe it should be recognised without turning to excessive conspiracy theories," said Moure.

*Diego Cevallos is an IPS correspondent. Originally published Apr. 8 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Taino and Tlingit meet with Dr. Deepak Chopra

The Borrero family meets with famed author Dr. Deepak Chopra during a "global leaders" meeting in NY at the Chopra Center.

China's white dolphin called extinct after 20 million years

BEIJING, China (AP) -- An expedition searching for a rare Yangtze River dolphin ended Wednesday without a single sighting and with the team's leader saying one of the world's oldest species was effectively extinct.

The white dolphin known as baiji, shy and nearly blind, dates back some 20 million years. Its disappearance is believed to be the first time in a half-century, since hunting killed off the Caribbean monk seal, that a large aquatic mammal has been driven to extinction.

Reproducen rostro de un indio taíno*

Rostro de un indio taíno
Foto: Jorge Luis Merencio y archivos del Museo Arqueológico

(For the English version of this story click on article title above photo)*

Restauradores del Museo Arqueológico de Baracoa y antropólogos extranjeros reprodujeron el rostro del taíno cuya osamenta se cree pertenezca al líder Guamá
Por: Lisván Lescaille Durand
Correo: corresp@jrebelde.cip.cu

BARACOA, Guantánamo.— Cualquiera sea la identidad del indio cuyo cadáver fue encontrado en febrero de 2003 en las serranía de Boma, en la primera de nuestras villas y ciudades, no caben dudas de su espíritu inquieto. Se resiste al sosiego de las almas en manos de Hades. Quiere revelarnos su historia. Ahora, presumiblemente, da la cara a la modernidad.

Un equipo de restauradores del Museo Arqueológico baracoense Cueva El Paraíso, con la colaboración de antropólogos extranjeros, reprodujo el rostro del taíno, cuya osamenta, exhibida allí, se cree pertenezca al cacique Guamá.

La presunta imagen del líder indocubano —protagonista de la más cruenta, larga y efectiva rebelión aborigen contra el exterminio de España en Cuba, entre 1522 y 1532—, se obtuvo a partir del cráneo del cadáver descubierto a principios de 2003 en la cueva La Vigía, con numerosas evidencias histórico-arqueológicas que lo relacionan con Guamá.

Durante más de seis meses los expertos trabajaron en la confección de un molde de yeso con la cavidad craneana del extinto, y aplicaron la técnica de pivote para el apuntalamiento del tejido blando facial alrededor de la cara, informó a JR uno de los autores, el joven restaurador Andrey Guilarte.

"Vaciamos en yeso el molde original del cráneo del cadáver y le colocamos 32 pivotes en torno a su fisonomía, luego se rellenó el rostro con una plastilina especial hasta lograr los detalles específicos", explicó Guilarte.

"Se trata de un complejo proceso que requirió tiempo, precisión y exactitud, indispensables para acercarnos fielmente a la imagen del nativo estudiado", abundó el coautor del proyecto junto a los también escultores Noel Coutín y Bernardo Milhet, además de la arqueóloga estadounidense Sharyn Thompson, la canadiense Susan Hurlich y la colaboradora local Yanexi Pelier.

"Posiblemente esta sea la primera reproducción fisonómica de un arahuaco realizada en Cuba, al menos que tengamos noticias", opina el profesor Roberto Ordúñez Fernández, director del museo y de la Sociedad Arqueológica de Baracoa.


El investigador Ordúñez es el más fervoroso defensor de la teoría de que el individuo de marras puede ser Guamá o alguien muy influyente dentro de la jerarquía taína. Su hipótesis gana sustento con los resultados de la prueba de carbono 14, conocidos en agosto de 2004.

Una muestra de basura arqueológica recogida en el lugar del hallazgo, y examinada por expertos internacionales, arrojó que el cadáver yacía en un sitio de enterramiento de los llamados grupos arcaicos, llegados a Cuba 160 años antes que los taínos.

La edad estimada es de 1020 AP (Antes del Presente). El año de la muestra es + 0 -20, o sea 472 años antes de la llegada de Colón a Cuba y 160 años antes de los grupos agroalfareros. Por tal razón la cueva de donde se extrajeron los residuos de basura arqueológica estuvo habitada por un grupo humano alrededor del año 1000 d.n.e.

"El cadáver objeto de investigación pertenece, por la deformación fronto-occipital y el ajuar cerámico, a los grupos taínos que arribaron a nuestras costas a partir del año 1100 o 1200 de nuestra era", sostiene el arqueólogo Ordúñez.

"Tratándose del único entierro ceramista en la gruta del hallazgo, suponemos que este cadáver fue trasladado a un contexto funerario de los grupos arcaicos, por razones aún desconocidas, aunque puede suponerse que lo escondieron o practicaron algún culto especial."

"No se puede olvidar que ya en época de la conquista se estaba llevando a cabo la práctica bochornosa, por parte de los españoles, de profanar y saquear las tumbas aborígenes para robar las riquezas de altos personajes de esas comunidades", considera Ordúñez.

La osamenta que se exhibe en el Museo arqueológico de Baracoa perteneció a un individuo que fue sepultado en la posición de cuclillas y a su alrededor se colocaron objetos y piezas ceremoniales típicos de los enterramientos indígenas: "una esferalita, muy grande, según el rango del personaje; un collar de serium con amuleto colgante; una cazuela con ofrenda de caracolus-caracolus y polidantes, obsequio para el viaje al ultramundo, además de otras piedras ceremoniales", recuerda Ordúñez Fernández.

Precisa el especialista que el esqueleto encontrado tiene una fractura en la frente, resultado de un golpe mortal, a lo cual se une la confirmación, mediante peritajes, de que se trata una persona masculina, de algo más de 40 años, lo cual coincide con las señas de Guamá.

Y para colmo de coincidencias, la sombra de una presumiblemente atractiva mujer adereza esta enigmática historia. Existen documentados testimonios —reitera el profesor Ordúñez— que confirman la muerte del líder indígena no por las balas españolas, sino de un hachazo en la frente propinado por su hermano Olguama, mientras el cacique dormía. La agresión pudo estar impulsada por los celos, ya que Guamá raptó a la cuñada, según atestiguaron indios de esa guerrilla.

"Cuando tengamos los resultados del ADN —una prueba muy costosa que acomete el antropólogo noruego Richard Daly—, podríamos tener la antigüedad exacta del personaje, las enfermedades que padeció, los alimentos que consumía y con ello su ubicación en el área geográfica del descubrimiento, entre otras valiosísimas informaciones", sostiene el director del Museo Arqueológico de Baracoa.


Guamá: un héroe no suficientemente estudiado

La vida de este indio que conocía las serranías de Baracoa como la palma de su mano no ha sido suficientemente estudiada. Como afirma Juan Jiménez Pastrana en su libro Guamá, "el cacique no tuvo la suerte de que sus hechos heroicos fueran divulgados por el padre Las Casas en sus famosas crónicas: sus acciones fueron ignoradas o poco conocidas...".

Sin embargo, está documentado que provocó quebraderos de cabeza a los gobernadores de la Isla en esa década de explotación y exterminio. En 1522 se internó en las montañas de Baracoa con 50 bravos guerreros y puso en práctica la guerra de guerrillas, luchando con arcos, flechas, macanas y hachas de piedra contra las lanzas, espadas y arcabuces españoles.

Incendió en varias ocasiones el poblado de Baracoa, asaltaba haciendas de los conquistadores y sumaba a los indios a la contienda. Se ha podido conocer, según el profesor Ordúñez, que Guamá llegó hasta la región de Camagüey e intentó unir a otros caciques y negros africanos para la rebelión contra los españoles.

*Por Juventud Rebelde.co.cu 11 Dec. 2006


Another Day of Mourning for Native Peoples

by Haider Rizvi

UN Press Conference: Alison Graham (ISHR), Roberto Mucaro Borrero (UCTP), Elsa Stamatopoulou (Permanent Forum Chief), Phil Fontaine (Assembly of First Nations).

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 (IPS) - While hundreds of advocacy groups across the world observed International Human Rights Day last Sunday with joy and solemnity, leaders of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples say they had no reason to be part of any celebrations.

"We are shocked," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, head of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, adding that native peoples would have happily marked the day if the U.N. had passed a long-awaited resolution calling for international recognition of their fundamental human rights.

Tauli-Corpuz and others said they were "deeply disappointed" at the recent decision of the Third Committee of the General Assembly to defer a resolution approving the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On Tuesday, native leaders and human rights activists named and shamed countries that blocked the U.N. move on the proposed declaration and said that the vote in favour of deferment served no human rights purposes.

While it was the African bloc of states that had called for further discussion of the draft, indigenous leaders blamed the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for orchestrating a negative campaign.

"There was a bit of a shock," Roberto Mucaro Borrero of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus told IPS in response to a question about the role of Namibian and other African diplomats in the Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

Borrero said he and his colleagues were surprised by the African countries' position because until recently they had all supported the declaration as written. "This strategy was supported by the U.S. We also had received reports of pressure on African countries from rich countries," he said.

Just like the U.S. and Canada, the African nations want the wording on "the right to self-determination" to be changed. They argue that use of this phrase could cause political troubles for governments in many countries on the continent.

But indigenous leaders from the Western hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand say they will never compromise on this aspect of the draft because "self-determination" is central to their struggle for recognition of their rights.

"It is a critical matter to indigenous peoples throughout the world," Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, told IPS. "This document speaks positively about our rights to self-determination."

Deploring Ottawa's position on the declaration, Fontaine pointed out that Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, yet its indigenous people are condemned to live in extreme poverty.

Other indigenous leaders from Canada seemed equally outraged at Ottawa's collaboration with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

"It shows exactly how Canada wants to dictate international standards by its own standards, which have been criticised by U.N. human rights bodies in many concluding observations to Canada's treatment of my people for decades," said Arthur Manuel, chief of the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia.

The declaration, which has already been approved by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, fully recognises indigenous peoples' right to control their traditional lands and resources, a point that the U.S. and its allies are strongly opposed to.

Washington and other opponents of the resolution have repeatedly argued that the declaration is "inconsistent with international law". The U.S. has also repeatedly held that the indigenous land claim ignores current reality "by appearing to require the recognition to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens".

Indigenous peoples describe this argument as "racist" while a U.N. body that investigates discriminatory practices also views this line of reasoning as unacceptable.

The declaration was first put together by the U.N. Permanent Forum last May, following more than 20 years of negotiations involving governments, indigenous leaders and non-governmental organisations.

In addition to recognising the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, the declaration states that all native peoples must be protected from forced assimilation and the destruction of their cultures and languages.

The declaration, which is not legally binding on governments, has received full support from the European Union and almost all Latin American nations.

Last month, the move to get the declaration passed by the Third Committee of the General Assembly was narrowly defeated by 67 votes in favour, 82 in opposition and 25 abstentions.

Urging support for the declaration, Tauli-Corpuz said it is the responsibility of all U.N. member states to address the "past and continuing injustice, racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples".

"International Human Rights Day will be more significant for indigenous peoples once the U.N. adopts the declaration and continues building genuine partnerships and solidarity with them," she said. (END/2006)

Latin America: Indigenous People Gaining Ground (On Paper)

Daniela Estrada

SANTIAGO, Dec 5 (IPS) - For the first time ever, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has devoted a chapter to indigenous peoples in its annual Social Panorama report on the region.

In it, countries are urged to recognise the individual and collective rights of ethnic groups, including the right to self-determination.

"Although most of the States in Latin America have made constitutional and legislative changes to recognise indigenous rights, the balance of the last few decades is critical, with evidence of rules being either ineffective or breached," the U.N. agency's Social Panorama of Latin America 2006 report concludes.

"The data available show evidence of structural discrimination against indigenous people that takes the form of marginalisation, exclusion and poverty and places indigenous people systematically in the lowest income quintiles in each country," said the document, which was released Monday in the Chilean capital.

In Latin America, there are 671 indigenous peoples recognised as such by states, and according to census information collected in 2000, the number of people identifying themselves as indigenous was over 30 million.

Peru, Mexico, Bolivia and Guatemala have the largest indigenous populations, ranging from 4.6 to 8.4 million people. Next, there is a group of five countries, including Chile, that have indigenous populations of between 500,000 and one million. Finally there is a group of eight countries, like Nicaragua or El Salvador, with less than half a million indigenous people each.

Most indigenous people live on their ancestral lands in rural areas, but a series of factors such as poverty, land degradation, "invasions" by outside settlers and the interests of local and transnational companies are driving them to migrate to other rural or urban areas.

In general, indigenous populations are young or very young, and have higher fertility rates than the rest of the population, notes the report. It also points out that original peoples have burst on to the scene as social and political actors in the last 20 years.

"The stand taken by the indigenous movement towards the development agendas and official policies brought about in recent years a whole series of constitutional changes and advances in legislation" which were of major importance for the ethnic groups, Fabiana del Popolo told IPS.

Del Popolo is an Argentine expert at the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE), part of ECLAC's Population Division.

Two of these advances are the International Labour Organisation (ILO)'s Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, and the recent Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, drafted by the new Human Rights Council in June 2006, which has not yet been approved by the U.N. General Assembly.

These treaties establish the rights to self-determination, non-discrimination, cultural integrity, own, use, control and have access to land and natural resources, development and social welfare, and political participation.

To date, 13 Latin American countries have ratified Convention 169, but this has not necessarily resulted in improvements to the quality of life of indigenous peoples.

"Paraguay is one of the countries that has recognised, and recognises, virtually every treaty in defence of indigenous peoples, but when you look at the gaps in infant mortality, fertility and so on, it has some of the most blatant inequalities. In contrast, Chile, which has not ratified Convention 169, is one of the countries with the lowest levels of inequality" between indigenous peoples and the rest of the population, del Popolo said.

"This is not to say that the Convention is irrelevant. We think that countries that have made progress in recognising indigenous people's individual and collective rights have better foundations for making faster progress in other areas," the expert said.

"Chile does not even recognise the term 'indigenous people', which is fully accepted in the U.N. Perhaps this is due to fears in certain sectors that this would imply the creation of states within states, but that is not, as a rule, one of the demands of indigenous people. States will continue to be national states," del Popolo explained. According to the ECLAC researcher, ethnic groups are fighting for true respect for the rights enshrined in these international instruments. "Several cases of violations of indigenous people's rights have already been taken before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the indigenous organisations have won," she said.

"At the beginning of the twenty-first century, new obligations are arising for states in terms of recognising, promoting and guaranteeing the individual and collective human rights of indigenous peoples in line with international standards," said the Social Panorama report.

"This process has just begun in Latin America, and there's no turning back. Everything to do with recognition and fuller participation is going to make increasing headway," del Popolo predicted.

The report also deals with other issues affecting Latin American countries: poverty and income distribution, the growth of steady employment and public policies, and changes in family structure.

"In the last four years (2003-2006), Latin America has turned in its best performance in 25 years in economic and social terms;" the report states.

According to ECLAC's estimates, 39.8 percent of the region's population had incomes below the poverty line in 2005, and 15.4 percent were suffering extreme poverty or indigence. The countries with the best results in this field were Argentina and Venezuela.

For the third year in a row, indicators of poverty and indigence have both fallen, and this year a further drop is expected. The regional poverty indicator is forecast at 38.5 percent for 2006, and extreme poverty is expected to drop to 14.7 percent.

According to José Luis Machinea, executive secretary of ECLAC, the decline in poverty rates can be attributed to high gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates in the region in recent years, a steady increase in employment, and in some countries, incipient improvements in income distribution.

While this progress is encouraging, poverty levels remain elevated in the region. There are 209 million poor people and 81 million who are extremely poor.

ECLAC also monitored the region's progress towards the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which is to halve the proportion of extremely poor people by 2015, from 1990 levels.

So far, the region has achieved 69 percent of the target, which was adopted in 2000. "It may thus be said that the region as a whole is on track towards meeting its commitment," the report says. Two countries, Brazil and Chile, have already achieved the goal. (END/2006)


Indigenous leaders and human rights advocates to speak on the current status on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Press conference by indigenous leaders and human rights advocates to discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples regarding its significance, status and future. 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, 12 December, 2006 Room S-226, United Nations Headquarters, New York.

more information

Press conference by indigenous leaders and human rights advocates to discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples regarding its significance, status and future.11:00 a.m., Tuesday, 12 December, 2006Room S-226, United Nations Headquarters, New York.

Speakers will include Mr. Roberto Borrero, Indigenous Peoples' Caucus; Ms. Alison Graham, International Service for Human Rights and Mr. Phil Fontaine, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations. Discussion moderated by Ms. Elsa Stamatopoulou, Chief, Secretariat of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues/DSPD/DESA.

Sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations and the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the Human Rights Council on 29 June 2006 after more than twenty-four years of efforts.

On 28 November 2006, the United Nations Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) adopted Resolution A/C.3/61/L18/Rev 1 in New York. The resolution resulted in the General Assembly deferring consideration and action on the Declaration and allowing for further consultations on the text.

Media arrangements:
Journalists without UN accreditation wishing to attend the press conference should fax a request on company letterhead signed by a supervisor to Mr. Gary Fowlie, Chief, UN Media Accreditation Unit at +1(212) 963-4642. Media accreditation forms and general information can be found at www.un.org/media/accreditation or call +1 (212) 963-6934

For press enquries and information, please contact:Oisika Chakrabarti, Department of Public Information, tel: 212.963.6816, e-mail: mediainfo@un.org

For the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum, please contact: Mirian Masaquiza, Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, tel: 917.367.6006, e-mail:


Boycott Mel Gibson's Apocalypto!!!

"To grasp what a racist act Gibson has committed in the making of his new film, it is necessary to understand the world of the Maya as it exists today. Perhaps realizing what has been done to the Maya in the film, Gibson has been seeking allies among Latinos and American Indians. He even went so far as to tell Time magazine, "The fear mongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys."

*Related article at The Voice of the Taino People:


Planetary triple play on deck Sunday

Early Sunday, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury will give observers a rare treat.

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Fri Dec 8, 8:14 PM ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Stargazers will get a rare triple planetary treat this weekend with Jupiter, Mercury and Mars appearing to nestle together in the predawn skies. About 45 minutes before dawn on Sunday those three planets will be so close that the average person's thumb can obscure all three from view.

They will be almost as close together on Saturday and Monday, but Sunday they will be within one degree of each other in the sky. Three planets haven't been that close since 1925, said Miami Space Transit Planetarium director Jack Horkheimer.

And it won't happen again until 2053, he said.

"Jupiter will be very bright and it will look like it has two bright lights next to it, and they won't twinkle because they're planets," said Horkheimer, host of the television show "Star Gazer. "This is the kind of an event that turns young children into Carl Sagans."

The planets are actually hundreds of millions of miles apart, but the way the planets orbit the sun make it appear they are neighbors in the east-southeastern skies. They'll be visible in most parts of the world — in the Western Hemisphere, as far south as Buenos Aires and as far north as Juneau, Alaska, Horkheimer said.

The experts differ on just how to look at the planets. Horkheimer said naked-eye viewing is fine, but binoculars or a telescope are even better.

But if you are going to use a telescope, be careful because the planets are so close to where the sun will soon rise, if you linger you might gaze at the sun through the telescope and damage your eyesight, said Michelle Nichols, master educator at Chicago's Adler Planetarium.

Ed Krupp, director of Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory, cautioned it will be hard to see the event "with an unaided eye, particularly in an area that is highly urbanized."

The way to find the planets, which will be low on the east-southeast horizon, is to hold your arm straight out, with your hand in a fist and the pinky at the bottom. Halfway up your fist is how high the planets will appear above the horizon, Nichols said.

Jupiter will be white, Mercury pinkish and Mars butterscotch-colored.

"It is a lovely demonstration of the celestial ballet that goes on around us, day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium," said Horkheimer. "When I look at something like this, I realize that all the powers on Earth, all the emperors, all the money, cannot change it one iota. We are observers, but the wonderful part of that is that we are the only species on this planet that can observe it and understand it."

In ancient times, people thought the close groupings of planets had deep meaning, said Krupp. Now, he said, "it's absolutely something fun to look for."



Dec 8 2006

The following is the closing statement of the Caucus of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas:

"We, the representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, express our concern about the process of prepairing the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We aspire and work for a Declaration that fully reflects our rights. The shortcomings of this process profoundly affect not only us but also our future generations.

We came to this meeting prepared to participate in this process on an equal footing and to contribute to a dignified, constructive dialogue based on mutual respect that will help establish a new relationship between indigenous Peoples and American States.

We are encouraged that some States support efforts to reach consensus and we regret that other States lack political will to do so.

We are also concerned about the use of a method of work that not only slows the process but also delays the completion of the Declaration on our rights. We consider that the method of work at this meeting does not clearly reflect our proposals in these negotiations and that no real progress was made at this meeting..

We are also concerned with what is occurring with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the Human Rights Council but is now on hold. We reiterate that we cannot accept anything less than the minimum standards for our rights which are already universally accepted and recognized. Some States are forgetting their commitments and obligations as signatories of conventions and international covenants of the United Nations of which all American States are parties to atleast one. Common Article 1 of the International Covenants stipulates that "All peoples have the right to self-determination". The Treaty Monitoring Body, composed of experts elected by the States themselves have applied this right under the Covenants to Indigenous Peoples. We cannot accept a form of the right to self-determination that does not comply with existing minimum standards recognized by the States themselves. The right to self-determination is a fundamental right that is necessary for the survival, dignity and well-being of our Peoples and our future generations.

We respectfully and energetically call on States to achieve real progress in this process at future megotiations."

Caucus of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas
Washington DC, 8th December 2006

UCTP Taino News Editor's note: Chief Damon Corrie of the Eagle Clan Arawaks (Barbados & Guyana) and Oswald Robinson (Garifuna) of Saint Vincent were in attendence at the meeting representing Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.


Presentation: Native America, Discovered and Conquered

The United Confederation of Taino People
Presencia Taina, Inc.


Native America, Discovered and Conquered

by Robert J. Miller,
Associate Professor,
Lewis & Clark Law School

When: MONDAY DECEMBER 11, 2006
Where: At The AUBURN SEMINARY, Bonhoeffer Room

3041 B'way,NY 10027 NYC (Main Entrance 121 street)
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Admission is Free

Professor Miller addresses and proves three new ideas that have not been discussed anywhere else:

1. American colonies, states, and the federal government adopted the International Law, Doctrine of Discovery, and applied it to the Indian Nations from 1620-2006.

2. Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark used the Doctrine of Discovery to exercise governmental authority in the Louisiana Territory and to claim the Pacific Northwest for the United States.

3. Manifest Destiny arose from the identical legal elements and policies of the Doctrine of Discovery. As a result, Eurocentric, religious, and feudal principles of Discovery were adopted into the American law and policy of westward expansion.

This book grew out of Professor Millers three year involvement with the Lewis & Clark anniversary as the representative of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and an advisor to the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial.

Miller is an Associate Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, and Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of the Grand Ronde Tribe. He is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Okalahoma.

ADMISSION IS FREE for further information call 1-718-796-2460

Books will also be available after presentation for sale and signing. All profits from books sold at this event will be donated to the Native American Law Student Association.

Price: $49.95; ISBN 0-275-99011-7; Pages: 230; Barnesandnoble.com ($39.95 for members)

Mad Mel and the Maya


On the Yucatán peninsula, where many of the Maya of Mexico live, there is an often-told story about people like Mel Gibson, whose bloody movie in the Yucatecan Maya language, Apocalypto, will be released December 8. I first heard the story from Miguel Angel May May, a tall man among the Maya, handsome, now in his 40s, with a touch of gray in his hair. He speaks Yucatecan Maya so eloquently that when young people who have begun to lose their language and culture first hear him, they shed tears for what has been and what can be in the Yucatán.

May May tells the story with the kind of rage and pride that Gibson tried to portray with his Scottish heroes in Braveheart and postapocalyptic picaros in Mad Max: "A Maya, of the middle class, like me," May May said, "went into a Ford dealership here in Mérida. He intended to buy a new pickup truck. He was well dressed, but clearly Maya. The dealer offered him ten pesos to wash a truck." It is a common experience for people of color in a white world. The Yucatán is not entirely a white world, yet the Maya suffer the most severe prejudice of any large ethnic group in Mexico. In the language of prejudice in Mexico, the Maya are said to be people with big heads and no brains, too short, too dark and with a strange, laughable Spanish accent. Gibson accepted the stereotype and embellished it.

To grasp what a racist act Gibson has committed in the making of his new film, it is necessary to understand the world of the Maya as it exists today. Perhaps realizing what has been done to the Maya in the film, Gibson has been seeking allies among Latinos and American Indians. He even went so far as to tell Time magazine, "The fear mongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys."

In fact, Gibson stepped into a delicate cultural situation and may have shattered much of what has been built by indigenous people, historians and linguists in recent years. Ethnic prejudice is as harsh in the Yucatán as anywhere in the Americas. I have seen it played out in the Maya villages as well as in the cities and on the beaches. When the Clemente Course, which educates indigenous people as well as the poor in seven countries, taught its first class in the Maya language and humanities in the small village of San Antonio Sihó, the students told me that when they took the bus to Mérida (a journey of more than fifty miles) they were afraid to speak Maya, because people would think them stupid Indians (Mayeros). After two years of study, José Chim Kú, the student leader of the class, said, "Now, when I ride on the bus, I speak only Maya." It took two years for the faculty, including May May, to effect the change, for the Maya have internalized their recent history. And like all people who live in the violent mirror of racial and ethnic hatred, they suffer for their suffering. It is the bitterest irony of colonialism.

In the film Apocalypto, which Gibson claims will make the Maya language "cool again," there are many major roles. The lead is a lithe, handsome young man, a dancer from Oklahoma named Rudy Youngblood. He has indigenous ancestors, but he is not Maya, and like most of the other featured players he is not a professional actor. None of the four other major parts went to Maya either. According to Gibson, they are played by people from the United States, and the other featured players are either from Mexico City or Oaxaca. Yet every word spoken in the film is in Yucatecan Maya, a difficult language to learn or even to mimic, because it is both tonal and accented.

It is not as if Gibson had few Mayeros to choose from. There are more than a million Maya in Mexico, and more than 100,000 of them are monolingual Yucatecan Maya speakers. Yet Gibson chose not one Maya for a featured role. In so doing, he has made a film that reinforces the prejudice against the Maya, who have defended their cultural autonomy as fiercely as any people on earth. Twice they repulsed the Spaniard Francisco de Montejo, before he occupied part of the peninsula in 1527. They continued to fight pitched battles against European cultural and political dominance until the end of the Caste War in the early twentieth century. And even now militant organizations deep in the jungles of the state of Quintana Roo practice ancient rituals and resist Occidental cultural and political hegemony, including the Gregorian calendar. But the people have never been attacked by Hollywood.

Like the owners of the resort hotels that line the beautiful beaches of Cancún and Cozumel, Mel Gibson cast no Maya to work on his project, except in the most minor roles. Maya nationalists think the hotels and tourist packages that use the word "Maya" or "Mayaland" (a translation of Mayab) should pay for what they appropriate for their own use. The Maya patrimony, they say, is neither gold nor silver nor vast stretches of rich farmland; they have only their history, their culture, themselves. Like the hotel owners who bring strangers to the Yucatán to do everything but labor in the laundries and maintain the grounds, Gibson has brought in strangers to take the good parts from the Maya. He said in an interview that he chose people who "looked like you imagined they should," but I have seen photographs of Rudy Youngblood, and he does not look like any Maya I ever saw. One can only ascribe the choice of Youngblood and the other non-Maya to stereotypes that Gibson has adopted.

In casting and producing the film Gibson reinforced a colonialist concept of indigenous people that has long existed in Mexico. Ancient Maya culture was extraordinary, as the rest of the world now recognizes. The Maya invented one of the few original systems of phonetic writing (we are familiar with the Chinese system and the one that culminated in Latin script). They worked with the concept of zero long before it was known in Europe. They were superb astronomers. Their art and architecture are now known and studied throughout the world. It is also true that they were warriors and that they engaged in human sacrifice, although not on the grand scale of the Mexica. Their ability to manage large-scale military and civic works was impressive. Maya literature has a long and grand history, from the ancient words incised in stone through the Pop Wuj (Popol Vuh) and the postinvasion books of Chilam Balam to the eighteenth-century poems ("Kay Nicte"--Flower Song--and others) to contemporary works, including brilliant poetry by Briceida Cuevas Cob in Yucatecan Maya and Humberto Ak'abal in Ki'che and Miguel Angel May May's delightful fables.

Culture doesn't sell tickets. Violence does. Gibson has made what he calls "a chase movie." As we saw his Scot disemboweled and his Jesus battered into bloody meat, we will now see a young Maya running through the jungle to escape having his still beating heart torn from his chest. The social philosophy of Jesus found no place in Gibson's Passion of the Christ, and the glory of Maya culture cannot be featured in a "chase movie." "Blood! More blood!" Gibson shouted during the filming.

According to the Maya calendar, the world will end in 2012, but there have already been four creations in the Maya vision of the cosmos, and there is no reason to think they do not expect another. For the title of his movie Gibson chose a Greek word related to the ideas in the Book of Revelation: apocalypse. Gibson has tried to sell the movie as an allegory, using the fall of Maya civilization to limn the war in Iraq. But it is not about Iraq, and the end of the Maya classic period took place many centuries before the period Gibson chose for his film. The only profound meaning one can take away from the film is that there is an intimate connection between racism and violence. The message of the production is that the Maya are unacceptable people; we do not want to look at them as they are now, and we despise them for what they were then.

Earl Shorris is the editor, with Miguel León-Portilla, of In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature--Pre-Columbian to the Present (Norton). He has received the National Humanities Medal and the Condecoración de la Orden del Aguila Azteca.

*Article Source: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061218/shorris

OAS: Indigenous Caucus Statement

Caucus of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

Opening Statement of the Eighth Meeting of Negotiations
(Greetings in an Indigenous Language)

Excellency Ambassador Juan Leon Alvarado,

President of the Working Group on the Drafting of the American Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Vice President of the Working Group, Ms. Ana Pena,

Summit Secretariat

Distinguished Representatives of the [American] States

Indigenous brothers and sisters,

In the name of the Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of the Americas we wish to thank the Summit Secretariat of the Americas for organizing the Eighth Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Consensus on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Likewise, we thank the OAS member States for contributing to the Specific Fund that supports
the participation of the representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas at this important meeting.

We also would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge publicly the work carried out by the Vice President of the Working Group, the Alternate Ambassador, Mrs. Ana Pena. Her support has been essential to the progress made thus far. We invite other representatives of the States to continue in the same spirit that has permitted us to make substantial progress in the meetings of Guatemala and Brazil. We also wish to commend those countries that have demonstrated their good faith and political will to facilitate the mandate of the General Assembly to adopt the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We remind all the American States of the need to carry out national consultations on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in every country.

We strongly support the text of the UN Declaration adopted by the Human Rights Council. We express our concern over the position taken by some OAS member States in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in a vote to delay adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In effect, this decision of the Third Committee denies our status as Peoples according to international law. We deeply regret the actions of some of the American States at the UN who, after so many years of dialogue with us, have denied our fundamental rights as Indigenous Peoples.

We will continue to work in this 8th Session of the Working Group although we are aware that there has been a call to suspend this process until after the final adoption of the UN Declaration is secured.

However, we will not accept human rights standards that are lower than those that have been approved in the UN Declaration. During this week, we will participate with these critical considerations in mind.

We are concerned about the methodology adopted by the States, which appears to define consensus as unanimity. As Indigenous Peoples we will not compromise our human rights for the sake of arriving at a consensus with the States. We stand firm in our commitment to participate in this process, but it cannot have moral integrity if the States do not act with transparency, good faith and political will.

The right to self-determination is an inherent right of Indigenous Peoples. We therefore call upon the members of the OAS to join the UN Human Rights Council in recognizing that Indigenous Peoples, like all peoples under international law, have the right to self-determination.

We, the representatives of Indigenous Peoples with the protection of our Pacha Mama, continue to assert

Never more the Americas without Indigenous Peoples



UCTP Taino News Editor's note: Chief Damon Corrie of the Eagle Clan Arawaks (Barbados & Guyana) and Oswald Robinson (Garifuna) of Saint Vincent are in attendence at the meeting representing Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.