They came before Columbus… and what?!?

I read They Came Before Columbus:  The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima.  I wasn’t halfway through this book and I was thoroughly offended, but I finished it just to hear their point of view.

I don’t buy it.

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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.

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Restitution or retribution for the first “Indians”?

Who needs federal recognition?  Why should we beg like dogs for the privledge of being able to be called “Native American” when this title is rightfully ours by virtue of birth?

Why not take the conquerors to the world courts for crimes against humanity?  Why not take Spain, Portugal,  France and England to court for the damage done to our people?  We have all necessary documentation written by their very scribes, in our very own history books and museums… The only problem I forsee with this is probably proving it… This is the crap Guatemala was going (is still going?) through and their stuff is a lot more recent.

Hmmm… it is a thought, though.

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A home of our own~ Considering a Taino Village

I personally dislike the label “reservation” or “reserve” because it makes me think of a zoo, a  habitat for wildlife observation at a safe distance.  This was the idea behind indigenous reservations originally.  That is why so many different nations were stuffed into the same lands, but that’s a history lesson for another time…

Although, I cringe at the label, I do like the idea of a place to call home.  A place where the Taino community can share, teach and work together;  some workshops with communal tools and materials, and a CD player on the side to keep the energy flowing.  A music room with all sorts of instruments, both modern and traditional.  A place for our powwows  and 49ner style gatherings, spaces to lay your bartering blankets, spaces for altars and sacred ceremonies, a space for sweats and vision quests;  families sharing, all our kids growing up together learning through stories and plays, dances and interactions.  We can have a couple of hamacas out there, maybe near a river and if not, the beach and if not, then we build a pool that snakes around like a river, with waterfalls and  whirlpools and everything!  Heck, I’d be happy with a plastic kiddie pool and a hose, I just want my hamaca!

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Cultural Dissonance?

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.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

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.

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