Splintering among the Taino Nation…

These are some questions I thought very interesting, and I had never considered before.   They were posted on an Indigenous Forum I participate in by someone whom I consider quite intelligent.  The questions are regarding the Taino Movement and it’s people from 20+ years ago to the present.  There are some people who have been part of this movement forever, in one way or another, and others, “newcomers”, who are just now discovering the possibilities of their indigenous ancestry.

Sometimes past and present don’t meet eye to eye and these questions seem to want to  uncover the “why”, “because”, “porque'” of them.

I would add, that the questions themselves are also very telling.  The answers are my own.

“Why do the new comers to the movement spite the same people that pioneered it and refuse to learn from their experiences?”

More than anything, I believe that the offense may come from ego on both sides. Some of these “pioneers” will attempt to impose their ways and opinions on others without considering that this imposition is disrespectful.   Most of these “newcomers” are adults, not children,  and they have had their own experiences.  The values may be different between them and let’s be realistic, who really likes to be told what to do?    There are very few who are willing to accept people for who they are,what they are and what they have to offer.   There is little tolerance for different points of view and many are not willing to accept those opinions or actions with which they do not agree. Lack of acceptance leads to power plays that leads to splintering.

What is sad, is that many times these power plays come to a head and those who do have the advantage will abuse it.  Examples of this can be found in some Taino forums.  As respectful as both parties may be in a discussion, there is always a chance that those with the upper hand may take things personally and press the delete button, effectively silencing the voice of dissent.  Or you can find some who believe themselves “better than” and in their elitisim choose to keep themselves apart from the “Taino rifraff” all due to differences of opinion.

By the same token, there are some folk who can’t seem to disagree without passing a certain line and  become insulting and demeaning…  The anonymity of the internet gives us  an incredible sense of freedom but some forget to be responsible for their actions and take the opportunity to become verbally abusive.  Now I am the first one to balk at being censored, but  if I don’t want to be censored by another, then I need to censor myself- and this behavior applies to everyone!

It’s part of growing up and community building efforts. But, regrettably, we have instead adopted the modern idea of disposability and this has been applied to people as well…

“How can people ignore what has been presented to them by the same tainos that gave birth to the taino identity?

This is an interesting question because the Taino identity, like any other, is constantly shifting. It wasn’t just invented in the last 20 years, it’s been defined and re-defined by the people who have identified themselves as such throughout the centuries, whether they used the word “Taino” or not!

The Caribbean Native self-identity is also different from one person to the next as well as from the Caribbean to the mainland.  It’s even different from one Caribbean island to another.

The  Caribbean Natives in the mainland realized they were native because the Indians there told them and this sharing led to the Caribbean Indian becoming active in the US Native political scene.  The Taino on the islands just live it- they don’t call it being Taino, they call it life!  For  some of the people in the Caribbean who identify as Taino, it was never a matter of question; and for many others, it’s just a matter of identifying what is.

Self identity is personal and will vary according to the individual. For those coming to their Taino identity for the first time, on either side of the pond, the recognition could be the features, the DNA, the family stories, the uncle who did this, the grandma who did that, the lack of this or the presence of that…these things will aid them on their path of self discovery. One person can share their opinion with another regarding what Taino identity incorporates, but rarely do folks keep in mind that what is true for one may not be so for another.

One cannot give birth to another person’s Taino identity; one cannot give birth to another person’s identity at all, only one’s own.

“If affirmation is one element of resurgence why aren’t people ready to learn about the resurgence? or is it even about resurgence at all?”

The word “resurgence”  literally means re-birth but how a person would re-birth themselves, and what values they keep or discard is a personal choice that is not open to discussion.  Each person has to define that for themselves.  One person may focus on creative endeavors whereas another may focus on academia, one may choose to keep or discard a spiritual practice that is foreign where another may not be interested in practicing any spirituality at all.  Like you said, “affirmation is only one element of the resurgence”, history is another.  Interest in one doesn’t imply interest in all.

And those interested in history must keep in mind that the story varies with the teller.  That is one of the biggest lessons this resurgence teaches us.  Information differs from one group to another and the same groundwork that leads to the splintering of people, leads to the splintering of stories. Everyone has their own experiences and opinions on the same empirical evidence.

Is it about resurgence?  I don’t know that it is about resurgence for everyone.  For some it’s about self identity, for others is acknowledgement and for others it may even be a political thing.   Like I mention above, one’s identity has different facets and not all of us have the same interests or values.  What I do believe is that, regardless of the interests, we all have the same goals: we want to belong to a United Taino Nation, we want a sense of community,  we want to be respected and have our contributions valued.   This is not an impossible dream- we just need to start to behave like it.  Make community our priority.

But because people are disposable, it’s real easy to bait, argue, insult and belittle each other. One can just walk away…

As hard as it may be,  the best way anyone learns is by example and those who are aware must provide this example.

Or is Daca taino now just about DNA? what type of nation will this ideology leave?

I think that DNA is only a very small part of self identity, although I will admit, it could be one of the paths taken to self discovery.

I think it’s popular now because it’s recent science and it’s in periodicals with whole magazine spreads dedicated to it; it’s used in forensics and court cases which are all the rage on tv. Once the population is fully saturated with the topic, something new will take it’s place, for such is the way of the media.  Sadly, the abundance of information leads to a lot of misguided ideas.  The topic is complicated to begin with and easily misunderstood. Add that to those who have limited time to read, or limit their sources of information, and you end up with a menjunje que no se quiere pa’ na’.

If the Taino Nation is going to identify only through blood quantum, our numbers will swiftly dwindle and can only go down from there.  By the same token, if we are going to base the Taino identity on culture alone, the numbers will also decline.

Some of us grew up on the islands, jumping into the river off La Piedra Escrita,  eating jobos off the tree and carrying boxes of artesania from feria to feria, the caribbean version of the powwow trail. Some of us have found cemis and shards of pottery lying around in our own back yards.  Some of us grew up running our fingers in the grooves and tunnels of ancient petroglyphs while others grew up knowing the tunnels of the NY subway system like the back of their hands.  Some Tainos grew up shoveling snow and walking among buildings with hundreds of floors.  A Taino who grew up in Hawaii is not the same as one who grew up in CA, in TX, in FL, NY, IL, or the Caribbean. These cultures are very contrasting, and Taino from such varied backgrounds will have substantial differences that will have to be acknowledged and respected if we are to become a United Nation.

The word “diaspora” has been used so much in the resurgence that the implications of it’s meaning seem to have been lost.

Daca Taino is a matter of self discovery and self identity. Those who chose to become involved in the resurgence will need to take that into account and respect those differences by exhibiting a little tolerance, patience and acceptance towards and for each other.

I think it all boils down to respect and actively seeking common ground; consciously creating community.

(c) February 2009, Anita Pagan


Author: Nanu

A Taino woman of a certain age, exploring decolonization from the perspective of the First People to meet, and survive, Western invaders and Manifest Destiny. What I share is true to me. I encourage everyone to research to THEIR OWN satisfaction.

5 thoughts on “Splintering among the Taino Nation…”

  1. Tau Anita

    Its good that you thought enough about our questions enough to write about them.

    These issues concern us all

    My Taino identity caused me to join the organized Taino Resurgence movement that began in NYC in the 1990’s

    As a Taino from NYC I was exposed to the American Indian Dynamic and that has forever changed me and my values.
    For that I’m eternally gratefull.

    Island Tainos live on Mother Atabey among the flora and fauna of our ancient ones. They have their identity and expouse their culture from their teachers.

    Stateside Tainos live in a different place and expouse their culture from their Native American teachers.

    No Taino whether they live in the states or the Islands is more Taino than the other.

    We must find a common ground with respect for one another and respect for our culture and ceremonies.

    I will comment further at a later date

    nabori daca Taino


  2. Han Han Catu!!

    Thank you for taking the time to read and adding your own comments. I agree with you that these issues are important to us all and there needs to be the space for dialogue- on all sides of the table.


  3. Taino Ti

    The various yucayekes that exist today are less than 20 years old. Thats not very long and I think in that time we have accomplished alot.

    Many of the people that pioneered this modern Taino resurgence are still here doing their thing. Many have come & gone so today we can expect that some of the people who are with us today will not be with us tomorrow.

    Thats why lifestyle is so important.

    Daca Taino

    I am Taino

    When I’m with my child

    When I do my Artisan work

    When I speak my language

    When I commune with my people

    When I wear regalia

    When I dance

    When I pray to Yocahu, Atabey and the power of the Cemi’s

    All that & more is my culture that I keep alive

    Thank you Joanna Soto Aviles for that moment of clarity


  4. Tau Caracoli,

    Thank you for returning and adding your thoughts.

    I believe that it’s not so much the lifestyle that is important as is the attitude in which we live that lifestyle.

    One Taino may participate in every powwow, ceremony and areyto that pops up, wear tons of “authentic”, island imported “stuff” on their regalia, which was made by Taino hands, also from the islands, and still exhibit the attitude of the conqueror. Whereas a person who makes their own taino-wear out of materials that may not be “traditional”, gets to maybe one ceremony a year, and speaks of the differences between colonial induced mentality and indigenous mentality, may be looked down upon.

    There are artisans that make their Taino stuff just to sell it and make a buck, while others are creating from their spirit and thus are being of service.

    In my opinion, it is that attitude in which they live their lifestyle and walk their path that reflects “Daca Taino”.

  5. I really enjoyed what you wrote. My journey began at a Pow Wow two years ago, which began my search into my family history and to finally put to rest the question that has nagged me,”am I Taino?” DNA testing just confirmed what I already knew in my heart! You spoke of different cultures of where a Taino grew up in and the differences. The funny part about that is, although I grew up in New Jersey, I have been taught Taino ways through my mom and grandmother and have always felt like I grew up in Puerto Rico. So here we are today, I am a Taino Indian and so proud that I get to represent wherever I can, only hoping that others who don’t know “yet” that they are Taino and who have been afraid to seek and ask. What you wrote was inspiring and I look forward to learning and uniting with other Tainos! Humbly, Isolina “Yauna” Gonzalez Rich.

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