27 June 2007

Death of José Juan Arrom

Cuban Professor and intellectual José Juan Arrom dies.
Source: Cuba Daily News


He was of short height but he had an immense personal charisma; he was talkative and kind, always open to exchange with the youth, nervous and restless; that is how I remember Cuban professor and intellectual José Juan Arrom when we first met in the halls of Havana’s Convention Center and in the Casa de las Américas (Americas’ House), attending conferences and presentations on Spanish-American literature.

I had read some of his essays, and linguistic and literary studies on the history of Spanish literature in the West Indies, as well as his penetrating exegeses on the aboriginal contribution to the Caribbean and Latin American cultural heritage.

He was one of Cuba’s most respected and expert philologists of our literature who rubbed shoulders with people of the most exclusive circles of the US academic world as a Yale graduate and professor.

His merits, his tireless diligence, led to be a funding member of the US Academy of the Spanish Language and, also, a member of the Cuban Academy of Language.

Now, after knowing of his death, in his home in Massachusetts, where he lived after retiring as a professor at the University of Yale, where he had a fruitful career, we feel moved, not only because of the intellect that has died, but also, and above all, because he was a human being of an extraordinary kindness and wisdom that we knew and from whom we received advice and encouragement.

He was born in eastern Cuba, in Holguín; he was the son of a Majorcan man and a Cuban woman. Since he was very young, he received his family’s support to develop his intelligence and he studied in Yale, a prestigious institution where he obtained three university degrees on literature and many honors during several decades although he was a very modest and studious man.

He also worked as curator of the Latin American collection in Yale and, without quitting teaching, he wrote a lot and advised many US students on many topics related to Spanish and Spanish-American literature.

Since he was very young in Cuba, he had showed his talent and witticism when he published, since 1941, in the Revista Bimestre Cubana (Cuban Bimonthly Magazine), his article on the “First dramatic expressions in Cuba, 1512-1776”, a line of research that he continued, although he also dedicated a lot of time of his life to the study of the colonial period in the literature of Latin America.

His first book, Studies on Spanish-American literature, was published in Havana in 1950. Later, along with his notebooks, he continued developing his writings on culture in specialized periodicals such as Revista Cubana (Cuban Maganzine), the Handbook of Latin American Studies and the Iberoamerican Magazine, among others.

Many US publications, like Hispania for example, had Arrom as a contributor. His essays were also circulated by other scientific publications such as the Bulletin of Caro y Cuervo Institute, of Colombia; the Journal of Inter-American Studies, the American Notebooks, the Magazine of the Puerto Rican Culture Institute and the Bulletin of the US Academy of the Spanish Language.

The ‘Taíno’ culture, and its presence in Cuban, Dominican and Caribbean literature, as well as his interest in the colonial matters of the viceroyalty of Mexico and in the black presence on the Americas’ folk poetry, were some of the topics that he studied as a philosopher, a sociologist and a culture expert. He also had a fine command of the prose, marked by an explicit communicative eagerness.

Cuban, Spanish and US culture are mourning this great intellectual and those of us who were lucky to have his affection and friendship are feeling his absence with particular emotions.

Source: By Mercedes Santos Moray, CUBANOW
Submitted by editor on Tue, 2007-06-26 16:01.

20 June 2007

Happy June 21st and June 24th

Tomorrow, June 21st, is Canada's annual "National Aboriginal Day." In the United States, June 21st has been set as the National Prayer Day for Native Sacred Places (see Indian Country Today).

June 24th marks "el dia del Indio" (Indian Day) in Andean nations such as Peru.

Ottawa to Appeal Expansion of Indigenous "Status"

As expected, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to appeal a recent Canadian provincial high court ruling that struck down a long-standing restriction on legal recognition of indigenous identity.

For more on this see Bill Curry's
"Appeal of native ruling likely, Ottawa says," The Globe and Mail, Tuesday, June 19, 2007.

17 June 2007

Canada: New Developments in Indigenous Status

The past week in Canada has seen the promise of some major new transformations in the current position of Aboriginal peoples. For those readers not too familiar with the Canadian situation, it is important to note that there are two basic "classes" of Aboriginals: (1) those officially registered as "status Indians" who have legal rights to residence on reserves, with individual reserves referred to as "First Nations"--the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is tied to this backdrop; and, (2) people who self-identify as Aboriginal, but who are "non-status" because they had a mother or grandmother who married a non-native--the Congress of Aboriginal People, which rarely receives anywhere as much media attention as the AFN, is tied to this population.

In Canada, the law had descent reckoned through the paternal line, even when this went against particular aboriginal societies' custom of reckoning descent through the maternal line. As a result, a vast number of Aboriginals lost the right to reside on reserves, and most ended up in cities. In the meantime, Aboriginal men were entitled to marry non-native women, and those women obtained the right to reside on reserve, so that some persons with "status" may not even be Aboriginal. This double-pronged erosion of reserve-based nations may be coming to a final end. (The Indian Missions of Trinidad were regulated by an even more severe version of this system--where all "mixed race" offspring were officially de-Indianized and lost rights to collective lands that had been granted to their parents and grandparents. Both Trinidad and Canada were governed by the British for a period of time.)

On Saturday, June 16, 2007, Bill Curry writing in The Globe and Mail (
"Indian status can be traced through mother, court rules"), tells us the following:

The B.C. [British Columbia] Supreme Court has wiped out one of the most contentious aspects of the federal Indian Act, striking down part of Ottawa's definition of a status Indian and opening the door to hundreds of thousands of new applications for native services.

The court rejected part of the existing legal definition on the grounds that it discriminates against Canadians who trace their aboriginal roots through their female relatives rather than their father or grandfather.

The ruling alters the federal law that has long created two classes of aboriginals in Canada: the 767,000 who fit the definition of status Indian and the several hundred thousand more who don't.

The 2001 census found 976,000 Canadians who self-identified as aboriginal and more than 1.3 million who said they had aboriginal ancestry.

Many aboriginals who failed in their requests for status will now have a much better chance of success, said Beverley Jacobs, the president of the Native Women's Association of Canada.

"This opens the floodgates," she said. "I don't think we could have asked for a better judgment."

Aboriginals with status qualify for prescription drug coverage and can apply for postsecondary assistance.

The Federal Government of Canada disingenuously claimed that it previously addressed the issue of patriarchal discrimination in the Indian Act by passing Bill C-31 in 1985. What was the "major change" of that Bill? It simply pushed the cut-off line to second generation offspring of unions between natives and others, and still reckoned descent along paternal lines. That minor change did however return status to 175,000 individuals. This latest court ruling has the effect of nullifying Section 6 of the Indian Act, that section which pertains to who can claim to be an "Indian" (the subject of an upcoming seminar in Montreal).

In the same week, the Federal Government committed itself to setting up, in conjunction with the Assembly of First Nations, an impartial tribunal for resolving the more than 800 land claim cases that remain unresolved in Canada, that on average have been the subject to legal disputes lasting 20 years, with some much longer than that (see The Globe and Mail, June 13, 2007,
"New land-claims process in works"). This would mean that the Federal Government could no longer act as defendant, judge, and jury all at the same time. While there is no way of predicting future rulings on so many cases, if one were to assume that there will be much more land added to the current land base of First Nations reserves, but also many more persons with status as outlined above, the net effect might be bigger numbers on all fronts, but not necessarily more land per person. If, on the other hand, the current size of the reserve land base were to remain roughly the same, but the numbers of persons with status vastly increased, it could serve to effectively crush reserves under their own weight. The situation where a boon becomes bane is not all that uncommon in Canada, as in the case of select reserves suffering from high rates of alcoholism and substance abuse suddenly finding themselves awash in cash from settled claims or other compensation packages, precisely at the time that those particular Aboriginals can least handle the new resources, and where the temptation to squander is higher than it might otherwise be.

15 June 2007

Post-Mortem: Caribs and Arawaks

I attended the UTT/Peter Harris presentation of Caribs and Arawaks: An Indigenous Story, at the National Library here in Port of Spain last night. Although last night, according to the Power Point slide-show the title changed to: Caribs and Arawaks: An Indigenous Story?... and I hope one can appreciate the difference.

First a bit of background: when the UTT advertised the Senior Research Fellow and Research Fellow positions in the field of First Peoples study a few months ago, I was interviewed but in the end the positions went to Peter Harris and Patricia Elie respectively. I wasn't terribly bothered as I was more interested in finding out what their approach would be than in leaving the exciting world of publishing. But I digress ...

The packed little room at the National Library heaved a collective sigh of dissatisfaction and there were more than a few dazed or quizzical looks as people slowly filed out of the room last night when Mr Harris completed his nearly two hour presentation.

Mr Harris served up a regurgitation of the work of Arie Boomert and Linda Newson - so much so that a member of the audience said at the end: I am glad you've said thanks to Boomert and Newson as I am wondering what, if anything new, are you bringing to the discourse? (Those may not have been his exact words.) Mr Harris replied without answering the question. In fact, I don't think Mr Harris answered any of the questions posed to him last night.

Mr Harris, an archaeologist, confessed last night that he felt more like an ethnographer than an archaeologist. Mr Harris confessed that he had skimmed a lot of the existing literature on the subject but he worked very closely with Arie Boomert. Mr Harris served up a lot of half-baked assertions.

Mr Harris questioned the assertion of: the Dominican elite of 1640? the chiefs? the Spanish? (I'm not quite sure.) that the Caribs were fierce and the Arawaks were peaceful.

If anything can be culled from his presentation it was that: Arawaks were fierce, Arawaks and Caribs fought over women incessantly, that there is no real record of the Carib in archaeology - we don't know where they came from he offered ernestly - "We have no evidence of how we have all these Kalina. It is a phenomenon that has not been explained."

He suggests: Arawaks settled in Trinidad's South East, Nepuyos settled in the North East, Shebaio settled in the South West and South, Yaio in the South West and West, Carinepagos in the North West and Chaguanes in the West and Central.
He references a lot of Raleigh.

Mr Harris says the Arawak assisted Hierreyma and the Dutch in razing St Joseph. That the plan is nearly thwarted by a turncoat rebel who happens to be Arawak.

The Shebaio disappear in 1700. The Yaio disappear in 1700. The Kalina disappear.

The conclusions of Mr Harris: Three people flee early 1600 - 1620, 1498 - 1640 was a time of ethnic fluidity and the new arrivals arrived say from 1740s.

Other gems include: the Missionaries rescued the Warao in setting up the Siparia mission; Salibia is the Kalinago word for Trinidad; Urupaina is what Tobago was called and translates to big snail in the Kalina language; it is difficult for a person of indigenous descent to know who they are descended from.

What we can look forward to in three years from Mr Harris, Ms Elie and the UTT is all this and more in book and dvd form. I can hardly wait.

12 June 2007

Caribs and Arawaks: An Indigenous Story

The University of Trinidad and Tobago is hosting a presentation with this title on June 14th at the National Library in Port of Spain.

Newly appointed Senior Research Fellow of UTT's First Peoples Project, Peter Harris is the main speaker.

The advertising for the presentation reads:

We all know the schoolbook story of the warlike Carib who conquered the peaceful Arawak, ate the men, and married the women. It came from a single source, the political elite of Dominica in the 1640s. How true is this story? It is not good research to base history on a single source. Still worse to use information from a political elite. We all know a political elite is less concerned with historical accuracy than with staying in power. Research shows a more complicated situation. Six indigenous peoples from three language families are recorded in Tobago in 1758. Before this date the ethnic situation in Tobago is unclear, as two groups are called the same name by both the indigenous peoples and the Spanish. History records inflows of four more ethnic groups in the 18-19C. First I discuss a widespread mental framework of indigenous geography. Then I report some highlights for each indigenous people, as it passes through different phases of its history: eg European contact, Limited settlement, Control through missionaries, Marginalization, and Cultural rebirth. The old ethnic groups are more or less relevant today. But there are numerous "People of Indigenous Descent" in the Caribbean. And they want recognition of their cultural identity.

Harris' development as an archeologist has been largely local. In 1970 he made a sample excavation at the Banwari site and the following year he joined the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. He has worked closely with Arie Boomert.

The University of Trinidad and Tobago is part of the PNM government's 20/20 Vision. The main campus is meant to be situated at Wallerfield but is some way from completion. The University's focus seems to lean more on the side of industry, namely fuel technologies but Harris is part of the Research Academy at UTT for Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs.

09 June 2007

Amerindians in Guyanese Literature

The blog of the Voice of Guyana International has a very engaging article by Jeremy Poynting on Guyanese literature, that is worth spending time reading if you are unfamiliar with Guyanese literature and wonder how Amerindians in Guyana have figured in that literature. In one of the passages of particular relevance to literary treatments of the Amerindian presence, Poynting explains:

"In comparison to the despair sometimes aroused by the African-Indian impasse, the Amerindian presence has been altogether more leavening feature in Guyanese writing. Although, until recently, a socially and politically marginalized minority, the most impoverished and oppressed section of the population, the Amerindians have become both a politically significant broker group, and culturally iconic. Although Amerindian culture has made transforming adaptions to both colonial and missionary pressures, and to the attractions of ‘modernisation’, the Amerindian presence offers all Guyanese, symbolically at least, a sense of indigenous geographic connection and cultural continuities that predate colonialism. These connections are to be found most expressly in Guyanese imaginative writing. The work of Wilson Harris is clearly most influential in this respect, in The Sleepers of Roraima: A Carib Trilogy (Faber, 1970), Age of the Rainmakers (Faber, 1971) Companions of the Day and Night (Faber, 1975), and there are also Jan Carew’s short stories (see ‘The Coming of Amilivaca’) and Pauline Melville’s more representational fiction, The Ventriloquist’s Tale (1997). (So far the only published imaginative literature written by an Amerindian that I know of is David Campbell’s Through Arawak Eyes.) In Andrew Jefferson-Miles Harrisian The Timehrian, two Amerindian mythical figures play a key role in the narrative: the God Amalivacar who rescues the narrator from the trauma of being stricken dumb, and the vision of the timehr, the painted child of Amerindian legend, who prompts the narrator to the need to tell his story and recover the world of those by-passed by history. In Denise Harris’s In Remembrance of Her, Amerindian images play a similarly iconic role."

More information on some of the publications listed above can be found on the website of the Guyanese book publisher, Peepal Tree Press.

Canada, the UN, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In a previous posting on this blog for June 20, 2006, we related news of the Canadian government's opposition to the United Nations' Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, opposition that has become more marked since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister after the Conservatives came to power in the 2006 elections. While his government's opposition to the Declaration has therefore been known for some time, in this past week a fair amount of controversy has been brewing in both the Canadian parliament and in international media coverage. The Draft Declaration, if it had been supported by Canada, would not have acted as binding legislation. The current, renewed debate seems to stem from the recently concluded assembly of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues at the UN, as well as discussions in Canada about bringing aboriginal peoples under national human rights legislation.

In some of the leading news about Canada's position this past week, some newspapers have reported that Australian Prime Minister John Howard may have inspired Canada's Stephen Harper to oppose the UN declaration. In
The Globe and Mail for Saturday, June 9, 2007, a story by Gloria Galloway titled, "Did Australia Demand Reversal on Natives?" states: "Canada's decision to withdraw support for the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples coincided with a visit to Ottawa by Prime Minister John Howard of Australia — a country that strongly opposes the declaration. Shortly after Mr. Howard's meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in May, 2006, Mr. Harper called Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice to tell him to review Canada's position of support, government sources said Friday." While a spokeswoman for PM Harper denied this, the reporter insists "the sources were clear that there was a direct link between the visit of the Australian Prime Minister and the change in policy." It is important to note that previous Canadian governments had in fact played a role in drafting the UN declaration.

The link between Howard and Harper was first claimed in an Australian press report in late May. In Melbourne's
The Age newspaper, Russell Skelton's "Australia 'blocked UN native rights declaration'" said that Tom Calma, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, "claimed Australia had played a role in persuading Canada, which had initially supported the declaration, to oppose the landmark statement."

Amnesty International has also called attention to the turnaround in Canadian policy under Harper's administration (see:
CTV.ca, "Canada blocking UN Aboriginal rights: Amnesty"). Amnesty further revealed that staff in three Departments of the Canadian state urged the Harper government to approve the declaration. The staff work in the Departments of Defence, Indian and Northern Affairs, and Foreign Affairs. This was also reported by Gloria Galloway on June 8, 2007, in The Globe and Mail: "Back UN on native rights, Ottawa urged--Bureaucracy at odds with PM's position, documents show."

The future of the Draft Declaration at the UN seems in doubt, as one might expect where the rights of indigenous peoples are contingent upon the good faith of one of the leading institutions responsible for indigenous marginalization: the nation-state. States and not peoples are the members of the UN. While public opinion at home might encourage states to adopt declarations that could limit state sovereignty, it seems that public opinion is very confused. In Canada, feedback to press reports show that while many support approval of the declaration, an almost equal number of respondents feel that Aboriginals are already protected under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is not the case), or that allocating rights on the basis of "race" is racist, or that the United Nations should not "dictate" policy to Canadians, or that the Draft Declaration entails such stark provisions as allowing foreign troops to be based in Canada if invited by First Nations reserves to do so.

08 June 2007

SERVINDI: Indigenous News Website from "Latin" America

SERVINDI is an indigenous news website that is mostly in Spanish. Servindi provides the following description of itself, its mission and goals:

SERVINDI es un grupo de trabajo voluntario formado por personas convencidas en que el destino de la humanidad y del planeta está en serio riesgo, debido a las tendencias dominantes de la globalización; que han abierto una brecha entre los seres humanos y la naturaleza, conduciéndonos hacia la autodestrucción.

Frente a este dilema, nos identificamos con los pueblos indígenas y nos sentimos comprometidos para que desarrollen un protagonismo cada vez mayor, capaz de reorientar a la humanidad a recuperar la armonía perdida entre los seres humanos y la naturaleza; además de conservar, revalorar y enriquecer la diversidad cultural y espiritual del mundo.

Para cumplir dicho fin, SERVINDI está organizado como una asociación civil sin fines de lucro para brindar un servicio de información y comunicación intercultural con la finalidad de que la sociedad nacional e internacional tenga una mejor comprensión sobre la realidad, necesidades y aspiraciones de los pueblos y comunidades indígenas.

SERVINDI desarrolla un servicio informativo independiente, que refleja una opinión crítica y reflexiva. Edita desde hace cuatro años un boletín electrónico que proporciona una selección de artículos sobre temas indígenas y ecológicos.

Con la presentación de nuestro manual: Los Pueblos Indígenas, el ALCA y los TLC - Manual de Capacitación, ampliamos nuestra labor a la edición de materiales pedagógicos. Creemos imprescindible desarrollar esta nueva faceta, especialmente, en temas que no están suficientemente atendidos por las propias organizaciones. Hemos editado un segundo manual titulado: Interculturalidad: Desafío y proceso en construcción, y estamos preparando una tercera publicación dedicada al tema: Comunicación para organizaciones indígenas.

No está demás, aclarar que las ediciones de SERVINDI son de exclusiva responsabilidad de sus editores y no compromete la opinión de ninguna organización indígena, local, nacional o internacional.

Es importante manifestar que para SERVINDI, la educación, la comunicación y la información constituyen procesos dinámicos e interactivos permanentes, en los que el aprendizaje y la enseñanza son recíprocos entre las partes.

Finalmente, somos conscientes de nuestro modesto rol de apoyo y de acompañamiento. Aspiramos contribuir a la unidad, al fortalecimiento y al respeto de los pueblos indígenas y sus organizaciones representativas, sin animo de desplazarlas, sino por al contrario, alentando su protagonismo.

Guyana: APA & GOIP respond to Persaud on Barama Controversy

From the Stabroek News, Georgetown, Guyana:

Who did Mr Peter Persaud really represent?
Thursday, June 7th 2007

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter captioned, "These groups are wrong to call on Barama to cease operations in Akawini village lands" (07.05.28) by Peter Persaud of The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana.

First of all the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP) are not surprised that Mr. Persaud did not have the guts to personally confront the two organisations with his opinions when he had ample opportunities to do so. He is only following his modus operandi of seeking to cast blame on others while trying to make himself look good. An opportunity for Mr. Persaud to clear the air had presented itself when two senior members of the APA had asked him about his alleged connections with the Barama Co. based on questions that arose from among the Akawini community about what appeared to be his representation of the company and not the community's interest in the Barama issue. He had denied any connections with the company.

In his earlier meetings with the team that met with the Akawini community, Mr. Persaud had claimed that he was the "indigenous representative" in the discussions even though it is not clear who had appointed him as such a representative.

There was another opportunity for Mr. Persaud to state his opinions when he travelled for two days in the company of two senior members of the APA and GOIP on the recent Barama-led tour of its operations in Buckhall and to the Akawini village. All along none of the two persons knew that Mr. Persaud harboured such opinions of the organizations and that a letter was already in the press. Nonetheless his position is not difficult to understand as it was clear during the trip that he was very familiar with the Barama officials and vice versa. We cannot say the same for his closeness with the Akawini council which he claims to represent and wonder what it took for him to finally clear the air on where his allegiances lie. We trust that the wider indigenous community takes note of this.

Just to clarify for Mr. Persaud, the opinions of the APA and GOIP are based on how Barama chose to operate in the Akawini community rather than on what any "critic" may have said about the company. If Mr. Persaud had truly been representing the community, surely he would have supported them as well. He should now tell the public what was his role as a so called "indigenous representative" which resulted in an unconscionable agreement signed between Akawini and the Interior Woods Products Inc in which the community only stood to lose. Mr Persaud had said that he had never seen the contract yet he had made several visits to Akawini, one clearly on behalf of Barama, to try to convince the Toshao that he should meet with Mr. Lalaram for a one-to-one discussion to try to sort out the problems being encountered. How could Mr Persaud not have asked to see the contract when this was the main source of the problem for the community? This further raises questions about this ability to represent an issue, given his admission that he has never seen the contract.

Mr Persaud questions the representation by our organizations but we urge him to tell us when last his "organization" held an assembly of its members to elect an executive body, where is his constitution that guides the operations of his "organization", and what is his membership like? It appears that Mr. Persaud is "president for life" or otherwise he is the epitome of leadership in his "organization" and cannot be replaced.

Mr. Editor, it has never been the policy of our organizations to raise matters like these in the public but we feel compelled to respond to Mr. Persaud's baseless accusations as others may go on to believe his ravings. We know that he will continue to use the press to spread his groundless statements, or perhaps even use a pen name to spread his misrepresentations but we do not wish to continue anything in public, not because we have anything to hide or are not proud of the work of our organizations but because we simply do not feel that cheap politicking and accusations will get us anywhere.

Yours faithfully,

Tony James

President APA [Amerindian Peoples's Association]

Alan Leow

Chief, GOIP [Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples]

05 June 2007

Aboriginals in Australia: Still the Worst Off

Aborigines still Australia's worst-off: report

By Rob Taylor
Friday, June 1, 2007

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Aborigines are 13 times more likely than other Australians to go to prison, with poverty, unemployment and poor education behind a sharp jump in the number of indigenous jailings, a report said on Friday.

The rate of Aboriginal jailings rose 32 percent in the six years to 2006, while black youths were 23 times more likely to be detained after a brush with police and the courts, a government study of Aboriginal disadvantage said.

"Indigenous people are highly over-represented in the criminal justice system, as both young people and adults," said the report, the third in a series.

Australia's 460,000 Aborigines make up about 2 percent of the country's 20 million population. They are consistently the nation's most disadvantaged group, with far higher rates of unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, and domestic violence.

The report said wages for Aborigines had risen over the last decade and unemployment had halved. But median household incomes for Aborigines were still around half the level of other Australians and their life expectancy lagged by 17 years.

"If we are going to close the gap in life expectancy we will have to address the overcrowded housing and of course give young people the opportunity to get a job," opposition lawmaker Jenny Macklin told local radio.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said the report showed some encouraging signs and blamed an indigenous-run state agency -- axed by the government two years ago -- for many of the failings, as well Aborigines themselves.

"Let's be honest with ourselves and say a lot of this comes down to personal responsibility and people being responsible for their drug and alcohol behavior, the abuse they inflict on others," Brough told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Prime Minister John Howard's conservative government has often clashed with Aboriginal leaders, favoring practical measures such as better access to health and education.

Howard has repeatedly refused to apologize for past racial injustices suffered by the Aborigines.

Indigenous doctor Marlene Kong this week said Aboriginal Australians lived in "fourth-world" conditions and called for international aid agencies to step in, warning decades of government help had failed to overcome problems.

"It's been a critical situation for 30 years, and something needs to be done," the former Doctors Without Borders medic told New Scientist magazine.

"Infant and maternal mortality, two of the most important indicators of a population's health, are at least three times higher than for non-indigenous people, and getting worse."

Suriname: "New" Species Already Endangered

From the Associated Press, June 5 2007, an article on the "discovery" (one can be sure that the species are not new to the indigenous peoples of the area) of previously undocumented species of frog and insects in eastern Suriname. Having just been found by surveyors, they are almost immediately at risk, especially as the survey was done for mining companies, one of which, BHP is an Australian transnational corporation, with a woeful record of environmental destruction. Amerindians and Maroons of Suriname's interior, as the article notes, already suffer from poisonous contamination from mining, so the prospects for this "new" frog do not look too good.


PARAMARIBO Suriname - A frog with fluorescent purple markings and 12 kinds of dung beetles were among two dozen new species discovered in the remote plateaus of eastern Suriname, scientists said Monday.

The expedition was sponsored by two mining companies hoping to excavate the area for bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and it was unknown how the findings would affect their plans.

Scientists discovered the species during a 2005 expedition led by the U.S.-based nonprofit Conservation International in rainforests and swamps about 80 miles southeast of Paramaribo, the capital of the South American country, organization spokesman Tom Cohen said.

Among the species found were the atelopus frog, which has distinctive purple markings; six types of fish; 12 dung beetles, and one ant species, he said.

The scientists called for better conservation management in the unprotected, state-owned areas, where hunting and small-scale illegal mining is common.

The study was financed by Suriname Aluminum Company LLC and BHP Billiton Maatschappij Suriname. Suriname Aluminum, which has a government concession to explore gold in the area, will include the data in its environmental assessment study, said Haydi Berrenstein, a Conservation International official in Suriname, which borders Brazil, Guyana and French Guiana.

About 80 percent of Suriname is covered with dense rainforest. Thousands of Brazilians and Surinamese are believed to work in illegal gold mining, creating mercury pollution that has threatened the health of Amerindians and Maroons in Suriname's interior.

04 June 2007

Good Company

Thank you for the warm welcome and the invitation to join the CAC Review. I am grateful for your work. I thank all our ancestors for guiding us to each other.

I almost am not sure where to begin. But I guess as good a place to start as any is in my own back yard. I live on the island known as The Land of the Hummingbird. And there are many hummingbirds indeed. My island is beautiful but unfortunately much of its beauty remains undiscovered by many of the people who live here. For some the forest remains a place of mystery and danger, while it has been a place of reawakening for others.

Discovery. Now there’s a word that has caused trouble for us all. But perhaps the bigger problem lies in the question of who discovered what. And when.

On this Land of the Hummingbird, while the frogs and crickets sing a warm welcome to the rain and praises to the full moon, we are re-finding, redefining and refining our space. My people of the Santa Rosa Carib community who grew together as one tribe, have just about lost their young. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers, a few grandfathers, are the only ones bothered to come to gatherings.

My own great aunt is the Carib Queen. I decided against writing "reigning" there. I could not write it because it feels like she has no power at all. Her people sometimes don’t bother turning up. Sometimes her people have other appointments. Sometimes her people are surviving.

More in the days to come on survival.

01 June 2007

The CAC Welcomes a New Editor!

On behalf of the editorial board of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink, I wish to an extend an especially warm welcome to our newest editorial member, Tracy Assing from Arima, Trinidad. All of the current editors were unanimous in supporting her joining us. I am also very happy to have corresponded and met with Tracy in Trinidad and I look forward to hearing/reading more from her. What follows is a personal introduction written by Tracy.

I was raised in the Carib Santa Rosa community of Arima. All four of my grandparents come from various First Nations people and much of their knowledge has been passed on to us. I am especially concerned about the historical inaccuracies still being taught in our country's schools, about the trespass of our ancestral hunting and fishing grounds and significant archaeological sites, about the cosmetic recognition we receive from political parties, about the level of control exercised by the Catholic church over our elders.

I have questions about what has been accepted and propagated in the past. My great aunt (sister of my father's father) is the current "Carib Queen" Valentina Medina.

The community raised under the "Carib Santa Rosa" umbrella is waking to itself.

I am an Assistant Editor at Caribbean Beat magazine and have a multi-media work history with stints in radio, television, magazine/journal and newspaper publishing over the last 12 years.

Who Is An Indian? Race, Blood, DNA, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas

Thanks to support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and University of Toronto Press, an international seminar will be hosted in Montreal this August, for a project titled: Who Is An Indian? Race, Blood, DNA, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas.

The aim of the project is as follows:

The contributors seek to develop a comprehensive framework for understanding and explaining racial approaches to indigenous identity at the intersections of colonialism, state governance, and indigenous political resurgence, by way of a cross-cultural and comparative analysis of indigenous cases from across the Americas. Secondly, they explore the theoretical and conceptual bases for conceiving a unified problematic—the bio-politics of indigeneity—which has at least three manifestations: “race” at the broadest level but also involving culturally specific valuations of particular phenotypical traits in accordance with local norms of racialization; blood quantum measurements and the calculus of identity; and, DNA testing. Their third goal is to examine the social possibilities and cultural contours for an indigeneity that exceeds or transcends the criteria of bodily markers, and for disciplinary reformulations.

Participants include:



The seminar is organized and hosted by CAC editor, Maximilian Forte. For more information, please see: