Saturday, April 30, 2005

Cannibal Stories

The following statement was originally produced by CAC editor Pedro Ferbel-Azcarate:

The misidentification of cannibalism for ancestor worship, reported in Columbus' 1493 log, can be seen today as a classic case of cultural misunderstanding.

Using multidisciplinary lines of evidence we can see that Columbus misunderstood the cultural practice of Native people in storing the bones of their ancestors in calabash gourdes in their homes. He mistakenly believed this was a practice of cannibalism. There is scant archaeological evidence of cannibalism in the Caribbean. We would expect to find butchering marks on long bones of human remains if there was a significant practice of cannibalism. The lack of such evidence makes archaeologists reject cannabalism as a common practice in the Caribbean.

It appears that the mythology of cannibalism was promoted by such early European explorers as Columbus as a means to portray the Indigenous people of the Caribbean as savages. This denigration of Native peoples led to the European justification to enslave them, take their lands, and create a racist system whereby people who were not of European origin were given alower social status.

The portrayal of Native Caribbean Americans as cannibals and savages in a new Disney movie aimed at children perpetuates negative stereotypes and a false understanding of colonial history. Disney Corp. should be ashamed by their intentions to put profit above the dignity of human communities. Disney should retract their portrayal of Indigenous Caribbeans as cannibals and savages and should offer a formal apology to Chief Charles Williams and the Carib people of Dominica, as well as to all Indigenous people of the Caribbean.

The real adventure story is about the survival of Indigenous Caribbean people to the present day, a story rarely told. After 500 years years of resistance, the Native Carib (Kalinago) and Taino have survived to the present day.

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