Thousands of Indigenous Peoples Gather at UN Headquarters

United Nations (UCTP Taino News) – In his opening address to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that this year’s session takes place during a “historic crossroads”. Mr. Ban said that with last year’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the two-week Forum takes on a “new role”.

The Declaration outlines the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlaws discrimination against them. It sets out rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The Forum’s opening session included a precedent-setting presentation by Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, the first indigenous leader of his country. President Morales called on the world body to recognize indigenous cultures and needs, an appeal that he had made on several occasions in the past two years, using his high profile as head of state. The Bolivian President also told the gathering to be wary of transnational corporations and industrialists, denouncing such companies as "exploiters" of his country's natural resources.

Climate change is one of the special themes of this year’s session of the Forum. This is a critical issue for Indigenous Peoples around the world as they are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship, with the environment and its resources. An important issue to Caribbean Indigenous Peoples, Kalinago Chief Charles Williams of Waitikubuli (Dominica) noted that “Climate Change is a reality.”

In his address on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean (IPCGC) Chief Williams also declared that “Like it or not [climate change] is there for all of us and not some of us, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are weak or powerful, we will all suffer the consequences of climate change”

The IPCGC also addressed agenda items on Human Rights and Indigenous languages. In its collective statement on languages the Caucus addressed the need for the full and effective participation of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples in regional follow-up initiatives.

The IPCGC’s intervention on Human Rights was presented by the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos. The statement focused on the current situation of Sacred Sites such as Jacanas in Ponce, Puerto Rico as well as the lack of recognition of the rights of Taino People on the island.

Over 2500 participants - including senior UN officials and representatives of States, civil society and academia – are registered for the Forum, which ends on May 2, 2008.

UCTP Photo (1): President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia

UCTP Photo (2): Damon Corrie, Charles Williams, and Roberto Mukaro Borrero participating within
the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean

UCTPTN 04.25.2008


Taino and Arawak Works on Display at UN Headquarters

United Nations (UCTP Taino News) – Contemporary Taino artists Reina Miranda, Mildred Mukara Torres Speeg and John Aguilar Marrero were among the indigenous artists whose selected works were featured at the opening of the United Nations Art exhibition entitled “Spirit of Our Ancestors”. The exhibition was launched in conjuction with the 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the opening took place on Tuesday, April 22nd 2008 at United Nations headquarters in New York. A testament to Caribbean indigenous survival, the paintings and their accompanying explanatory text have the potential to educate thousands of international visitors daily. Marrero and Miranda are members of the Cacibajagua Taino Cultural Society. Torres-Speeg is a UCTP representative in the state of Georgia. Also on display are three wood sculptures by Foster Simon, an acclaimed Lokono Arawak from Guyana. Mr. Simon’s works are also featured in the Presidential collections of Guyana, Venezuela, and Bolivia. This special exhibition is free and open to the public during weekdays for a limited engagement closing on May 18, 2008.

Photo: Taino women at the opening of the "Spirit of Our Ancestors" exhibition at the United Nations. From left: Leenda Bonilla; Mildred Karaira Gandia, Maria Itomacunana Diaz, and Reina Miranda

UCTPTN 04.23.2008


Caribbean Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations

UCTP Taino News (United Nations) - The Seventh Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 21 April to 2 May 2008. The special theme will be "Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges." This year’s PFII theme is especially relevant to Caribbean Indigenous Peoples, many of whom from Small Island Developing States that are increasingly affected by the global climate crises.

In an effort to ensure Caribbean voices at the session, the
United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) is again facilitating administrative services and program coordination for delegates planning to participate within the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean (IPCGC) at UN Forum.

UCTP representative Roberto Mukaro Borrero states “Our presence here at the United Nations has without question increased the visibility of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples.” He continued “We are beginning to see more agencies taking a closer look at the region for possible inclusion within their programs.”

Indeed, as a result of interventions made at previous sessions, UNICEF coordinated a precedent-setting regional meeting focusing on “Caribbean Indigenous and Maroon Children” in June 2007. Representatives of indigenous organizations and communities including the UCTP were invited to participate in this special session that took place in Georgetown, Guyana.

The Convention on Biological Diversity has also increased participation of Caribbean representatives a move Naniki Reyes Ocasio of the Caney Quinto Mundo hailed as a “significant step forward” considering the vulnerable situation of small island states. Reyes Ocasio - a respected Taíno community leader from Puerto Rico - also stressed that the next step is for the agencies to “get serious about capacity building in the region including Puerto Rico.”

“This year is important to us as it is our 10 year anniversary and our advocacy on behalf of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations has been a major focus” stated Borrero. “Twenty years ago no one would have imagined we could have impacted the system in the way we have but as a result of our unity and solidarity across international boarders the UN’s attitude toward Caribbean Indigenous Peoples is changing” he said.

“Of course there is much more we need to do and in many cases our situations, especially with regard to our
sacred sites are urgent but we had to begin the process and our work as the UCTP or within the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean is precedent-setting.”

Mildred Karaira Gandia, a UCTP representative who has been participating in the UN sessions has also noticed a change in attitudes. She noted that “in collaboration with supportive NGOs like the Tribal Link Foundation, various representatives from the region have also been able to receive training on how to engage the United Nations System.” To date indigenous representatives fro
m Guyana, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Barbados, and Dominica have been able to participate at the United Nations with assistance from the UCTP.

A highlight of Caribbean Indigenous participation at this year’s PFII session will be a special event entitled Climate Change, Bio-Cultural Diversity and Livelihoods: A Caribbean First Nations Perspective. Taino representative Elba Anaka Lugo from Puerto Ric
o along with Carib and Arawak delegates Chief Charles Williams from Dominica and Hereditary Chief Damon Corrie of Barbados will take part in this program on Wednesday, April 23, 2008.

Caribbean Indigenous Peoples will also be highlighted in the UN Art Exhibition “Spirit of Our Ancestors” along with other Indigenous Peoples from around the world. The featured works of Taíno artists Mildred Mukara Torres Speeg, Aguilar Marrero, and Reina Miranda, will be presented. Guyanese Lokono Arawak artist Foster Simon will also have several works on display in the public exhibition, which opens April 21 through May 18, 2008.

The Permanent Forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

UCTPTN 04.20.2008


VENEZUELA: Treasure Island

By Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Apr 14 (IPS) - Cubagua, a 24-square-kilometre island off of Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast, is uninhabited but guards the archaeological testimony of three stages of human history and prehistory in the Americas.

"The oldest archaeological findings date back 3,000 to 3,500 years. They reflect the passage through the area of paleo-indigenous groups -- nomads, explorers and harvesters of shellfish -- perhaps on their way to populating other parts of South America or the Caribbean," anthropologist Carlos Martín told IPS..

On his desk in the Central University of Venezuela’s School of Anthropology, Martín spreads out shells collected in Cubagua. Only at closer inspection would a lay person notice that they have been cut or carved to serve as tools.

"What looks like archaeological garbage is actually gouges and tools used to open shellfish, obtain food and carry out rudimentary woodwork" on rafts or primitive boats used to explore the Caribbean region.

Cubagua, some 300 km northeast of Caracas, is halfway between Venezuela’s northeastern shoreline and the resort island of Margarita. There are no surface sources of fresh water, and the landscape is sand and rock, with a few scattered thickets.

It is the smallest of the three islands making up the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, along with Margarita and Coche islands, and is located 16 km north of Araya Peninsula, the closest mainland area. It is home to only a few itinerant fishing camps, which shrink and grow depending on the season.

"A second group of carved objects were left by indigenous peoples of the Carib or Arawak languages, who passed through Cubagua as nomads since at least 1,500 or 2,000 years ago," said Martín. "They are the artifacts of people who already used knives or other tools made of stone, shells or wood on the mainland or on Margarita Island."

German-Spanish Historian Enrique Otte found remnants of pottery and cooking hearths, as well as signs of what may have been religious rituals.

These were the indigenous people encountered by the Spaniards who arrived at these shores in the late 15th century. On his third voyage, in August 1498, Christopher Columbus reached Cubagua, where he discovered riches that whetted Europe’s appetite: pearls.

Thus began the third population wave in Cubagua: the Spaniards, who brought Guaiquerí Indians over from Margarita Island and made them dive for oysters. Forced to dive for up to 16 hours a day, many of them died of overwork. The rich pearl fisheries led to the establishment in 1500 of the first Spanish settlement in what is now South America: Nueva Cádiz.

The settlement on the northeastern shore of the island gained the formal status of a town in 1528, when it was home to 1,000 European inhabitants along with an unknown number of indigenous people and, later, groups of black slaves. Fresh water was brought in from the mouth of the Manzanares river, on the nearby mainland.

But by 1537, the oyster beds were basically wiped out, as was the native population as a result of European diseases and brutal exploitation. The town was abandoned as a permanent settlement in 1539 and destroyed by a tidal wave in 1541. The ruins were burnt by French pirates in 1543.

Nueva Cádiz "was an L-shaped city that was walled in to protect itself from pirates. It had streets, houses, two churches, a city hall, a convent and a cemetery. Outside the walls lived the Indians and blacks, in rudimentary huts and shacks," archaeologist Jorge Armand, who is carrying out work in the ruins, told IPS.

Armand and his team found and cleared the ruins of one of the churches, the Ermita de Nuestra Señora, which measured 30 by eight metres and had outside walls one metre thick and a flagstone floor. "The ruins coincide with Otte’s research and an old French map," said the archaeologist.

The Ermita "was the first Catholic church in South America, the first where the Virgin of the Valley -- the patron saint of fishermen and sailors in Venezuela -- was venerated, and it shows the importance that the Spaniards placed on Nueva Cádiz," said Armand.

The Venezuelan Institute of Cultural Patrimony is studying the possibility of building a museum in Cubagua, for students of archaeology and history, as well as tourists.

"The essential thing is conservation," said Martín. "An on-site museum is a wonderful idea, but tourism must be accompanied by education and controls, in order for it to be responsible, because we are not only talking about archaeological treasures, but also an island with a fragile environment."

Cubagua "represents three key phases of human development in the Americas. First, the passage of primitive (in the archaeological sense) groups, who could have been ancestors of the Carib Indians. Second, the organised indigenous peoples who lived on the mainland and visited Cubagua seasonally for fishing and possibly for holding rituals," said the anthropologist.

And, finally, "the Spaniards, who founded the first colonial city built on an island, over 500 years ago," until the town was wiped out "by the forces of nature and greed," he said.

"At times there is a tendency to look down on Venezuela’s prehispanic history and patrimony, because it is compared to the monumental history of Mexico, Peru or Central America. But the roots could have begun to take shape here, on this island, millennia ago, in something as basic and marvellous as the first inhabitants of the new world carving a rock that was used to pry open a clam or cut wood," said Martín. (END/2008)


Government Oppression of the Taino People in Puerto Rico

The General Council of Tainos Borincanos has planned to clean-up the Bucana river in Jacanas (Tibes - Ponce), Puerto Rico on April 12 but their attempt has been impeded by the Department of Natural Resources.

The General Council of Tainos Borincanos having proposed - as part of our activities to promote conservation and respect of the environment - the clean-up of the Bucana river to mend the damage caused to the sacred site of Jacanas, Ponce, PR and to renew its integrity; had made efforts since the beginning of February to contact the Department of Natural Resources, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and other governmental agencies through various means of communication such as faxes, telephone calls, letters and personal visits. The Taino Council’s requests were never officially answered.

The Department of Natural Resources sent a delayed and confusing letter with no instructions on the procedures for carrying out such an activity; however they implied that the Taino Council needed to have the endorsement of federal agencies to clean our rivers and to protect Mother Earth.

On April 11th representatives of the Taino Council received a visit in the area designated for the activity, from agents of the Department Natural Resources who indicated that we could NOT hold this activity and that they had received orders from their superiors in San Juan.

At that time, leaders of the Council asked what law existed that prohibited the cleaning of the river and what violation constituted their action. No answer was received from the agents. This is ironic since the government of Puerto Rico and the Department of Natural Resources invest so much money and energy in announcements to the people of Puerto Rico insisting that the public mobilize to clean-up the environment. Here in Jacanas the government of Puerto Rico and the Department of Natural Resources has gone against the public mandate of set by their organizations.

This situation is especially sad since garbage continues to accumulate at the river and contaminate such an important and sacred place. There are NO signs to indicate that garbage should NOT be thrown. All of these realities offend the dignity and disrespect the memory of our ancestors and in general the people of Puerto Rico.

As this is happening at this very moment in Puerto Rico, this unfortunate and possibly dangerous situation is evidence of the state of repression that the descendants of the Taino-Boricua People and the People of Puerto Rico are facing. These actions taken by the government of Puerto Rico and the Department of Natural Resources clearly constitute discrimination and a violation of law and the freedom to exercise our rights.

General Council of Tainos Borincanos is requesting support from all Puerto Rican/Boricua environmental, cultural and indigenous communities as well as international indigenous rights organizations in order to exercise our rights as a people as well protect our patrimonial legacy.

To support, endorsement, or reactions, and ideas, write to
anacaotoao@hotmail.com or call 787-568-1547 or 787-858-4855.

Happy Garifuna Settlement Day


As we celebrate our arrival to Honduras let us not forget how we came to be in Central America. Let us not forget our history. Let us not forget that we are one people, the Garifuna Nation. We have always had a free body, mind, and spirit. The blood, pride, and courage of our Arawak and African ancestors remain in all of us. On this day take the time to learn and teach our history to the next generation. Tell them to not be ashamed to claim their heritage. Let us not just be proud to be Garinagu on April 12, November 19th & 26th. We should be proud to be Garifuna everyday of our lives.

"Garifuna Nuguya..Pantatina Lau"

Cheryl Noralez


Carib Canoe Trial Run A Success

UCTP Taino News - Two huge Carib “War Canoes” paddled south from Madiana Beach in Martinique about 25 nautical miles to St. Luce over Easter Weekend. On this trip there were “no weapons in hand” just oars and a large group of Kalinago (Carib) and other “Sea Warriors” determined to recreate an important part of the region’s indigenous history.

The group is working on a seven year project to renew the voyages of the Carib ancestors from South America up through the Caribbean Islands. The Easter Weekend trip was a trail run for a longer voyage – more than double the length - set for this May 2008.

The 50 member canoe team included French, German, Austrian, English, American and Tahitian members as well as a special 15 member Kalinago contingent from Dominica. These men and women - young and old - students, fishermen and sailors have been training together in the rough Atlantic seas off the East Coast of the Carib Territory in Dominica since January, 2008.

The larger of the two canoes, the “Youmoulicou” is 60 feet from stem to stern, with its sister at 50 foot long. The two canoes were accompanied by two security support boats.

In May, the Sea Warriors will set out from north of Martinique to brave the heavy seas of the Dominican Channel, paddling their 25-man canoes for over 10 grueling hours through the high waves to arrive finally on the shores of Scotts Head in Dominica.

Photo: Some of the Kalinago and other "Sea Warriors" in Martinique on Easter Weekend (Photo credit: J. Grinmer)

UCTPTN 04.04.2008


OAS Still Negotiating Indigenous Rights Declaration

UCTP Taino News – The Organization of American States (OAS) will host the Eleventh Meeting of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Washington, DC on April 14-18, 2008. Among those who have confirmed attendance at the meeting are Caribbean Indigenous representatives, Chief Charles Williams (Kalinago) of Dominica and Mr. Oswald Robinson (Garifuna) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A delegation representing the United Confederation of Taino People will also attend.

Like the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the OAS draft Declaration is not a Covenant under international law that will legally bind the signatories to any action. These legal documents however are still important as "standard-setting" with regard to indigenous rights. Recently, the UN Declaration was cited in a Belize Supreme Court decision in favor of the local Maya community.

“In some countries this developing OAS instrument has the potential to be a substantial and wide-reaching improvement on the existing rights found in national legislation” said Hereditary Lokono Eagle Clan Chief Damon Corrie a regular participant of the negotiations.

Corrie continued stating that “The OAS draft Declaration deserves the attention of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas as well as governments especially the CARICOM governments who are not normally in attendance at these meetings.”

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an inter-governmental organization that brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region’s premier forum for multilateral dialogue among governments and for their concerted action.

UCTPTN 04.03.2008


Sacred reclamation and Grand-Clean-up of Jacanas in Puerto Rico

UCTP Taíno News - The Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos in collaboration with other organizations and agencies has organized a clean-up of the sacred site of Jacanas in Ponce, Puerto Rico from April 11th through the 13th. The council invites the general public as well as other indigenous peoples to join with them in this noble effort for conservation and in memory of the ancestors. The effort is part of a larger effort to save ancient indigenous sacred sites in Puerto Rico. Camping will be available as well as an orientation of the spiritual, environmental, and cultural importance of the area on April 13th. For further information on the event, contact Elba Anaca Lugo at 787-568-1547 or 787-760-5078, or Grandmother Shashira at 787-858-4855.

UCTPTN 04.01.2008