30 March 2005

The Dying Planet

It is at least partly reassuring that some are well aware of the severe destruction wrought by a way of life and economic system that has been referred to as modernity, progress, development and capitalism. The article linked to below outlines the grave perils in which the planet has been placed as a result of hyper industrialization and urbanization. We can continue to debate whether modernization is terminal, on the other hand, at this pace there will soon be no one left to continue the debate.

For press releases from the U.N., see:

UN-backed ecological report warns of potential new diseases and ‘dead zones’


From the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), see:

Earth’s Ecosystems Crucial for Economic, Social, & Spiritual Stability

For a news summary, see:

and for the actual report itself, with summaries and slide presentations, see:

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

and "Linking Local Knowledge to Global Science"

I am grateful for the fact that some still see room for debate here, especially given the impression I have of (too) many persons who proceed with their daily lives, unquestioning if not oblivious, who seemingly accept the current order as normal, 'natural', and without alternatives. Indeed, they are willing to bring new children into such an environment...a 'vote of confidence' in favour of the dominant system?

22 March 2005

First Garifuna Forum, Los Angeles, April 2005


Friday, April 15

Arrival of Guest Speakers at LAX

Saturday, April 16

09:00am – Welcome to the First Garifuna Community Forum L.A. 2005
- Sign Guestbook
- Issue of Name Tags
- Issue of Pens and Writing Pads
- Sign the Family Tree (wallpaper)
- Be Seated

- By M.C. Cheryl Noralez & Rony Figueroa (LA), 2 Minutes

09:17am – Opening Remarks by a Proud Garifuna Dr. Cadrin E. Gill, Honorary Consul
General - Consulate of St. Vincent And The Grenadines (Yurumein), 5 Minutes

- By M.C. Cheryl L. Noralez & Rony Figueroa, 5 Minutes

09:30am – Introduce Mr. Cadrin E. Gill, MD., F.A.A.F.P. (SV – LA)
- Making of Movie about the Life of Chief Chatuye
- Opening of the Garifuna Museum in Baliceaux
- My Own Garifuna History from St. Vincent’s Perspective

10:00am – Introduce Mr. Melecio R. Gonzalez (LA)
- Garifuna History

10:30am – Introduce Mr. Jerry Castro, Lidani Garifuna Times (NY)
- Political Movement
- Garifunamericans
11:00am – Introduce Mr. Flavio Alvarez, Wanaragua Chief of L.A. (LA)
- Culture and Traditions

11:30pm – Introduce Mrs. Minerva Delgado, Community Leader (LA)
- Garifuna Unity

12:00pm – Questions and Answers for this first half of the forum

01:00pm –LUNCH BREAK
Viewing of Paintings by Garifuna Artist Greg Palacio (LA)

02:00pm – Introduce Ms. Felene Cayetano, Author & Publisher (NY)
- Library System in Garifuna Communities
- Elderly Care

02:30pm – Introduce Mr. James Lovell, Recording Artist (NY)
- The Message behind Garifuna Music

03:00pm – Introduce Mr. Martin Bermudez, Denovo Technologies (DC)
- Business Development & Technology

03:30pm – Introduce Mrs. Josefina Gregorio, President Hermandad Livingsteña (LA)
- Networking among non-profit organizations
- Building of a community hospital in La Buga

04:00pm – Introduce Rev. Andrew Nuñez, President Evangelical Garifuna Churches in
The United States (NY)
- Garifuna Leadership

04:30pm – Questions and Answers for second half of the forum

05:30pm – Conclusion

05:35pm – End of Forum

08:00pm – Social Mixer & Dance
(Social Mixer & Dance is not organized by the First Garifuna Community Forum L.A. 2005)
- Social Dance hosted by: LIBAYA BABA CULTURAL GROUP
5020 South Normandie Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90037
(323) 298-4519

SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2005

12:00pm – Farewell hosted at “P.G. HOLE” Garifuna Social Club
Corner of 48th Street and Hoover Street Los Angeles

Confirmed attendances from:
DJ ERVIN ARZU, Recording Artist (New York)
JORDAO GONZALEZ, Isanigu Punta Rock Soul-Jahs (New York)

Pending confirmation from:
NOLBERTO PALACIOS, Garifuna Stars Band (New York)
GADU NUNEZ, Recording Artist

GUEST SPEAKERS: If you need any photos or audiovisual equipment to help you with your presentation, please feel free to e-mail us back with your request. We will be using a computer with an overhead projector with a large screen on the wall.

BIO: All guest speakers are encouraged to send their Curriculum Vitae via e-mail at:
mamagapg@yahoo.com as soon as possible so we can add it to the Program to be distributed among the audience who will attend the forum.

NOTE: Be advised that you are welcome and entitled to bring any materials for distribution during the social mixer hours. These materials could include: CD’s, Cassettes, Books, T-Shirts, etc. We do not encourage the sale or distribution of these materials during the forum; however, you are asked to promote and sell these articles during the Social Mixer & Dance at Maabatuwa Cultural Center that same night. Only pamphlets, brochures, business cards and any other material associated with your presentation will be allowed to be distributed during the forum.

* Agenda is subject to change if necessary

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Cheryl Noralez or Rony Figueroa
(562) 366-9396 Home Number or (323) 304-1727 Cell Phone

18 March 2005

Goodbye to "A.N.A.C.A.O.N.A"

A majority of the CAC Editors recently voted to terminate a robot. That robot was named "A.N.A.C.A.O.N.A." (Anything About the Aboriginal Caribbean from an Online Networked Assistant). The experiment lasted just over two years and while at first there seemed to be, at best, mixed results, eventually it became apparent that the project was a failure on many counts. The robot, made available via Pandorabots, using AIML software, would routinely fail to follow the simple context of a conversation and would thus lead users astray. In many cases, the robot inadvertently offended users even when its knowledge base should have enabled it to give a correct answer. For example, if asked "how many" indigenous descendants were living in Cuba, it would answer something to the effect of "none as far as I know". In fact, as the programmer, all I could train the robot to know was that there are indeed indigenous descendants in Cuba, but not how many. The appearance and the name of the robot also disturbed a number of users, who in most cases simply refused to understand that the resource was made available to us for free, but under severe limitations. In addition, the robot seemed to attract an inordinate amount of sexual attention (what is so erotic about a piece of talking software is itself intriguing), with conversations often degenerating into frustration and aggression--hardly the aims that the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink would wish to pursue. Meant to serve as a more visually engaging, interactive and talking version of a FAQ list, especially one that might appeal to young children, it instead became the vehicle for childish behavior. As a more modern means of paying tribute to, and extending the memory of, the historical Anacaona (about whom the CAC continues to maintain a list of resources), the robot achieved the opposite effect of our good intentions: several criticized the tawdry and insensitive manner that the robot seemingly stood for the historical figure. Some saw this as a cartoonish, misleading, misrepresentation of an historical figure who is revered by many of today's Tainos. Having reviewed very many conversation logs, we inevitably came to the conclusion that our purposes could be better served by other means. To the many people who were disappointed, disillusioned, or worse yet, offended by this experiment, I offer my sincerest apologies.

08 March 2005

New Book on the Caribs of Arima, Trinidad

Ruins of Absence, Presence of Caribs: (Post) Colonial Representations of Aboriginality in Trinidad and Tobago, to be released by the University Press of Florida in June, 2005, is now available for pre-orders with a special 35% discount, valid until June 15, 2005.

For more details, see: http://www.centrelink.org/srccbook.htm

07 March 2005

Dominica's Minister of Tourism Defends Disney, Feb. 18, 2005

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — The tourism minister on Tuesday defended plans for an upcoming Disney movie expected to portray Dominica’s Carib Indians as cannibals, calling the film a work of fiction that could bring economic benefits to the poor island. The government has said Disney is planning to use the island as a shooting location for the sequel to the 2003 blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Production could begin in April. On Sunday, Carib Indian chief Charles Williams said he was informed by Disney producers that parts of the script portray the group’s ancestors as cannibals — a characterization Caribs have long denied. Williams is calling on Disney to remove references to cannibalism, which he says would malign the group. Tourism Minister Charles Savarin called the criticism unwarranted. “Nobody is saying that (the film) is an accurate historical report of what happened in Dominica,” Savarin said in a statement broadcast by private Kairi FM radio. “We have to get beyond our history and not continue trying to live in the past.” Savarin said Dominica, one of the poorest island’s in the Caribbean, stands to benefit greatly from exposure in the movie, but warned that criticism could prompt Disney to film elsewhere. He urged critics “not adopt a position which will have a negative impact on the welfare of the society.” Walt Disney declined to say if the film would refer to Caribs as cannibals.

06 March 2005

Protesting Disney's Cannibalism in St. Vincent

Dominican Caribs receive support in fight over scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel

From CANA (Caribbean News Agency) for February 19, 2005:

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Historical and Archaeological Society has called on Vincentians to boycott the sequel to the blockbuster movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” unless “grossly offensive” scenes depicting Caribs as cannibals are removed from the script.

05 March 2005

Indigenous rights groups recommend changes to draft law provisions

In a Stabroek News report from Guyana, dated Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, it was reported that indigenous rights groups, including the Amerindian Peoples' Association (APA), the Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG), the National Amerindian Development Foundation (NADF) and the Guyana Organisation of Indigenous People (GOIP), escalated their efforts to secure revision of some of the controversial new provisions of legislation being proposed. First, Cabinet will consider the proposed legislation, then it will be taken to the national assembly for a vote on its enactment.

In fact, indigenous groups have been most concerned about the powers to be wielded by the Minister for Amerindian Affairs. The Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues, explained the need for her active involvement in the internal affairs of Amerindian communities: "Everyday I meddle because everyday you have complaints coming from the village." In addition, she argued, Amerindian councils have in the past tried to establish rules that were in conflict with the Constitution. One of the points of contention is whether the Minister should approve new Amerindian Council rules, or whether their collective National Toshao's Council should be charged with the approval process. After all, as the Co-President of the Guyana Human Rights Association observed, only if Councils established rules that were in fact in direct violation of the Constitution would the Minister need to be involved--otherwise, there should be no need for approval of all rules.

Under the proposed draft legislation, any rule or amendment to a rule made by a village council would not come into effect unless the council consults the community general meeting and gains two-thirds approval. After that, it must be approved by the Minister and published in the Official Gazette.

Representatives of the various indigenous bodies were also dismayed that the new legislation did not employ the term "indigenous peoples" as was proposed during the first round of consultations almost three years ago. Dr. George Norton told the meeting that the word "Amerindian" is a misnomer as the people are neither Americans nor Indians and he said he found it difficult to accept a title that was based on the misconceptions of past eras. Norton said that "indigenous peoples" apart from being used in the constitution also has a legal meaning, as legally it applies only to those descendants of pre-colonial inhabitants.

Dr. Desrey Fox, a linguist, argued however that also the term "indigenous peoples" was problematic for its part because it seem to deny the birthright of other groups of people born in the country who also have a claim to nativity. Fox's proposed solution was to have the communities use their ancestral names or the term "First People." One might also note that the organizations present at the meeting varied in the use of "Amerindian" or "indigenous peoples" in the very names of their organizations.

Ways of defining and establishing who is "Amerindian" also provoked some debate among the participants at the meeting. The draft proposes that an Amerindian would be defined as any citizen of Guyana who belongs to any of the native or aboriginal peoples of the country or any descendant of such a person.

Yet, some of the indigenous representatives at the meeting argued that definition was too broad. According to the newspaper report, it "could mean that third or fourth generation descendants without the traditional physical features or any connection to a village would be recognised by the law."

Attorney Arif Bulkan, active in the rounds of consultations, worried that a restricted and racial definition of Amerindian would shut out persons who identify with the indigenous way of life, and that it is important to see Amerindian-ness as something more subsantive than visible physical features alone. The APA's Jean La Rose wondered about citizens who did not belong any of the nine recognized nations in the country.

On the subject of research in Amerindian communities, the groups were also concerned about the rigorous criteria for entry into the villages as is set out in the draft, specifically for scientific and other research. The draft proposed that any person wishing to carry out any research must obtain the permission of the village council, the minister and permits required under any other written law. The person would also have to provide the village council or the minister with a full written report of his/her findings, a copy of all recordings made and a copy of any publication containing material derived from the study. The person would also be required to get the permission of the council, the Culture Minister and other agencies before making any commercial use of the research.

What participants questioned again was whether the consent of the Minister was needed, even after a local council had given its permission. Rodrigues said it was a safeguard because in the past persons have posed as tourists to get into communities and then later published reports that the councils themselves disputed.

McCormack, of the Guyana Human Rights Association, felt the criterion was ominous as it left the Minister to interpret what is scientific research while also allowing her to prohibit research that did not meet the government's approval.

For more information, contact:

Fergus MacKay
Three Guyanas and Legal/Human Rights Programme
Forest Peoples Programme
Ph./fax 31-20-419-1746

Lecture on Tainos at Hartford Public Library



By Bobby Gonzalez

Date: March 10th, 2005

Lecture/Slide show
Bobby Gonzalez
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Hartford Public Library, Downtown Hartford
Program Room, Third Floor,
6:30-8:00 p.m.
CONTACT / INFO: asailor@hplct.org

This illustrated lecture by nationally renowned poet, performer and storyteller Bobby Gonzalez presents the history, art, religion, and everyday life of the Taino.

These are the Native Peoples of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Based in New York City, Bobby Gonzalez is the author of “Song of the American Holocaust: Native Poetry from the South Bronx Reservation”, a collection of verse where he reflects upon five centuries of physical, cultural and spiritual genocide ongoing in the Native communities of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

01 March 2005

Banwari Trace, Trinidad: The Oldest Archaeological Site in the West Indies

Courtesy: http://sta.uwi.edu/fhe/archaeology/

The archaeological site of Banwari Trace was recently featured in World Monument Watch 2004, an internationally acclaimed magazine that showcases the world’s 100 most endangered sites. The following article is designed to raise public awareness to an important vestige of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural heritage.

Dated to about 5000 B.C. (years Before Christ) or 7000 B.P (years Before Present), the archaeological site at Banwari Trace in southwestern Trinidad is the oldest pre-Columbian site in the West Indies (Rouse and Allaire 1978). Archaeological research of the site has also shed light on the patterns of migration of Archaic (pre-ceramic) peoples from mainland South America to the Lesser Antilles via Trinidad between 5000 and 2000 B.C. (see Davis 1993) as well provided rich insights into the lifeways of one of the earliest pre-Columbian settlers in the Caribbean. In addition, Banwari Trace has yielded human remains of Trinidad’s oldest resident.

Banwari Trace’s Antiquity

In addressing what constitutes the Archaic, R. Christopher Goodwin (1978) recognized three different perspectives: first, the Archaic as an age defined by the absence of pottery and the presence of ground stone and/or shell; second, the Archaic as a developmental stage characterized by the marine-oriented subsistence that followed a terrestrial hunting-based economy (Keegan 1994). Myriad Archaic sites have been identified throughout the West Indies, for example, in St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, along the north and south coasts of Haiti and in the river valleys and along the coast of Dominican Republic and Cuba (Keegan 1994; Rouse 1992). Besides Banwari Trace, several other Archaic sites have been identified in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, Poonah Road, Ortoire, St. John, Chip Chip Hill and Milford. However of all the Archaic-age sites in the West Indies, Banwari Trace is the oldest, with radiocarbon dates indicating a chronology of approximately 7000 B.P.

Radiocarbon chronology suggests that the first period of Archaic occupation at the Banwari Trace site spanned from approximately 7200 to 6100 B.P., (Strata 1 and II or Early Banwari Trace), whereas the second episode of midden accumulation (Stratum III or Late Banwari Trace) probably lasted from 6100 B.P. until 5500 BP (Boomert 2000). The antiquity of the Banwari Trace site is further evidenced by the presence of only freshwater shells in the lower layers, dating from the time before Trinidad was separated from the mainland by the postglacial rise in sea level (Rouse 1992).

Banwari Trace and Patterns of Archaic Migration into the Caribbean

Banwari Trace’s antiquity holds much significance for understanding the migratory patterns of Archaic peoples from South America into the Caribbean region. Given that related Archaic cultures have been found on the adjacent mainland of South America, extending for an indefinite distance on either side of the Orinoco Delta in northeast South America (Rouse and Cruxent 1963: 58-59), it is commonly assumed that this was the place of origin of those Archaic peoples who migrated from South America to the West Indies. As the oldest Archaic site in the West Indies, Banwari Trace clearly indicates that southwest Trinidad was one of the first migratory “stops” for northward-bound Archaic settlers who eventually colonised several islands in the Caribbean archipelago.

The Physical Environment of Banwari Trace

The Banwari Trace deposit is to be found on the southern edge of the Oropuche Lagoon in southwest Trinidad, just west of the Coora River. The site occupies the top of a Miocene hillock, originally covered with deciduous seasonal forest, which rises above the swamp. Rouse (1992) classifies all of the Archaic sites in the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, including Banwari trace, as belonging to the Ortoiroid Series, which gets its name from the type site of Ortoire in Trinidad (Keegan 1994). Harris, who dug a 2 x 2-m section (Excavation A) and an adjoining 2 x 1-m section (Excavation B), excavated Banwari Trace in the centre of the midden in 1969/1970 and 1971 respectively. The observed change in shell-collecting habits of the Banwari Trace people closely reflects the alteration in the natural environment, which took place in the Oropuche Lagoon area during the period of midden formation. It can be assumed that the Amerindians collected the majority of shellfish deposited in the immediate surroundings of the site. If so, the habitat preferences of the dominant shell species at Banwari Trace further suggest that the Oropuche Lagoon changed from a freshwater or slightly brackish lagoon to marine mangrove swamp at about 6200/6100 BP.

The Material Culture of Banwari Trace

The Banwari Trace material culture shows a highly distinctive cultural assemblage, typically consisting of artifacts made of stones and bones. Objects associated with hunting and fishing include bone projectile points, most likely used for tipping arrows and fish spears, beveled peccary teeth used as fishhooks, and bipointed pencil hooks of bone which were intended to be attached in the middle to a fishing-line. A variety of ground stone tools were manufactured for the processing of especially vegetable foods, including blunt or pointed conical pestles, large grinding stones and round to oval manos. The plant foods processed at the Banwari sites are unknown, but they may have included edible roots, palm starch and seeds (Boomert 2000).

The midden has also yielded a large variety of small, irregular chips and cores manufactured of quartz, flint, chert and other rock materials by percussion flaking. They include flake scrapers, cutters, burins, small knives, blades and piercers which were probably utilized for a multitude of purposes, e.g. the cutting of meat, scaling of fish, prying open of shells, scraping of skins, finishing of arrow shafts, and the processing of vegetable fibres for the making of basketry.

Banwari Man – Trinidad’s Oldest Resident

In November 1969, the Trinidad and Tobago Historical Society discovered the remains of a human skeleton at Banwari Trace. Lying on its left-hand side, in a typical Amerindian “crouched” burial position along a northwest axis (Harris 1978), Banwari Man (as it is now commonly called) was found 20-cm below the surface. Only two items were associated with the burial, a round pebble by the skull and needlepoint by the hip. Banwari Man was apparently interred in a shell midden and subsequently covered by shell refuse. Based on its stratigraphic location in the site’s archaeological deposits, the burial can be dated to the period shortly before the end of occupation, approximately 3,400 BC or 5,400 years old. Hailed as the oldest resident of Trinidad (Harris 1978), Banwari Man is an important icon of Trinidad’s early antiquity.