Wednesday, November 14, 2018



During this auspicious National Native American Month. May your stay in our historic *Attan Akamik (Powhatan Confederacy Territory, a.k.a. “Washington, DC”) where Powhatan II presided over the earliest-known meetings that they called a “caucus”. May your future caucuses be as successful as his.

*Attan Akamik = “Our Fertile Country”.i
Debra A. Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) appropriately won seats in Congress on November 6, 2018 during the month that honors Native American cultures and peoples.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, March 13, 2017

Anacaona: Queen of Xaragua

Xaragua (Ha-rag-wah) was one of the Taíno provinces in which Kiskeya (Hispaniola) was divided. Located on the Haitian side of the island. 
[Thanks to  Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) for her invaluable Native inclusions and editorial skills-- Michael Auld]

How has Anacaona been portrayed? Notice how she is uniquely idealized differently by each artist.

"Anacaona", mixed media sculptural enlargements by the author. She was described as being very beautiful. The sculpture's face was modeled after Jennifer Lopez's Puerto Rican Taíno facial characteristics.(2004)

1851 interpretive engraving of Anacaona. The artist idealized her with the prevailing European ideals of royals and subjects.

Cuba's Anacaona postal stamp. A local model with Taíno DNA was probably used for the illustration.

"Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490"
 Book by Edwidge Danticat, the award-winning, best-selling Haitian author (2005).  The book has an idealized cover design incorporating the yellow hibiscus in the illustration. The hibiscus is Haiti's national flower.

Born: 1474, Yaguana, Jaragua, Haiti
Died: c. 1503, Hispaniola (Haiti)
Nationality: Taíno
Occupation: Cacika (female chief)
Known for: being one of two Taíno female cacikes (chiefs) along with Yuisa from where is now called Loíza, Puerto Rico.
Spouse: Caonabo--Wikipedia

There are illustrated renderings of ancient Mezoamerican manuscripts, murals and ceramics that depict Amerindian women of power. One recorded woman leader of note in the early Spanish encounter period in the Americas was a ruler named Anacaona. She, along with her brother, Behichío, ruled over Xaragua, one of the five  major large regions of Kiskeya. Kiskeya was also known as Ayti Bohio ("High Mountain Home"), then changed to Hispaniola, by the Spanish invaders. It was later divided into French Haiti and the Spanish Dominican Republic. Although Anacaona was assassinated at the age of 27 or 29, her short life has immortalized her as a shrewd leader, diplomat, and a beautiful poet (who recited historic ballads called areítos). She is memorialized in Cuban and Puerto Rican songs, in a sexist and paternalistic poem by Alfred Lloyd Tennyson and in a well received novel by her fellow Haitian, Edwidge Danticat.  Anacaona is a pivotal founding figure in Haitian history of the Americas.

Anacaona is known today as a fearless, dignified Caribbean icon and symbol of resistance against tyranny. --Kristen Majewski, Modern Notion

If Conquistadors had been more interested in the people whom they encountered upon their arrival in the America's Caribbean in 1492, we would all have been taught about Anacaona. Her name translates as "Ana" = flower, plus  "caona" = gold. She later married Caonabo, cacike of the neighboring province. (He also had "gold" in his name, plus the important suffix "bo".) When both Anacaona's husband and brother died, she returned to Xaragua to become cacike. Due to the Spanish encounter period, the Caribbean Taino experienced extremely chaotic times after having lived in relative peace for over 1,000 years. The initial Taíno/Spanish relationship began as a subtle encounter but later turned into a brutal invasion based on capitalistic exploitation.

Trouble between the Taino and Spanish was evident less than a year after the Europeans had arrived. Both Bohechío and Anacaona met Christopher Columbus in 1494. They had entertained him, and traveled on his caravel in the bay off the coast of Xaragua. Previously in 1492, Columbus left his crew from one of his sunken ships on the island and returned to Spain. He announced the news of his "discovery" in the royal courts of Spain. Upon Columbus' return to Hispaniola with 17 ships of adventurers, he discovered that all of the men he had left behind had been killed by the neighboring cacike, Caonabo in a "scorch earth" attack of retribution. The stranded Spanish sailors had disrespectfully demanded more food and women from their Taíno hosts. Caonabo was ultimately captured and sent on board a ship set for Spain. He died in the voyage's shipwreck before being enslaved. Anacaona then a widow, had returned to Xaragua upon the death of her brother Bohechío. There she assumed the role of cacike.

Because the Columbus family was considered to be made up of ineffective conquerors, a new radical governor, Nicolás de Ovando was sent to Hispaniola to replace Columbus and his successors. The Taíno of Kiskeya were in revolt and starvation was rampant because their economy was disrupted by demands of gold hungry Iberians. Taíno populations near the Spanish fort burned their villages and destroyed their provision grounds to retreat into the mountains as Cimarrones, the forerunners of Maroons. The intention was to starve the intruders out.

Columbus, who had been stranded in Jamaica when his ship sank, was despised by Ovando who left him there for a year to rot. He was sent home to Spain in chains. Unable to corral the rebellious Taíno, Columbus (the "Admiral") was seen as a poor government administrator who had acquired insufficient gold by way of extortion and enslavement.

Anacaona, who was also reputed for accepting enslaved Taíno runaways and rebels inherited a chaotic, politically driven conflict. With the arrival of Ovando, she diplomatically invited the him to a welcome reception. Upon his arrival to her large bohio (roundhouse) he immediately ordered his men to remove Anacaona and barricade the door. The bohio was then set on fire. Over 80 of her sub-chiefs inside either burned or were shot by crossbow. After being taken from the bohio, Anacaona  was given the opportunity to capitulate and become a concubine to one of the Spanish men. She refused to betray her beloved people and was hanged on the spot.

Nicolás de Ovando, (born c. 1451, Brozas, Castile [Spain]—died c. 1511), Spanish military leader and first royal governor of the West Indies. He was the first to apply the encomienda system of Indian forced labour, which became widespread in Spanish America, and he founded a stable Spanish community in Santo Domingo that became a base and model for later settlement.--Encyclopedia Britannica
*Ovando had also eliminated another bohio filled with Taíno leaders, all of whom he had his men knife to death. Their bodies were hauled out to the village square and displayed as a lesson. His successful plot was to eliminate the Taíno leadership. He was recalled to Spain by embarrassed royals, where he died nine years later.
* Encomienda: A paternalistic system originally used in Spain against the Jews and Muslim after the Conquest. Applied next in Hispaniola, intended to offer the Taíno Indians "protection and elements of Christian civilization" in exchange for their labour, it quickly became a means for outright, brutal exploitation. This practice was later introduced to mainland America.--ibid

Anacaona is the name of an all-girl orchestra, founded in 1930s Havana by Cuchito Castro and her sisters. Eventually, all 11 sisters joined the band. Wikipedia

* "Anacaona" song: by Cheo Feliciano (on YouTube)
José Luis Feliciano (July 3, 1935 – April 17, 2014), better known as Cheo Feliciano, was a Puerto Rican composer and singer of salsa and bolero music.
Note: Although Anacaona was a full bloodied Amerindian, Cheo's version of the song misidentified her as "negro" or black. The lyrics also reveals how the indigenous Taíno were viewed by some Caribbean people.

Cheo's lyrics literal translated into English:
Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona, Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona I heard your voice, as I cried when I groaned Anacaona I heard the voice of your anguished heart
Your freedom never arrived, and Le le le le le la la.
Anacaona, Indian captive race Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Anacaona, Indian, captive Indian and Anacaona, from the primitive region.
Chorus: Anacaona, Areito de Anacaona. India of captive race, soul of white dove ...Anacaona.
But Indian who dies crying, dies but does not forgive, does not forgive.
That black black woman who is noble and dejected but who was brave Anacaona!
Listen, according to the story it says that it went to the cannon [something significant?], Anacaona.
The whole tribe cries because she was a good black woman.
And remembering, remembering what happened... the tribe is already very angry.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cocoa/Cacao/Chocolate: For Lovers

Happy Xocolātl Day!!!
The Earliest Love Potion

The earliest known potion associated with love was xocolātl or chocolate used by the Maya of Central America. Since the 19th century, February 14th has been popularized (beginning in England) with chocolate as an addition with a handmade card for St. Valentine's Day. The earliest Valentine was a Christian martyred by the Romans. After the 2nd Century AD, there were various revered male Valentines, some who gained sainthood.

Xocolātl (pronounced “shock-o-lat”), a Nahuatl word from the Mexica (Mé-she-kah or Aztec) of Mexico, meaning “bitter water”. Cocoa (ko-ko) 1. From the Nahuat (Aztec) word cacahuat  or cacao  seeds. 2. From the Mayan word cacahuaqucht  the “cacao tree”. 3. A variant of cacao. 4. A small tropical American evergreen tree cultivated for its seeds, the source of cocoa and chocolate. 5. The fruit or seeds of this tree. 6. A powder made from dried, roasted and ground seeds. 7. A color.
Chocolate (chok-ko-late) 1. From the Nahuat word tchocoat  “bitter water”. 2. A food prepared from the roasted, ground cacao beans. 3. A blood-red Aztec beverage made with ground cocoa beans, water, peppers, musk, honey, vanilla, and annato./achiote  4. A beverage of chocolate boiled in sugar-sweetened water, with milk or coconut milk added. 5. A candy or sweet with chocolate coating.Also:  6. A brownish gray color

The cocoa or cacao tree originated in the South American homeland of the ancestors of the Taino, the Amazon or Orinoco basins. The plant also grew wild in the rain forest of the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America. Its benefits have been appreciated for over 4,000 years also by the Maya who cleared land to establish the first known cocoa plantations. The Maya considered it an important item in their society. Cocoa beans were given as gifts at a child’s comming of age observance and in religeous ceremomies. Cocoa beans were used as food and money. For example, the rate of exchange of goods were as follows: A pumpkin was worth 4 cocoa beans, 10 for a rabbit, 12 for a courtisan  and 100 for a slave. Maya merchants traded cloth, jade and ceremonial feathers for cocoa beans. The Maya considered cacahuaqucht (the cacao plant) to be the tree of the gods. [1] “Ek Chuah, the mercghant god, was closely linked with cocoa and the fruits were used in festivals in honor of this god”. Their reverence for cocoa  was passed on to the Toltecs and Mexica (Mé-she-kah, or Aztecs).

In Mexica mythology the god Quetzelcoat, the Feathered Serpent, was the creator of the forest and the sacred cocoa tree. Cocoa beans were considered an aphrodisiac (a concept still ascribed to chocolate) and the tree was believed to bring fortune and strength. In Mexico , Hernan Cortez was greeted with mountains of cocoa beans instead of gold. Cocoa was ceremoniously used by the Mexica (Aztecs) and it was given as a drink by the Emperor Motezhuma’s servants to Cortez in 1519. Because of a Mexica prophecy which coensided with Cortes’s arrival, Motezhuma mistakenly thought that the Spaniard might have been the returning creator of the cacao, the god Quetzalcoat. Tchocoat, from which the word “chocolate” came, was a prized drink made from the dried and crushed cacao beans mixed with [2] chili pepper, musk, honey, vanilla and annato or achiote (which made the thick drink a spiritually significant blood-red color). Hernan Cortez, who was not fond of the Maxica recipe, saw the commercial value of the cocoa bean and took a large amount to Spain. In Spain chocolate was combined with pepper, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon or mixed with beer or wine. Other Europeans used this Mexica recipe of vanilla mixed with cacoa but added sugar and cream to suit their tastebuds.

Although Columbus recorded seeing the beans in the Caribbean and took some back with him, not much was made of cocoa in Spain until Hernan Cortez re-introduced it into that country in 1527. This was eight years after Cortez took his armed force to the heartland of the Mexica.

In 1502 on a voyage in the Caribbean , which took him to the coastline of Central America, Columbus came across a large trading canoe off the coast of today’s Honduras . The canoe was loaded with copper axes and bells and great quantities of cocoa. Maya trade routes by sea took them further distances along the Yucatan’s Caribbean coast than the short distance across to the Taino island of Cuba . Although historians stated [3] that cocoa was grown in the southern Caribbean island of Trinidad during precolumbian times it is not yet certain if the Island Caribs or the Orinoco basin ancestors of the Tainos brought the plant to the other northern islands. The Tainos played the Central American rubber ball games which, like the cocoa bean, had ceremonial and religeous significance. It is likely that they were also very fameliar with cocoa.

The cocoa tree is a Tropical American plant which only grows in humid climates along the equatorial belt. The tree reaches a hight of 26 feet. Its foot long leaves start out as light rose colored and mature to a shiney, leathery gark green. The plant flowers continually and produces more abundant buds twice each year. An unusual aspect of the cocoa tree is that its flowers grow in clusters directly on the trunk and lower branches. The flowers vary in color from bright red to pink, white, and orange with pink. Each tree produces 30 to 40 pod-like fruits each year. The American football shaped pods attain a size of one foot in length and 2 ½ to 5 inches in width when mature. The smooth or lumpy surface of the pod hardens and may become scarlet, yellow or various shades of green. When opened the pod contains a sticky, tangy to the taste,  pink colored pulp which envelopes 30 to 40 pink or light purple seeds called beans. When harvested the cocoa beans must go through a series of processes before it can be turned into edible cocoa or chocolate.

There are about 20 varieties of cocoa trees which are divided into two classes. South America sill produces one class of fruit which is the best quality of cocoa beans. “Fine flavor” cocoas are produced by Ecuador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago , Grenada , Jamaica, Siri Lanka, Indonesia and Samoa. A second lower quality of cocoa, which was transported to Africa, is produced there mainly for commercial purposes.

Cocoa processing follows prescribed sequences. The seed coat and germ are removed from the edible segment called the “nib”. The bean must be fermented for 5 to 6 days, sun-dried, sorted, roasted, cracked (to remove the shell) before it is ground. The shell is sometimes used as a fertilizer, cattle feed or a substitute for coffee. The roasting process removes the bitter tasting tannin and determines the color and flavor of the bean. The use of the bean for cocoa powder or chocolate determines the length of the roasting time. The roasted bean is then ground into a sticky paste called chocolate mass or chocolate.
[1] Cadbury's Chocolate History and the Growing of Cocoa, http://www.
[1] The Visual Food Encyclopedia, p. 640
[1]  The Indigenous People of the Caribbean ,1997

Monday, January 30, 2017

Iguana: A god as food

The Rock Iguana (Cyclura collei) here is primarily herbivorous and was both a god and a source of food for the Yamaye, Jamaica's indigenous Taino people. Probably fixed on a barbecoa (source word of barbecue) with habanero pepper, allspice (pimento), other endemic spices, and sea salt. (According to one source, the Taino of Turks and Caicos Islands produced salt for trade with the Maya). Today, the iguana has been replaced in the wild diet by introduced chickens and often domesticated or feral pigs prepared as "jerk", a Maya source word linked to "jerky". Eaten in those areas of the Caribbean and other parts of the Americas, the flesh of this large lizard is said to "taste like chicken" (Anthony Bourdain?). As an important source of protein, it was hunted into near extinction on some Caribbean territories.

"The Jamaican Iguana declined dramatically during the second half of the 19th century, probably due to the introduction of the Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus [=auropunctatus])"-IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
                                     Rare Jamaican Rock Iguana -- Hope Gardens Zoo, St. Andrew, Jamaica. (1994)

(About): The Hope Gardens Zoo was named for a large estate once owned by the family who also possessed the infamous  (cursed) Hope Diamond, now in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. The iguana, once plentiful throughout the island, was thought hunted into extinction. This one was part of  a clutch with eggs found in the Hellshire Hills, in the parish of St. Catherine. The Jamaican iguana was discovered in the early 1990s in the Hellshire's dry forest that became a sanctuary. The area also has an important Yamaye petroglyph inscribed Taino cave with a clearwater spring at the base of a limestone cenote-like pit. The area is strewn with thorn or maka bushes (maka--from maccaw or makafat palm, a favorite fruit of the now extinct bird) and a variety of exotic cacti.  --Photography and artwork copyrighted by Michael Auld
As a god, the large lizard was revered as a representative of the sun. Also appearing as a Jamaican schoolboy's best pal in the story, Ticky-Ticky's Quest,  (Illustration below: The spider-boy, Ticky-Ticky sits next to his best friend Iggy Iguana as a busted Duppy balloon's seeds float around them like snowflakes.).  The the hero, Ticky-Ticky, grapples with the concept of "eating a god". He asks his friend, Iggy Iguana, who answers in the island's informal patois;
  • "Iguanas love de sun, so we sit on rocks soakin' up its life-givin' ultraviolet rays," Iggi said, using more big words that he had learned in biology class. "De iguana's back is like de rays of de sun. When dey eat us, de Taíno tek in all de energy from de sun dat is in our flesh," Iggi explained.
  • "Woi! Yu don't hate dem for that? I mean, bein' hunted by dem an' all," Ticky-Ticky asked.

  • "Mí gran-fadah say dat dese are de laws of nature dat we mus' follow," Iggy explained. "Him say humans 'unt us, an' dis is how nature is. Him say dat we iguanas eat plants, an' dat's de plant's destiny. My fadah tol' me dat humans, other animals, de plants, de sea, de universe... every t'ing mus' follow dese laws. But de Taíno believe dat they should neva eat de young. If a 'unter turn a young animal into a orphan, de 'unter had to adopt an' tek care of de orphan.

The Twins: Iguanaboina

As Iguana-Boina, the god was equal to sun deities around the world and a major half of the concept of "the source of life".

Right: Boinayel. mboi = serpent. una = dark. His name 
means Son (el) of the Dark Cloud-Serpent (
Left: Marohu (ma = without. aro = clouds). Boinayel's twin brother is the iguana lizard whose serrated dorsal crest suggests the rays of the sun. 
Above: Sculpture of the Iguana-Boina (a) Plexiglass and welded steel; 9 feet tall); 
 (c) Iguana-Boina intersect as support of a house,
the visualization of an agricultural
people who believed that the sun and
rainfall were the twin sources of life.
(b) Detail of a wooden upright of a bohio or

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Make America Native Again

This was America in 1585.-- John White's portrait of a 

Native woman in  "The New Found Land of Virginia". 

that was to become the United States of America. 
The English colony did not survive

T-shirt Designs:

 Powhatan Confederacy--This was America in 1607 when Capt. John Smith arrived in Wahunsennachaw's (Powhatan II) Attan Akamik (Our Fertile Country), a 32-34 nation Algonquian-speaking "kingdom" as the English called Princess Pocahontas' homeland. Helped by the diplomatic Powhatan II to survive,  this location became the place "Where America Began".
The most recent president of the United States, Trump, ran on a populist but divisive message to "Make America Great Again." The message was obvious to many as a not-so-masked reference of the term "great", meaning "white". The proposed placing of a Great Wall along the brown US border and not the white northern one, was added evidence of this expressed sentiment. The impending "Hispanic" (a.k.a. Amerindian DNA) majority predicted for America's future was obviously the campaign's cry to arms. Stop the retaking of America by Amerindians was implied. Trump's followers certainly understood these coded messages. Additionally, as a businessman accustomed to salesmanship, he applied this technique to his advertising slogans. Harking back to the pre-1960s, the reference painted a picture of the time when "America" was associated with the other popular Eurocentric phrase, "Free, white" and 21".
One would think that this unconscious omission of the words "Native American" in casual American discourse indicates a desire to place indigenous people of North America in the Invisible Man category. President Obama was the exception to this practice since he often mentioned Native American in his speeches.

In Obama's inclusive language he used the above term as opposed to the speech of most officials who seem to obliviously live in just a black & white world. Then, again President Obama grew up outside of the US where he was exposed to realistic outsider views of his homeland. Although a product of multicultural New York, the Trumps seemed to have  developed a separatist view by some in that large city of divided cultural neighborhoods.

What if we adopted the slogan "Make America Native Again"?

Dominated by only languages (English, Spanish, French, Dutch) foreign to the hemisphere, was "the Americas" ever not Amerindian? The reality is that, if we go by DNA, most people of the Americas, like the rest of the planet's majority, are Asiatic. Regardless of 19th century racial labels, we actually live in an ethnically Asian hemisphere. Since 1492, even with the Amerindian holocaust, there were just not enough of non-Native genes to go around. Granted, millions of Natives died from imported human introduced diseases, murder and enslavement. Yet, their descendants survived as full-bloods,  Hispanic (US), mestizo (Spanish America), colored (US), Métis  (Canada), half-breed (US) and Negro or Black.(US). They reflect a genetic relationship to the other side of the planet's hemisphere of Asia proper; the world's human majority of  Ino-China, Asiatic-Europe, India and China. Within our generation, all of these areas are in the attainable position of world dominance. Does this notion scare you as it seemed to have many Americans who have temporarily benefitted from the results of the Electoral College?

Monday, July 18, 2016


How Caribbean Amerindians Influenced the History of the Americas

© Michael Auld (Yamaye)

Today we may find it hard to believe in the reality of myths. Yet, beginning in 1492, an entire hemisphere was explored and exploited by arriving Europeans many of whom were primed by the belief that folklore was real. One seminal myth that drove the exploitative greed of the Spanish was the Taíno epic of the Travels of Guahayona  (the First Shaman). Amerindians paid with their lives for the actions of the Spanish, due to the story of an Island of Women and its twin, an Island of Gold. The myth was reworked and incessantly perused by the Spanish search of the fabled Amerindian treasures.

The First Shaman

Guahayona was believed to be the first shaman of the Taíno. He originated in one of the two caves of creation, Cacibajagua, along with the Noble People. He had been the one to bring sacred tobacco to the people. (His name also meant "Our Pride"). Guahayona’s epic helped to shape how Europeans perceived the Americas. The telling of his story by elders was meant to warn women against the danger of pride. This tale influenced both literate and illiterate Spanish seamen as factual evidence of Amazons and unimaginable amounts of gold in the Indies. Over the years, many adventurers lost their lives or gained riches in search of the fabled gold of the Indies.

  (Above:) The First Shaman of the Taíno epic the "Travels of Guahayona". The life sized wood canoa by the artist is in the shape of a barracuda (usually a solitary fish, barracuda is a Cariban word that means "He Who Is Alone").—Sculpture by Michael Auld

(Above-- Leftdetail: Guahayona was an integral part of the canoe culture of the seafaring Taíno
 (Above-- Right:) Guahayona, meaning “Our Pride”, is an epic myth of the seduction of pride that was exhibited by the first women. After the abduction, men were left without women who were taken away to Matinino by the shaman. As the story continued, it told how some feminine creatures without genitalia were made into wives with the help of a pecking of a woodpecker.
--Materials: wood mask, vine, shell and macaw feathers.
by Michael Auld

Cristoforo Colombo a.k.a. Cristóbal Colón, the one we know as Columbus, arrived in the Island of the sacred Iguana in 1492. Guanahaní (Iguana Island), as it was called by the Lukku-Cairi Taíno, was named for a spiritual symbol of the sun. On that day in 1492 in the Bahamas, the Lukku-Cairi (Small Island) Taíno oral tradition required them to entertain the Italian captain and his Spanish seamen with an areito, a part of an epic put to song and dance. Through sign language, the Taíno also related the portion of their ancient heroic story when asked about the gold jewelry (yari) that some of them wore. Columbus was told about Matininó, an Island of Women and its twin Guanin, the Island of Gold to the south. Fragments of the story stuck with Columbus who had now more than ever began the search for these mythical islands. In addition to exotic spices, gold was at hand! 

“I was attentive and labored to know if they had gold, and I saw that some of them wore a small piece hanging from a hole which they have in the nose, and from some signs I was able to understand that, going to the south or going around the island to the south, there was a king who had large vessels of it and possessed much gold”—The Journal of Columbus, p.26

The “king” alluded to may have been Guahayona. Columbus’ journal had many references to spices and gold whose source was south (in the geographic direction of Martinique). Later, in Cuba, the Taíno came to believe that "the Cristiano's God was Guanin (14k gold alloy)."
Cacique Hatuey who had escaped the massacre of Anacaona on Ayti Bohio, had said, "They love him so much. Even if you swallow him they will cut you open to retrieve their God."

To the direct south of the Bahamas were islands the Taíno called Cuba, Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio, Boriken and Yamaye. On his Second Voyage, now entering the Americas via the Eastern Caribbean (south of the Bahamas), Columbus thought that he had found Matininó. Today’s Martinique was that mythical isle, only it was populated by the Island Carib, a warrior society. Columbus wrote that he followed the direction (with this 2nd voyage of 17 ships) given to him by a Taíno whom he had taken to Spain as evidence of reaching India. It seems, according to Columbus' writing, the Taíno man on board ship had known a shorter route between the Americas and Europe. This was the route used by sailing ships from then on entering the Americas, until the invention of steamships. The Taíno were seafaring agriculturalists who had daily navigated the thousands of islands from the Orinoco River Basin to Florida over 1,000 years before. It was not until a few years later when Columbus had been made governor of "Hispaniola" (Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio) that he learned the entire story of Matininó and Guanin. 

On Columbus’ 1st Voyage one of his ships sank off the coast of Ayti Bohio. His crew was saved by the local cacique, Guacanagari, whose people had helped to salvage everything from the wreck. The Spanish seamen were impressed with Taíno honesty, since "not even a needle was lost." Columbus left from the hastily constructed fortification of La Navidad, to sail back to Spain, where he obtained 17 ships and financing. The crew that was left behind became mutinous and greedy. They requested multiple women from their hosts. Another nearby cacique had enough of the disrespect and launched a scorched earth attack with pepper smoke grenades, disorienting the Spanish, and all of the intruders were killed. Upon his return, Columbus meted out revenge, killing a number of Taíno who had not left the area. 

The Taíno revolted. “The first American insurrection against colonialism was put down in a bloody battle at the Vega Real [Hispaniola/Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio] on March 27, 1495.”  Amerindian warriors were not the docile people that he had written about from his first impression in the Bahamas. The shipment of a small amount of gold and exotic hardwoods was not enough to repay the debts for the voyage. His fateful decision to pacify the impatient Spanish Royals was to “fill the ships of Antonio de Torres with Indios to be taken back to Spain and sold as slaves.” 

As the governor of Hispaniola, in 1495, he sent a Catalán cleric named Friar Ramon Pané who had become fluent in Taíno languages, to record their beliefs and ways. For his own safety, Columbus decided to find out more about the people that he had previously underestimated. It was at this juncture that Pané recorded the following Taíno story.

Guahayona said to the women, “Leave your husbands and let us go to other lands and carry off much guyeö.
Leave your children and let us take only the herb with us and later we shall return for them.”
Guahayona, OUR PRIDE, left with all the women, and went in search for other lands.
He came to Matininó, NO FATHERS,
Where he soon left the women behind,
and he went off to another region called Guanin.—Cave of the Jagua, Antonio M. Stevens-Arroyo, p.157

Guyeö was a chewing tobacco made with green leaves mixed with salty ashes from algae. As a cleric, Pané recorded this story with some skepticism. However, vast numbers of the Spanish, both literate and illiterate, believed it as Taíno gospel. Taíno stories, when examined, were similar to the Adam and Eve biblical tale intended as a guide for inappropriate behavior. “Women”, it meant, “don’t be seduced by Guahayona/pride.” Abandoned on Matininó, the arriving Spanish wrote about and searched for this “Island of Amazons/Women”.

Figure 1: The artist’s 18” x 24” silk screen print of Guahayona's travel to Matininó, the Island of Women. The female images are of Attabey, the virgin mother of the Supreme Being, Yucahu. Her image is from a ballpark in Puerto Rico, dedication to honor her and the rubber ball game, batu, the ancient Mesoamerican game first seen by the Spanish in the Caribbean. She is the goddess of childbirth and fresh water. Her body is depicted in the shape of a frog that represents procreation while the woodpecker at her groin depicts a part of the story of “How the Women Came to the Men.”
Figure 2: Guahayona leaves Matinino and travels to Guanin, the Island of Gold. The print includes a 16th century woodcut by Oviedo y Valdéz who observed the Taíno method of panning for gold in Kiskeya. The Spanish adopted this method of gold mining. The glittering feather of the colibri (hummingbird) was their symbol for gold.

Fifteen years after Ramon Pané recorded Taíno myths in Hispaniola, a similar story with the same theme of women and gold was published in a popular novel in Spain.   

“Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.” -- Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián) by  Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, 1510

During this "Age of Discovery" a novel was published in Madrid, Spain. It was the story titled La California an island of Amazons filled with gold and pearls led by the black warrior queen Califia. The epic continues to the point where this barbarous queen, who initially fights with the Muslims against the Christians, is converted to Christianity. Queen Califia's Amazons' weapons were made from gold, while man-eating Griffins (half eagle and half lion) that flew overhead protected the women from encroaching men, ripping them apart when trespassing on La California. This novel became one of the most popular books of the time and was widely read. Hernán Cortés, the touted "conqueror of the Aztec" Triple Alliance, while in upper Mexico (later called Baja California), believed that the high mountains seen in the distance was the Island of La California, and named it so. In the novel, La California was located next to the Terrestrial Paradise, one reference to the Caribbean. For some time, California was illustrated on maps as an island. 

The use of Amerindian themes in European writing after the “Discovery” can be seen in a variety of published stories and plays. For example, William Shakespeare’s character, Caliban in The Tempest, is an Island Carib, mislabeled Caribales, Cannibales and cannibal by Columbus. In the play, Caliban is a conniving savage, not unlike a current politician’s characterizing “Pocahontas” slur. Set in the Caribbean, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe’s companion Friday is a Taíno hiding from “cannibalistic” Island Caribs. Based on a story of an actual shipwreck in South America, this novel employs a Columbus inspired myth about cannibals. “Carib cannibalism” appears in Disney movies and was earlier used by Spain to justify the enslavement of “unfriendly” Indios, Carib or not. 

The thread of Matininó and Guanin ran through the other areas of the Americas. The Caribbean Taíno myth was sometimes combined with an old European story of conflict with the Muslims. The Hopi territory became the mythical location of Las Siete Ciudades de Oro. From a distance, gleaming pueblos appeared to be golden in the sunlight. Las Siete Ciudades de Cibola, the Seven Cities of Gold, referred to a tale describing the flight of monks from a cathedral when the Muslims attacked. The belief was that the clergy escaped with the gold ornaments that may have ended up in the direction of the Indies. Although Estavanico the Moor was killed by the Hopi in the effort, the Hopi suffered great losses of life over a golden myth.

El Dorado and the Amazon

To the south of the Caribbean, after the fall of the Inca Empire, Pizzaro's crazy brother was sent off on a fateful search for more Amerindian gold. The expedition fell apart. Many Amerindian porters died or deserted the Spanish at the headwaters of the large river that was then to be named the Amazon. The survivors built a boat to go downriver to find food. The cleric on board recorded that the current of the river was too strong for their return and the boat was shot up with arrows by women warriors, or "Amazons" on the river's banks. "The boat appeared to be like porcupines," the cleric wrote.

Behind every myth, there is some truth. Ironically, the myth of Amazons/ Matininó the Island of Women and Guanin the Island of Gold proved to have been partially right. Large deposits of gold were actually "found" in the California Mountains. A related combined myth of the gold of "El Dorado" was found in Columbia, comparatively close to the “Amazons.” The Caribbean is a place where myths became real in the minds of Europeans who also searched for the Fountain of Eternal Youth among the youthful Taíno’s northern territory of Bimini (La Florida). Along with Greek Amazons there was the belief that the Caribbean was the location of Atlantis. So, our islands are called the Greater and Lesser Antilles and we border the Atlantic Ocean.

About the sculptures: 
Taíno symbolism is key to these artworks. In doing research for these Amerindian inspired sculptures the artist used the combined influence of both Mesoamerican Art and Taíno aesthetics to illustrate the Guahayona Epic. "If Taíno culture had not been disrupted by Columbus, our continued works would exhibit Mesoamerican influences. In terms of stylistic aesthetics, artistically these ancient Amerindian civilizations would have been the Western Hemisphere's ancient Egypt, that other hemisphere's mother civilization."

*Taíno words:
Iguana (big lizard); canoa (source of canoe); cacique (leader/chief); colibre (hummingbird); barracuda (solitary fish); Anacaona (Golden Flower, -Spanish assassinated Queen of Xaragua, Ayti Bohio);  bohio (roundhouse); macaw (talkative parrot); guanin (14k gold alloy made with caona--pure gold);  yari (gold jewelry);  Lukku-Cairi (small islanders of the Bahamas. Cairi became cayo in Spanish, cay and key in English); Cuba (Coabana. Coa = site, bana = large); Kiskeya/Ayti Bohio—“High Mountain Home”-- (the Dominican Republic and Haiti renamed Hispaniola, both the center of the Taíno civilization and later the fledgling Spanish American Empire); Boriken (Puerto Rico); Yamaye (Jamaica).
There are monuments to the Taíno heroes Hatuey and Anacaona; Hatuey (cacique and hero who fled to Cuba. He was late to Anacaona's diplomatic celebration put on for the new Governor Ovando.  At the celebration, Ovando massacred over one hundred of her caciques in attendance, and hanged her. Hatuey was hunted down by the Spanish and burned at the stake. When asked at the stake if he would convert to Christianity so that he could “go to Heaven,” Hatuey asked the priest, "Are there Cristianos in Heaven?" "Yes", the priest answered. "Then I do not want to go there." So, they burned him.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

State vs Federal Recognition: One Scenario

"There are 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the U.S" at this writing. Additionally, there are also Non-Acknowledged Tribes that are tribes which have no federal designation as sovereign entities but may be state recognized. To be recognized as a sovereign entity, tribes must meet certain criteria as "Indians". As of 1978 there were "33 separate definitions of 'Indian' used in federal legislation."--Wikipedia 

Because of sovereignty and self determination status, along with tax, health, educational and social benefits, one of the most prized possessions in American Indian life is recognition. Next to tribal identity, to belong to a recognized tribe is the most coveted state of American citizenship. To gain state or federal recognition as an indigenous tribe of the United States, among other requirements, applicants must provide evidence of unbroken descent from a historic Amerindian group. 

Although proving continuity with cultural practices can be daunting, both state and federal recognition processes are dissimilar. The Federal recognition process is exceedingly more invasive. Not all tribes can successfully survive the gauntlet of scrutiny. It is not unusual for some folks to borrow traditions or fabricate immaculate revelations as part of "an ancient ancestral practice". At stake may be a mythical golden self sufficient road to gleaming casinos that often rise out of the skyline like a Disney mirage. This goal, however, is even more difficult than current gambling concerns think since an established reservation or land held in trust may be a part of the federal requirements. For some, gambling is an acceptable device. After all, wasn't Jamestown, (and by default, America) started by the Great Virginia gambling Lotteries of 17th century London?

The irony not missed by many Natives is that some governmental  bureaucrats, often the beneficiaries of conquest, must decide weather or not you are what you say that you are genetically. Private citizens may identify with whomever they please. However, traditionally, you can only be "Indian" in the eyes of the law if some state appointed commission approves your tribe's petition. Although states may call upon an appointed body of commissioners as part of the recognition process, the most prized or elite recognition is processed by the Beaureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Successful applicants to the BIA are called "Feddies". Members of these lucky tribes act like the upper class of American Indian society. Some Feddies, having gained the prized BIA blessings, often look down on both state recognized and un-recognized Indians as "wannabes". One of their favorite slights. "Heinz-57" is another term describing mixed bloods.

I had the fortune to be a private citizen and extended observer at some of these very contentious recognition hearings. Observed was a case where one unhinged tribal applicant almost physically attacked a female state appointed commissioner with whom he disagreed.

Here below is a composite dramatized animal story of one process of recognition pursued by a fictional group. Resemblance to any human persons is coincidental.

The Eagle & the Crow

"This still does't make you an Eagle."

The Caucus Room

Once upon a time, Chief Bald Eagle, a full blood, headed a large nest of American Eagles. He called a meeting that included Crow and Chickadee.

Chief Eagle: "Get Crow in here!"
Chickadee: "Yes, Boss."

Crow: "Sent for me  sir?"
Chief Eagle: "What the hell is this? Some civilian says here you are not an Eagle! You a Dodo, Crow? I don't know of any crow-Eagles."
Hands Crow a letter.
Crow reads the letter. Face feathers turn pink.
Crow: "My mother wasn't an Eagle... But I am a Spiritualist Eagle."
Chief Eagle: "Christ! That makes you a crow, Crow. Nothing to be ashamed of. Don't make us look stupid, asshole! Get DNA.
... Take care of this!" 
Chief Eagle hands Crow the letter to investigate himself.

Unable to definitively provide proof of Eagle DNA kinship to raptors within a 500 mile area from his believed homeland, Crow reverted to the Eagle's Adam & Eve scenario. 

Crows had a history of migrating from other continents. Their Eagle pedigree was fictional. However, in Crow's case, Adam was an albino Hawk and Eve was a Blackbird, but this still didn't make him an Eagle. Besides, officials at the Bureau of Eagle Affairs (BEA) determined that Crow's petition to be an eagle was invalid since "most of the members of the applicant's tribe had no more 'Raptor blood' in them than the average bird in the state." Since the time of The Great Invasion, confusion abounded. Birds either flew away, or in the case of the flightless Dodo, walked off never to return. Laying eggs 
in other bird's nests became epidemic and the BEA had to separate the eagle chicks from the chumps. 
The campaign was called "Chicks for Chumps".

The above scenario is not common to all petitioners. Most birds who pass BEA muster have proof of unbroken lineage to recognized historic Eagle nests. Even if as eggs, they may have mistakenly ended up in the wrong nest since crows sometimes lay eggs in other bird's nests. Crow's "proof" of Eagleness was, however, more Biblical than actual. Not what the BEA looks for since wearing sacred eagle feathers doesn't necessarily make a crow an eagle.

Crow: Mumbling to himself. "DNA? &$@FK!!! Oh, copulate me!" 

Beads of sweat begin to undo Crow's processed feathers. The crow took the letter and begins to plot a witch-hunt. A kinky lock fell from a balding yellow forehead, cutting across blue Mongoloid crow's eyes. 

"Got to get the heat off me. How the 'FK' do I redirect? Who can I scapegoat?"
Crow paused then jumped for joy... "Those bastards on the Eagle Commission, Duck and Cohonk, voted for my dim witted cousins to be the first recognized Eagle tribe in our state. I bet the governor will approve recognition. Bovine excrement! They are just a bunch of gigaboos posing as Eagles. I will out those uncircumcised Eagle Commissioners!
"Wait. I am a government employee and I can't go after the public for tribal gain. Ahah! I will get my rabid cousin, Coony to do it. That alki owes me one."

The Witch Hunt

Crow's cousin, Coony Auraccoon organized two carloads of his mutant blackbird relatives and headed for BEA Commissioner Cohonk's tribal center 400 miles away. Cohonk was chosen as the easy target since Commissioner Duck had cited connections to an extinct tribal group. Arriving in a cloud of dust, Coony knocked on the door of a trailer scrawled with a sign, "Eagle Trading Post".

Coony: "Is the chief in?" 
Possum #1: From behind a squeaky screen door. "No. Gone to New Jersey."
Coony: "Is the asss-istant chief in?" He stuttered.
Possum #1: Assistant Chief Muskrat is down by the fishing hole." 
Door slams. 
"What the hell these blackbirds want?" She murmured to herself with a suspicious air.

Coony: Stumbling down the step he mumbled to his posse. "Bastard. Don't recognize a chief when she sees one? Black feathers must have turned her off. See how she looked at us? Must-a thought I was Blacula... fangs an' all! Got to get these coon rings from around my eyes."

At the riverside, the troop of coon morons with out-a-town tags found a Muskrat fishing from the river bank.

Coony: "Hey, fellow. You de Asss-istant chief?"
Muskrat: "Nope. Tribal Councillor. Ass went to the crapper. I'm his cousin. But for the right price I could be him." Flashing a broken incisor tooth grin. "What you fellers want?"
Coony: "Don't get much work around here, I expect? Can I buy a letter off you?" A crooked grin curled across a yellow pecker-like beak.

Muskrat: "You think this is Sesame Street?"
Coony: "No, no. I want a letter from your chief. I collect autographs." He lied.

Muskrat: Smiles at the opportunity. "Meet me over yonder at that there boat house in five." 
Scurrying back to the tribal office, the accomplice enters the chief's room, grabs a few of the chief's signed letterheads and heads for the boat house. 

Coony: "Yeah! I like the chief's signature! I will dictate."

The Letter

The forged letter stating that the BEA Commissioner, Cohonk, was not an Eagle and should be disqualified from the Commission, mysteriously found itself in the hands of Chief Bald Eagle, the staff of the Eagle's nest, the BEA Commission and anyone interested in gossip. The bogus letter was even widely published on the Animalnet.

In spite of missing DNA and flunking the eyeball test, Crow's peeps were accepted as Eagles. Their wings now cast a shadow along the eastern corner of the continent spreading pedigree myths while claiming territory everywhere crows have passed urine. 

MoralsWho said life is fair? Not all that glitters is gold.

In spite of Crow and Coony's under-the-radar approach to recognition, they became honorary Eagles. Not because they cheated, but because their cousin Raven, as questionable as the state's recognition methods were, did provide proof of prehistoric "tri-racial raptor descent". Crow and Coony came into the Eagle fold on Raven's tail feathers.