Friday, November 30, 2007

Taíno Curricula: A World of Opportunity

To satisfy NYS core curriculum standards for Social Studies in The Western Hemisphere: Latin America, the 5th grade classes I am working with discuss Taíno culture as a way to chronologically kick off their year-long investigation of Hispaniola. But the cultures, geographies, and histories of the Taino people are so strong and varied that it's easy to imagine a Taíno investigation as part of a Global Communities curriculum, or a point of comparison for studying other indigenous "American" cultures in an early American history unit.

The more I talk with Taíno cultural experts around the city, the more I hear echoes of the same sentiment: it's awfully exciting to find out that Taíno culture is increasingly becoming a part of the curriculum in New York City public schools! The people I've worked with so far - from museum educators to performing artists - have all been warm and genuinely enthusiastic about introducing students to the richness of pre-Columbian Taíno culture. The Taíno Indians, before Columbus, inhabited much of the Caribbean including the Bahamas, present-day Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola. I get the sense that the community in New York is close-knit - people sharing similar interests and a passion for shining light on notoriously underrepresented indigenous peoples. Connecting with that community is an educator's dream. One person refers you to another, and soon enough a bevy of cultural resources seem to appear. The Voice of the Taino People blog is a vibrant living document that compiles news and cultural events relating to Taíno peoples in the Caribbean and the Diaspora.

And the Taíno legacy is so alive in New York City today! To so many students of Caribbean descent (and there are many in New York's schools), a Taíno artifact is not just a dusty museum relic but something with familial, personal significance. Maybe a student recognizes that wooden device from his grandmother's kitchen. Another realizes that the music she grew up listening to in 21st century Brooklyn actually pre-dates Columbus, and the instruments are, miraculously, the same. On a recent trip to the National Museum of the American Indian (also raved about by my co-blogger Margot), I was tickled to see so many students recognizing traditional Taíno artifacts as household goods. This surprising bridge, between contemporary life in Brooklyn and indigenous daily life on Hispaniola, would not have come nearly as alive without our full investigation of Taíno culture.

Posted by Evan O'Connell on November 28, 2007 at 08:24 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Indigenous Resistance/ Indigenous Reality: from The Fire This Time

We are thankful for receiving announcements from our friends at THE FIRE THIS TIME (TFTT), familiar to visitors of the CAC when we previously featured news and work by TFTT on Black Indians in the Americas. As some might recall, TFTT cherishes the personal anonymity of its members, and this concern seems to extend to geographical location as well.

The announcements presented news of two new sites, one,
presents TFTT's new music label, IR (Indigenous Reality).

The second site is at
and features some of the music, which can also be sampled on other sites, such as:

In the words found on the first site:
"I.R. is a new music label launched in 2003 by TFTT that explores the twin themes of Indigenous Resistance/Indigenous Reality. Issues and examples of indigenous resistance and Indigenous reality that normally dont receive attention will be highlighted through our releases. I.R also refers to homegrown insurrection and the fight against injustice everywhere. I.R is intimately connected to the TFTT freedub project. Hence there will be opportunities to recive vinyl, books, posters free of charge. An autonomous venture, I.R releases comes together with a minimum of resources but with a maximum of cooperation and care from those involved in the project; a family of loosely affilated folks who believe in the spirit and deed of resistance. We all have the capacity to fight the beast. We all have a part we can play."

According to one site, where the words appear to be from TFTT itself (with minor edits below):

Indigenous Resistance was created in 2003 on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by black and indigenous activists where they initiated their "freedub" series-vinyl records, given free of charge to the public.

IR releases have focussed on issues of social injustice. IR1 was recorded on location in the Brazilian jungle with the Krikati indians who were fighting for land demarcation rights. IR3 featured members of the indigenous resistance movement for a free West Papua. IR4 was a project of healing among reconcilliation among indigenous peoples of the Solomon islands. IR11 marked ten years since the tragic murder of the Pataxo Indian Galdino who was set on fire by the children of Brazil's elite as a "joke". [This story was also reported in Jonathan Warren's book, Racial Revolutions.] When Galdinos killers were back on the streets after recieving light sentences and preferential treatment, IR created posters and t shirts that said "these bastards killed Galdino" and listed their names. The resulting publicity drew attention back to the case.

IR is a completely autonomous, independent, self-sufficient entity who create their work using the motto of "minimum resources, maximum cooperation." When the topics of recording were too controversial for the Brazilian media and records stores to touch, IR created their own alternative distribution system with used vinyl record seller Zumbi distributing IR recordings through his hand drawn cart in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. IR through sheer necessity has pioneered ways to create music using email and filesharing as their tools to faciltate their work with indigenous people in remote scenarios. IR recordings have involved scenarios where participants have taken boats from remote islands to reach an internet provider where they can upload files. IR focus is on cooperative projects and a further example of this was how in 2007 IR collobrated with the Brazilian soundsystem Dubdem to release 3 freedub seven inch vinyl and to create a Dubdem soundsytem website ( )which was completely interactive with the IR website(

IR has evolved into a self-described "worldwide conspiracy" involving indigenous activists and artists in various parts of the globe linking via internet with subversive minded producers, engineers and producers like Adrian Sherwood, Mad Mike (UR), Dr Das, Bobby Marshall, Sun J (Asian Dub Foundation).

IR10 Indigenous Dublands reflects this confluence. Producers like Steven Stanley(Black Uhuru, B52s, Talking Heads) Soy Sos (Soma Mestizo, 3 generations walking) ramjac (Herbie Hancock, Mark Stewart) Downsound (Jamaica) Tapedave (Mt Dublab)enconter musicians Dr Das (ex-Asian Dub Foundation), Sly n Robie, Saevo (Solomon Islands) with vocalists Tohununo (providing traditional singing from the Solomon islands), Jimmy Dick (Swampy Cree traditional singing from Turtle Island and Christiane D (Soma Mestizo) IR10 was recorded & mixed in the Solomon islands, Jamaica, UK, Brazil and Turtle Island.

The result is a mixture of funk, dub, traditonal indigenous singing spoken word, tablas and never before recorded instruments from the solomon islands. More details on individual tracks can be found on the IR website and if you search for the compound word indigenousresistance on you can also find IR videos and documentaries (like the one below).

"NZ anti-terrorism laws branded incoherent after raid fiasco"

::Thanks to Tony Castanha for alerting us to this article::

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) at:

The future of New Zealand's controversial terrorism suppression laws is in doubt, after authorities ruled that none of those arrested in last month's raids on Maori communities will face terrorism charges.

Solicitor-General David Collins QC says the "overly complex and incoherent" legislation means the law cannot be used to prosecute in any of the 12 cases he was reviewing following the raids.

Meanwhile, there are calls for the Police Commissioner to resign over heavy-handed tactics meted out to Maori terrorism suspects.

October 15th 2007 will be remembered as the day the 'war on terror' reached Whakatane.

Heavily armed tactical response police wearing balaclavas set up roadblocks in the Bay of Plenty boondocks and searched vehicles and photographed their occupants.

The Tuhoe tribe have since called in Peter Williams QC, who believes they have a good case against police for breaching their civil rights.

"I may say that there has been terrorism, but the terrorism has emanated from the police, not from anybody else," he said.

Mr Collins agrees that the evidence was insufficient to justify this heavy-handed approach. He also says the anti-terrorism laws themselves are deficient and in urgent need of redrafting.

"I have advised the commissioner that I am unable to authorise the prosecutions that have been sought under the Terrorism Suppression Act," he said.

Mr Williams says that is just the start.

"I think the police position is that they have used the Terrorism Act excessively, particularly in opposing bail, and possibly leading the people of New Zealand to think that there was terrorism by these people," he said.

"That has now been belied by the Solicitor-General in a decision that I think is adroit, and I think is objective, and I think a very wise decision.

"What should happen now, as I understand it, is that these people should be released on bail and their particular cases should be dealt with according to law."

Toi Iti, the son of high-profile Maori sovereignty activist, Tame Iti - who is now applying for release on bail - says he is relieved at the dramatic turn of events.

"Because I think just having the association with the word 'terrorism' and all of the connotations that come with that, with the terrorist acts that happen globally around the world, to have that associated with your family and your name has a huge effect," he said.

Innocent people affected

But for police, it's a humiliating backdown from what they claim was an imminent threat to national security. Police Commissioner Howard Broad now concedes that a lot of innocent people got caught up in the dragnet.

"They're clearly hurt, they're clearly distressed," he said.

"The people of Tuhoe particularly feel like that this operation was directed at them.

"I've got some work to do to build bridges there and I acknowledge that.

"But in terms of this being a serious risk, I stand exactly behind what I did, and I expect the people of New Zealand would support me in that."

Maori political leaders like Hone Harawira say that is just not good enough.

"He announced on the first day, 'terrorism', and he has not been able to prove it," he said.

"He employs Kaitakawaenga, Maori police officers who work in places like Ruatoki.

"He had the opportunity 18 months ago to say, 'Guys, I think there's something going on in here. Get in there and find out.' It could have been all over and done with inside two or three weeks."

Instead, Mr Harawira says, the Police Commissioner did not inform the local Maori police officers.

"The boss of that operation, of that unit, the Maori Liaison Officers, wasn't even told until the operation had started," he said.

"[Commissioner Broad] said himself on day one, 'I stake my reputation on it'. He's blown it, he should go.

Slight on Tuhoe community

The Tuhoe tribe now thinks it is time for police to start listening to their own Maori Liaison Officers and apologise for the slight on their community.

Mr Williams says it was effectively branded a terrorist enclave.

"There's a lot of ill-feeling at the present moment, there's a lot of anger, their mana has been affected," he said.

Mana is a supernatural life force of power or authority.

Mr Williams says there has been a series of illegal acts by the police.

"It is time now, in my humble opinion, for a reconciliation, for the police to apologise and for the police to make recompense, so that this can be amended and the mana of the police as well, restored."

But others, like Mr Harawira, suggest the incident has put relations between police and Maoris back 100 years.

"How dare they arrest Tame Iti! What are the charges that he is leading a terrorist organisation? This is bullshit!" he said.


Editor's note: The fact that the "war on terror" is being regularly visited upon those least connected with anything to do with Sept. 11, 2001, and being deployed in countries that were not targeted by Al Qaida, it is not surprising that the national security state is shown to be the normal state of affairs. Immigrants, almost all Muslims, Indigenous Peoples, have been the more immediate targets of this new colonial war, and what their experience should be telling everyone else is quite important: that the Italian political philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, was right when he he argued that states of exception, emergency rule, surveillance, national security, all of these combined consistently shape and constitute rule by states everywhere. The real "terror" we have to be worried about has always been, and continues to be, state terror. Here in Canada the face of state terror is shown immediately and automatically whenever a crowd of indigenous protesters assemble--police forces almost instantaneously appear, as if the mere fact of protest, or an indigenous gathering, were somehow a public safety issue.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On "Native Terrorism": A Reader Responds

::I am thankful for receiving the following message, which was posted in response to another post on this blog ("More Hysteria Over the 'Native Terrorist'")::

Hegemonic Post-Colonial Discourse (Contemporary Colonization)

What is terrorism? What does it mean to act in the name of peace, or to find arms in places where they don't exist? Are they copying hegemonic discourse? All of these questions are valid and apply to violations that many people of the world suffer, above all indigenous people.

In my opinion, when culture is managed irresponsibly, and we see others judged in an irresponsible way, with no evidence, with comments that are racist and which are placed in a context as if they were made by wise elders, claiming things such as "I decide if you are worthy of your culture or not", "you are violent and vengeful", these people are hypocrites, because they say they are working for our people and are offering "recognition to those men and women who iron our clothes, watch over us, wash our cars, and make our handicrafts".

They do not see that this is not the way, not the right path.

We as indigenous are not only those things. We are the ones who, through our ancestors, have kept society together to the present, we are the ones who have diverse ways of expressing ourselves as daily witnesses to the idea that it is possible to live in peace with others and with mother earth, we champion the responsible use of culture, which does away with preconceptions and ideas promoted by ignorance and lack of understanding by others. We are the ones as a people who have given up so much at such a high and unfortunate cost, such as our most valued legacy, the greatness of the past, our faith, our culture, our food. What kind of sin is it to have self-determination? What kind of sin is it to protest? What sin have we committed when we accept the new nationality of peoples living on our soil? What sin have indigenous committed when we recognise each other as human beings? Why do they mistreat us when we state that something does not look right to us?

In other words, people who practice what they criticise, who judge you in the name of democracy, who say they are offering tribute, are just like the colonisers, they keep exchanging gold for trinkets and want us to give away our wealth for shiny mirrors. Amparo Ochoa has a song that expresses this very well:

And we open our homes and call them friends
But if an Indian comes back tired from working in the highlands
We humiliate him and see him as a stranger throughout his land.

You hypocrite acting like a humble person in front of a foreigner
You become arrogant with your own poor brothers
Oh, Malinche's curse, illness of our age,
When will you leave my land….when will you free my people.

I dedicate this to all the indigenous peoples of the world, especially to my Maori brothers and sisters in Aotearoa New Zealand, my Wayuu people and to the Wichi people.

I want to share information about what is happening to our Maori brothers and sisters in Aotearoa. Please read this letter and send it on, for once make the voice heard of THOSE WHO HAVE NO VOICE.

David Hernández Palmar. Indígena Wayuu. Clan IIPUANA
0414 632 1312
0416 370 3539
+ 58 414 632 1312
+ 58 416 370 3539

"Tradition is like a wise elder, as she sits on the road of days, she tells future generations what she has lived." RAMON PAZ IIPUANA 1938

"La tradición es como una anciana que sentada en el camino de los días, cuenta a las generaciones venideras lo que ha vivido". RAMON PAZ IIPUANA 1938

La tradition, c'est comme une vieille dame qui, assise sur le chemin des jours qui passent, raconte aux générations à venir ce qui lui a été donné de
vivre. RAMON PAZ IIPUANA, 1938