Note: The following post is a long one. I hope you feel like reading! ~N
I am a modern Caribbean Indian woman; a mixture of Taino, European and African descent. However, it is my Taino Indian heritage that I choose to follow, learn and endorse. The existence of my Taino ancestry has been covered up, denied for many years because of greed and genocide. This cover up is pernicious and has infected not only the familial roots of my Nation but has disowned our indigenous heritage on a grand scale. Society wide- to the point where in school I was taught that the Taino people became extinct due to poor constitution and laziness; and world wide- because although many know that Columbus reached the Caribbean Islands in 1492, few recognize the Taino people as the Indians he met there.
Recent studies have shown that a good percentage of the population tested (in PR) not only carry Taino genetic markers, but that in fact, carry most of the DNA material inherited via Taino female bloodlines. I find this very appropriate since the Taino have traditionally been a matrifocal society. Additionally, there has been more extensive study of Spanish documents, census taking and log keeping. This history is now being looked at as written by very human people who were not above a little underhandedness… So, scientists and historians are now finding that the Taino did not become extinct as has been propagated, but survived; having chosen invisibility over death, and blended blood, religion and culture to what is present in the Caribbean islands today.
These scientific and historical findings have engendered a grand movement. For some time now, there has been a resurgence of people reclaiming Native Caribbean Indian ancestry and identity. Hand in hand with this resurgence comes a strong desire to unite as a tribe and create community. Folks are meeting in cafes and parks, fairs and powwows, museums and kitchen tables to discuss the reclaiming of our Taino heritage. Websites have been put up, groups and organizations have been created to promote union and sharing, teaching and learning. Some have assembled family groups, clans and tribes, others have organized and incorporated; all with different purposes but the same idea- to join with others of like mind.
Examiner.com posted this article regarding Thanksgiving and towards the end exhorts people, not to quit the celebration, but to share the Truth of it’s history.
The only concern I have with the telling of the “Truth” of Thanksgiving is the vast amounts of “Truths” out there! Even among the links at the bottom of the post, and in internet search engines, you will find different versions of what, where, when and why Thanksgiving came to be. History has been mauled by those in control and there is little agreement as to the details of this holiday. It vacillates from the Spanish being the first to gather and give thanks to the Creator with a Mass of gratitude (although I think that one is not supposed to count because it was the Spanish), the Pilgrims, George Washington, Lincoln… all the way up to recent history, when congress passed it into law. Then there are all the different native Nations who suffered the brunt of the initial brutalities upon meeting the Europeans, just before they celebrated these feasts! Who’s Truth do we share then?
I do not disagree with the author’s encouragement to “instill in them [the children], the truth.” However, as inferred above, that Truth can very well be subjective. Depending on the way you look at it, you change the focus of the story. At no moment do I deny the horrors of our history and I believe that the truth of our past should be taught; to each child the history of their Nation first and then that of our cousins. But there is also a higher truth to be taught in the celebration of Thanksgiving, a truth that is not of the Europeans but of our very culture.
This month people in various countries will be celebrating what is commonly called “Columbus Day” or “Dia de la Raza”; a day marked to celebrate the arrival of Columbus and his cronies crew onto the shores of “virgin” lands.
Many view this as an incredible event, worthy of celebration and joy. At a time when the planet was believed to be flat and only dangers and monsters awaited at the edge of the world, that a man had the audacity to take off into the vast unknown is nothing short of extraordinary! The Italians get to glorify one of their own, others celebrate their ancestors escape from religious persecution, escape from famine, a place to begin life anew; some consider it was a god-given duty to bring Christianity and “civilization” to this “New World” and yet others, well, they just like the day off from work. But rarely does anyone stop to consider the flip side of the coin and are even surprised to hear that there are people out there who actually oppose celebration of this day as a holiday.
Well, to form an objective opinion one must have as much factual information as possible. I ask you to look at the other side of the coin, at least through this native’s eyes…
I found this fearful, ethnocentric post on the web. This article claims to have been written by Tim Giago, president of the Native American Journalists Foundation and the publisher of Indian Education Today Magazine. I am not a professional writer, but this piece seems to lack the polish of someone of such high distinction, so I cannot say that this is the actual author, only that it claims to be. My argument is with the content and not the polish though, so here is my reply.
I’m saddened to see how acrimonious my brothers and sisters have allowed themselves to become; it only shows how disconnected from Spirit some of us have grown to be.
This onslaught on the “fake shaman” who are popping up all over the place, like fry bread in a powwow; this whole piece of writing, is dedicated to a racist agenda hidden in an attitude of righteous indignation, attacking a matter that no one has a right to touch!
We live in Central Florida and if you have been watching the news, you will know that we had a very wet, very windy storm recently; Tropical Storm Fay.
Fay came in at a brisk pace of 35 mph when it was travelling North from the Florida Keys. It slowed down to about 8-9 MPH when it came in just under Ft. Myers and crawled to an almost complete stop when it hit the Space Coast (Melbourne-Cape Canaveral). While there, it dumped an incredible amount of water. Brevard County officially had, in some areas, over 18″ of water and unofficially, over 30″. The Melbourne International Airport had to close down reportedly due to fish, gators and debris on the runway. If you are really curious about this, a quick search on YouTube.com will show video of fish swimming in folk’s streets and driveways.
If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is ready, we shall never begin.
– Ivan Turgenev
“We will have kids when we have a house.”
“I’ll go for the better job when I take a course.”
“I’ll take a vacation when I get promoted.”
“I’ll buy the pretty outfit when I lose weight.”
I think we have all heard people speak of their dreams as something dependent of the circumstances surrounding them and, truth be told, we can probably list a few wishes of our own that are stuck in the myre of “I will…when”.
While it’s true that we have responsibilities that need to be filled- bills need to be paid and families need to be tended to- much of our free time is frittered away on trivial pursuits. We fill our days with senseless television shows, numb ourselves to the world with a variety of addictions and focus our time and energy on things that we may need to let go. Rarely do we sit down and reflect on our lives; make the attempt to discover what matters to us, what our dreams may be and how to get on with filling them. Our most valuable resource- our very life- is squandered, while our dreams rot away on the back burner.
My purpose for blogging is so that I can safely revisit my past, my childhood and all the experiences that helped make me who I am. I want to disentangle those things in my spirit that were hard to live through, those things that at times I refused to experience and escaped from in one way or another. I want to extricate them from my soul, pull them out kicking and screaming, and stand them before me. I want to investigate them, revisit these memories, see them with different eyes; with the physical and emotional maturity I am capable of today. I want to relive them, feel them and then decide- is there something there I want to keep or am I ready to let it go?
I hadn’t thought of O, E or my childhood in a long time and suddenly it seems I’m being bombarded by my past. Writing about it was a good way to alleviate the tension that particular time caused in me, tension I wasn’t aware I still carried. There are things there I still need to revisit, rehash, revise and relive but that’s for another day. Today I respond to my friend, Craig’s, curiosity while honoring my memories of O and E; of the pain they caused and the growth they unwittingly spurred. Continue reading “Let sleeping dogs lie”
Recently, my little brother, T., bought himself an interesting book titled The Dangerous Book for Boys. He had just purchased the book when I met up with him and he was still basking in the glow of excitement. He flipped quickly through the pages, showing me images of knots, paper airplanes and other instructions of things a boy “should” know how to do. At that very moment, I saw my brother in a different light. No longer a tattoed, pierced, hard working man of 30-something with wife and kids in tow…he was now a child of six or seven, wishing for his father to give him the attention he needed, wishing for his mother to come home and tend to his needs, for his older sister to back the hell off and mind her own business.
I saw the child he was and the child still there and I loved him.
My brother and I didn’t have the easiest childhood. Mom, who was the matriarch of our family, had a car accident that left her disabled and needing care herself and Dad was usually escaping into work. T. and I were left to our own devices, to deal with life as best we could. This is a tall order for children ages 5 and 8. Even with the involvement of neighbors, sitters and others we suffered abuses of all kinds and experimented in areas we had no business exploring.
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