Tau My Relatives back in April 2008 the Bohio Ata Bey Taino Women's Council invited a number of community members to gather at a special community resource facility of the Smithsonian's NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN to spend some time and perform sacred ceremony with ancient Taino artefacts housed in that Washington D.C. area facility.
I joined our sister Inaru and a number of other Tainos and Tainas, as well as some family members from other tribal nations at the resource center at about 11:00 A.M.on Friday April 11, 2008. This was after spending a couple of very pleasant hours at the home of a generous and hospitable Taina sister called Gina RixTurey, a local artist and designer who lives in the area. We were welcomed into the facility by the museum staff and given a private tour of the Taino section which is (for lack of a better word) VAST!! We were given free access to thousands of precious Taino and pre-Taino relics including some of the most famous and oft-photographed ceramic vases, stone and wooden cemies, hundreds of petaloid axes and axe blades. I was given access and held in my hands some of the most treasured icons of our ancestors, including the ceramic Ata Bey vase that is the original model for the image that graces the INTRO page of our own CANEY SPIRITUAL CIRCLE website www.hometown.aol.com/sobaokokoromo1/intro.html
It is very difficult to express in words the overwhelming emotion that is experienced when the sacred spirits of our ancestors finally make it possible for a person to handle and touch objects that one has for decades seen behind glass or in the pages of books. This Friday certainly amounts to one of the most important milestones of my life and I have the Bohio Ata Bey, as well as the spirits of my ancestors to thank for making it possible.
In keeping with the much more open policy of the National Museum of the American Indian towards members of Indigenous nations, the staff dutifuly took down off the many shelves all of the items that we requested, set each one of them on carts and wheeled them all, approximately 20 of the most valuable pieces, to a special ceremonial chamber that has been built at the center just for this purpose.
In this image of conch-shell masks I set my own ceremonial mask which I crafted myself and decorated with parrot feathers right next to a 500-year-old shell mask that was created by one of my Taino ancestors. It was such a thrill for me to see my mask receiving this blessing from the jupias (notice in this photo I superimposed a smaller picture of two other Taino shell masks that are kept in a different museum).
The chamber is equipped with a circular pit filled with sand in which sage and tabonuco can be burned for ceremony. The staff then left us alone there with the relics of our ancestors and we performed ceremony to the rhythm of mayohuacan and maracas. Casabe and other sacred foods were offered to the cemies that had been brought in for us and a stone oval-shaped hoop of the kind that we in the Caney Spiritual Circle call a "COA HOOP" complete with a three-pointed cemi representation of Yoka Hu tied to it in much the same way that we in our Caney Circle tradition attach our Yokahu cemi to our stone hoop Coa at Winter Solstice.
Our ceremony was led by the beike Maria Manati of FOUR WINDS LODGE who granted me the honor of helping her and accompanying her ceremony with mayohuakan and rattle performances as well as the chants and songs of the Caney Spiritual Circle.
As I said earlier, I am indebted to Gina RixTurey for allowing me to stay at her home for two nights and even going to the extreme length of granting my request for root beer which is my addiction drug of choice, and also to all of the other inspired individuals, such as the Carib Elder Cyril Taylor and others, several of whom joined us not only in prayer and ceremony but also in enlightening conversation and discussion both at the museum and back at Gina's home.
I had to leave Sunday morning before the get-together for the Earth Blessing ceremony. I am sorry to have missed that ceremony on Piacataway Native territory in Maryland, the home of an old, old friend of my own Pittsburgh-based Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center, Chief Billy Tayak, and my own personal friend, his son, Mark Tayak. I understand that this meeting between Tainos and Piscataways was not only a deeply spiritual experience but also extremely enlightening as many hitherto-unknown facts about experiences between the Piscataway chief's family and individuals belonging to the Taino community living in the Virginia-Maryland area came to light in conversation. My friends were kind enough to share some of those experiences with me by phone later. It is always interesting for me to discover things that have transpired in the past concerning events relating to Taino people with whom I have only become acquainted in recent years, that I did not know before. It's all part of our history.
All in all it was one of the most amazing experiencse of my life. I will never forget it and I again give a big BO MATUN to Bohio Ata Bey for making it possible.
Please visit our Sobaokokoromo2 Yahoo Group photo album and find other pictures of this event. I also understand that further photographs are forthcoming associated with posts in the Bohio AtaBey sites and in other internet places.
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague