YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!! I really enjoyed your replied.
I notice that I need to proff read my post before I hit the ad reply. But with the cacike thing I agree, with you. I just want these folks to tell me why they are calling themselves that. Thats the one thing that is really turning me off from the movement. I actually seen a dominican call himself that. He himself laughed when he said it. I think he probably thought to himself I can belive I am saying this shit.
I think other native or non native will think we are a joke if they see the youtube clips that I have seen.
But anyways brother, I tip my hat do you great reponce.
Well I'm sure no one would jump into a conversation where they would be expected to be raked over coals. Also I don't see this conversation as a way to point fingers but to open dialog and do some really hard introspection at ourselves. If we really want our nations to grow, and if we really want to do justice to our heritage then it's important to think hard about things like these.
Tau My Relatives
I think its time for a little coal-raking, and I think it might as wel start with me as with anyone else. I am a beike, a spiritual leader, in the resurgence movement. I know several kasikes and respect them. I also remember the days of the birth of our movement in the late 1980's. I remember the idealism and the optimism of those days and i remember the dissppointments, the rifts and the negativity that has poisoned some aspects of that movement.
There is nothing wrong with the progress of this movement. Nothing is happening in the resurgence that has not happened in any other powerful movement of change in the history of humankind. The egos, the anger, the rifts, the antagonism, the dissappointments, all of these things are the natural growing pains of a great movement and the biggest disservice that we can do to that movement or the people that this movement represents is to lose heart, turn our backs on those who form part of it and walk away.
Back in 1989 after guiding the Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for almost ten years one of the leaders of the newly born resurgence movement in the greater New York-New Jersey area communicated with me in an attempt to create links with our well-established circle. I enthusiastically proceeded with communications with this man, whom I treated with great respect. Later on in our relationship a female member of our circle communicated with him by phone and I called her to find out how the conversation went. I was very dissappointed with her response. It turned out that the man had been very rude to her. He had been agressive and arrogant. He belittled her, and left her very discouraged. This same man eventually ended up leading one of the prominent groups of our resurgence as a kasike, and he is still in that position. Later on in the years since then, I have had many experiences very similar to this one, including people who come to visit me here at my teaching lodge in Pittsburgh seeking to be taught, as many others have, but then go out and use the wisdom that I have shared with them to attack or attempt to short-circuit the work that I do. These are all expriences that will appear familiar to many of you.
I was taught very early in my apprenticeship that this is all part of the evolutionary process. It is inevitable and natural. I was taught to be resiliant, not to give up on my fellow humans.
The fact is that both myself and my friend (the woman I spoke about earlier) understood all of this and we accepted it as part of a larger greater period of growth and development. We hold no grudges against those people, including that kasike, and in fact I maintain cordial relations with him to this day and recognize what he has accomplished in behalf of our resurgence.
None of us is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I believe that someone has to be perfect to merit the honor of being recognized as a leader in our movement. The fact is that i believe we have very good and worthy leaders (no matter what i or anyone else may think about their personality). In spite of our shortcomings we have accomplished a geat deal in these past almost 20 years, and a lot of this is due to determined men and women whose manners we may not all like, whose expressions of ego we may have issues with but who undeniably have been there for their people during this whole time. Are they self-proclaimed, perhaps, but in my opinion they have backed their talk with their walk, and as was pointed out earlier in this discussion, if there are people who are willing to group around these men and women, follow their lead and accomplsh things under their guidance. who has the right to disrespect that phenomenon. We as Tainos should rejoice in the fact that this is all happening, not ridicule it.
I hope we can all learn to honor the aspirations of all of our fellow brothers and sisters. I hope that we can have enough faith in the Great Spirit that we can pause and pray for the health and welfare of our leaders, our kasikes and also ask that the Great Spirit make them better leaders instead of simply criticize them for their mistakes. I hope that we can find it in our hearts to learn tolerance for them, no matter how much their attitude may rub us the wrong way, and learn to forget the bad experiences of the past, in recognition of their merit.
As for the beikes, bohitis, bojitis, bohikes etc etc etc. The spiritual persuation of a human being is a very personal choice. There is no spiritual leader who emerges spontaneously. They all arise to their position because they make a choice to accept a call that comes to their hearts. If you do not care to follow the spiritual path of someone who calls himself or herself a spiritual leader you simply dont follow that path. but what gives anyone the right to belittle the decision of a man or a woman to take on this responsibility if you are not one the member of his or her spiritual community. I was taught very early by my elders to respect the spirituality of others and to respect the spiritual leaders of others also. I suggest that the same attitude be adopted by those who approache the spiritual leaders of our Taino resurgence.
That is my contribution, now MAY THE COAL-RAKING BEGIN! LOL
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague
Hahaha, no coal raking, but seriously culturally do you think these egos would be tolerated like this. What message are we sending to our children as the way to act as Taino, Kalinago, Arawak etc. ?
As a young person, I have to say that the models I am receiving from older people haven't necessarily been good, and that is disappointing to me. If we keep our mouths shut then these people can never improve themselves. We have to learn how to do it in a good way though. No young person should be insulted or discouraged by someone who has the power to teach them. I speak out of personal frustration.
I think the problem I have with these titles is when these people perpetuate romanticized notions, instead of really really learning the roles. There is so much to be learned out there about our cultures that is hidden and is waiting to be found, but if people think they have all the answers then they will never go searching for the truth.
Spiritual leaders are not hallowed, while you wouldn't disrespect them (unless they did something that warranted it), they never had total control. Whatever respect they got they earned. This is what is being lost, the humility. This is an important part of our cultures. The service comes first, the title comes later.
I hope my words coming out in a good way. I am speaking from passion and a desire to be able to say to my children and grandchildren that I did all I could so that they could have their culture back.
Kacian, It is a real pleasure to hear from someone here in this network who was at that wonderful ceremony with Grandmother Naniki, Domingo Turey and Edgar Konuk here in Pittsburgh so many years ago. My memories of that get-together are very positive and they illustrate the optimism of that time that I mentioned in my last post. I am also happy to be reminded of our meeting in Jayuya this past summer. I believe that this annual summer Jayuya gathering can blossom into something really meaningful and real as opposed to the over-commercialized spectacle that takes place there in November. Although I must admit that I can't help feeling some sense of community even at that November event, probably because I try to see something positive in anything that my people do.
I totally hear you both Kacian and Keisha as it concerns the arrogance and negativity that seems to emanate from some of our leaders. Ray Caracoli, I hope you can testify that I have made a number of efforts to bring this anymosity to an end. It is true that my efforts at conciliation betwen the various groups that are constantly sniping at each other have not been very successful but I think that I ask a valid question when I say: what purpose does it serve to disperse into smaller and smaller groups just because the leaders of the established groups are not to our liking? Is it not more useful to attend the council meetings, to speak out respectfully and be heard, to state issues in community and insist that these issues be addressed? Again, the key here is to do these things with respect. To set an example and to demand that the wars and anymosity be put to an end so that we can trully look foward to an united Taino movement.
I really feel that there can still be hope for our movement if we think in terms of cohesion as opposed to dispersion. To speak of taking the issues away from the leaders that we have been following and communities that we belong to and beginning new movements and new groups, is in my opinion, counterproductive. That seems to be the only thing that has been happening since the beginning; a group is formed and, as will innevitably happen in any community, disgreements arise and anymosities are sparked. Several members of the group move away from the "self-appointed" leader or trublesome council members and attempt to form a "real" group which is going to address "real" issues. Then that group also breaks up into two smaller groups because there is dissagreement among those who were going to deal with the "real" issues. And now we have three groups and on and on.
My appeal is for this trend to stop. My appeal is for the naborias to learn to manage their leaders, not abandon them. We have the right as the constituency of these communities to demand accountability from the communities leaders, but these demands must be made respectfully. I humbly suggest the following approach. i know for a fact that many of these leaders have tended to be very suspicious of me whenever I approach them. I see it in their eyes. It is suspicion and sometimes actual anymosity. It is not my role as member of the community to take this attitude personally. It is my role to make sure that my leader understand that I am not a threat but that I am willing to roll up my sleeves and do my part under his or her leadership. I have approached all of the kasikes with that attitude. It is very surprising how much less anymosity and antagonism one experiences when one uses this approach. There is nothing wrong in modelling humility to someone who you wish were more humble.
On the subject of the cultural re-enactments. Can we not see these theatrical representations as just a kind of artistic expression of our people? Is there not room in our resurgence for one person's sincere representation of how our ancestors did things in the past? Is this display of our culture not just as legitimate an expression of our revival as a meeting designed to deal with what is happening in Jacanas? Personally I find extreme satisfaction when I watch troupes of pre-adolecents who don their traditional regalias and perform what is genuinely felt by them to be a representation of our ancient culture. Do we really want to judge these teen-agers and call them names?
There is a very real possibilty that I may be wrong about all this, and I am willing to admit that, but at this point in time my opinion is that we need to stick with what we have. Try to improve it and try for more unity.
I thank all of you for the respectful way in which opposing opinions have been expressed here. This is a good sign in our community and i hope it continues.
Tau Brother Samuel
My experience is that the term "guama" which I feel is the word that you are referring to is a word that can more acurately be translated "lord" rather than "chief". You are right that it was used to refer to the chiefs but in the same way that it was also used to refer to Yoka Hu himself, the supreme spirit of Life. I think that technically speaking we can agree that Yoka Hu should not be perceived as a chief in the same sense as Hautey or Guarionex. Instead when the ancient Tainos called this spirit "Yokahu-guama" it really meant Lord Yoka Hu. I believe that the word kasike was in fact the real word for chief and was used all over the Caribbean by our ancestors in that context.
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague
Wow! What a lot of activity since my last visit! Dialogue in the spirit of reciprocity is a wonderful thing! Thank you all for participating- one learns a lot when we are open to seeing all sides of an issue. This is really exciting!
Miguel has said so much of what I would have said that I almost didn't continue in this conversation. What more can one add to the call to unity? What more could be added to the invitation to trust that the Creator has it all in hand and that things are going as they should?
However, I am human and I, too, have an ego, and I ALWAYS have something to add :) LOL!!! Please, do not take any of these comments or opinions as a personal attack- they are not.
I have not been in this movement for years and years, however I didn't just fall off the plantain tree last night either. Growing up I knew I was more than what the textbooks claimed I was, more than the labels given to me by my family and by the society I lived in. I was raised with many attitudes and ways of the ancestors that had never been given a name. Today they have a name- Taino. And as a Taino sister, I would like to share what I have observed.
I think it takes a set a brass ones to get up in front of a group of people who have been brainwashed into nonexistence; who jeer at you and make you feel less than, while they carry their heritage on their faces. To be a little kid, and a teenager is really just a kid dressed in adult clothing, and face that kind of humiliation because of a belief in oneself... That deserves support from the people in "the movement", not more put downs, social punishments and criticism. Those people are being of service in their own way. Why is the dog and pony show only ok for "parades, colleges and each other" and not for non-natives and tourists? A show is a show is a show; what makes one show better than the other? Unless you are doing it in your basement, you are still doing it to be seen, to show off. Besides, don't we need to re-educate all of society to our presence? Aren't some of the lost ones out in the streets, coming home as tourists, mixed and believing they are non-natives? Do you really think we are all scholars? I may not be in a rush to get dressed up and dance to the mayohuacan but I must say, I admire those who get out there and DO something, take action, have the gumption to risk embarrassment and offer SOMETHING as opposed to verbally tearing them apart. Criticism is too easy a sport. No one can satisfy everyone all the time and no one should be expected to.
Why devalue each other?
It was mentioned that the Taino were extinct and are being revived. We know that we have not had the opportunity to evolve in any of the social areas including music, language, dress and arts. On the contrary a lot has been lost! At this point in time, anything thrown together by a person who calls themselves Taino can be considered an appropriate representation of regalia. We don't have the continuity other people have. In hearing about folks using regalia, I could work from ego and question: "What regalia was being used as Taino in these events mentioned? Unless we are to reenact the naguas used in antiquity, or walk around in the nude, which I know has not happened in any parade, it's not authentic. What makes you the authority on Taino music or art? Why do you say it has to be your way and not the way someone else would do it? Where do you get off on saying the regalia would have become what you are wearing and not something else? How do you know the Taino wouldn't do/use/wear things that were more convenient/comfortable/colorful etc? What makes you right and others wrong?"
In the end, who am I to question you and the choices you make for yourself?
Personally, I don't condemn it. It's what works for you! It's all part of the learning process; how are we to further develop our spirituality, our social interactions, our language, our art or our music without starting from the basics of where we believ
...where we believe we were 500 years ago? We can't grow out of a vacuum, and an emptiness is what we have!
A big part of the issue I hear is that of having a title... people taking offense to another label. We all know that any group that has goals, visions for the future and a mission will need leadership. Cacike doesn't mean smarter, or better- that's an ego reaction- It only means leader. And anyone can appoint themselves leader if they have a following. And to judge a person without being from their social group or questioning how they got to this identification is only a projection of our own insecurities! It's already been stated that the leadership, the "Cacikazgo", could not be an inherited position. By the same token, we have already proven not to be too attached to tradition by just living in the modern world: we are communicating via internet, driving to work, listening to cds, in the ac, wearing clothes made of plastics, eating BK and sipping Cokes. A leader picks up the baton and runs with it- title or no title. If people follow, that's are a leader, regardless of the label they choose to use.
Keisha said something really important, we need to think about these things long and hard; a question for introspection I would ask myself is; what part of me is reacting to this person's title? Listen to what comes after the initial reaction: "Another self appointed "cheif"! Who died and made You Cacike? With what right do you claim this title? You are descendant of Anacaona, are you? Who are you to be calling yourself by a title at all? You may be Cacike but you are not MY cacike..." and on and on... This is pure ego in it's defensiveness.
Another point for introspection could be this observation: some of the same folks balking at the use of a title state respectfully that they have spoken to "elders" and "Pipe Carriers" whom they admire. I wonder if the title may be given more value because it comes from another nation as opposed to coming from Taino people? So where is the valuing of what the Taino people choose?
Now Keisha is also correct that culturally, social punishment kept people in check; nobody likes to be made fun of. By the same token, she is speaking of a society that was already established and had continuity. We are not like that. People are just starting to get on their feet now, these are our baby steps. You can give an adult a shove as a reprimand, but would you do the same to a babe?
I find it sad that, in this day and age, who and what you define yourself to be is not being allowed. It's almost like history repeating. What I am hearing are demands that people be the way others think is the right way for them to be; not to follow what their spirit needs, but what others expect them to portray as a Taino person- and who gets to choose what a Taino is or should be?
As for people filling their hearts with "what the spirits moves them" to, I thought it would be understood I meant the Native Spirit, as that is the topic. None of us needs to be reminded of how addictions to drugs and alcohol, codependency, control, food, work, relationships and abuse of all kinds are rampant in our respective societies as well as across the reservations. This is a sickness of the spirit, the hole in the hearts of our people. Anything that feels good or numbs us is used to cover or escaped from this pain. Is it not better to have our kids dancing to the mayohuacan, in their feathers and naguas, as opposed to having them drinking, drugging or having unsafe sex just to try to heal the hurt?
There is more than one way to Rome, to insist that only one way is the RIGHT way and that it just happens to be your way is as bad as what the colonizers did to us 500 years ago! The sense of entitlement and demands for explanations are rude no matter which side of the fence it's coming from, and rudeness should not, cannot, be tolerated.
As for the claim that this revival began in the 80's... well, I am not sure how I feel about that. Please know that I speak from ignorance here...a possible misunderstanding. I can grant that this movement may have started as a "revival", maybe as an organized social group with leadership and by-laws, yes; and if that is what was meant, I am clear. But I have spoken with different groups who claim to have been the initial force and the first group to come back. If this is what is meant, I take issue with it because there are plenty out people out there who have been active as a clan, as a family unit, as a tribe, since before that time. The old folk that we go to learn from know no other way of life! So I cannot see where one particular group can claim to have re-invented the wheel... If this is the case, that again reflects ego.
I invited you to practice patience and the patience I speak of is that of allowing. As a gardener, one cannot criticize the plant for growing crooked, one cannot insult it into growing a certain way or demean it into becoming the plant we want it to be, the plant we know it could be if it only listened and followed instructions! As a gardener of people, the same applies. The best one can do is nurture and guide, at times even prune; but the plant, like a person, will still grow branches and knots where we may not appreciate them, and it will finally bear the fruit that it CAN produce, not necessarily the fruit we WANT it to produce. We can nurture an apple tree but can we expect it to bear oranges?
When I was a kid, I loved dogs and spent a lot time around them. I noticed that when the dogs became frustrated with something on the other side of the fence, they would turn and attack the dogs immediately next to them. Some of these fights would grow vicious! Sharks in a feeding frenzy behave similarly. It seems we are doing the same thing and maybe we should examine our motives.
Before closing, I would like to correct the assumption that no leaders nor titled people have come forth to join this conversation until Miguel did.
I know I write a lot and I would hope folks read what I write... but it may have been skipped due to sheer volume... LOL!!
In my second post I wrote "I am a Spiritual Guide/Bohike/Bujiti/Shaman/Medicine Woman/Place-your-preferred-label-here". This was not a joke. I am also a Pipe Carrier. I am of service to the people and it's a position I take it quite seriously. I have my feathers, I do ceremony and I endeavor to grow and learn- I believe in leading by example. I do not feel I am playing Indian nor playing to others stereotypes; I decide who I am. To tell you the truth, more often than not, folks are surprised to discover these facts about me.
You will notice, as well, that I was the first person to respond to this thread. I am not ashamed of who nor what I am, and as easy as it is to do on-line, I will not hide. By the same token, I don't think I need to tattoo how I am of service onto my forehead and proclaim it to the world.
With the incredible amount of work to do within this movement- why waste our time attacking each other? Attacks and shaming tactics are only divisive and creates discord; not good for the people on either the giving or receiving side, nor for the movement as a whole. Can we not keep the casualties of friendly fire to a minimum?
How about looking forward together and seeing what needs to be accomplished, figure out a way to join forces and get these things done? And while we do that, how about working on ourselves as well?
Last year a friend and I went to an African festival in New York. Gathered were people from all over the African continent, and of course the Diaspora. They had many presentations lined up, but before they started the M.C. announced that there was going to be a blessing by an African priest.
A tall elderly black man walked on to the stage, dressed in African garb, witha horsetail whip in one hand and a bottle of liquid in the other. I noticed he had an American accent but at the time I wasn't thinking about it. As he began his prayer in some language there were murmurs in the crowd,the more he went on with his ritual the angrier the Africans in the crowd got. At one point he used the alcohol to light a small fire on the stage and by this time the Africans in the crowd were really angry and were calling for him to leave. He began to tell them that they were being disrespectful and that they should respect their elders, that it was African tradition to do so. The crowd got even angrier. He began to ask the crowd "Don't you know your traditions?" and after that they cut off his mic.
In his mind he was perfectly right. He was giving a blessing, but to the people he was abusing their culture. I thought to myself wow that guy has offended probably 20+ African ethnic groups in one fell swoop.
When it comes to spirituality in the indigenous caribbean, there are a lot of people who are using "medicine man/woman, bohike, shaman etc'' as a title. But in reality these are only titles as much as "doctor" is a title, respected yes, but respect is earned by the people who continue to use their services time and time again. Besides the obvious ones that I see misappropriating North American native practices (such as those of the poor Lakota who always get misappropriated) there are also those who use this "title" to command a false authority.
These stem from romanticized notions that tainoray was talking about in the first post. Now I have not seen anyone being outright rude and I don't think that generally is the case. I think people have been quiet and polite for a long time about this. For me it puts me in an odd position because I'm Kalinago, yet Kalinago and Taino share a lot of the same spirituality owing to our Taino Arawak roots. So it annoys me when I see elements of my culture misused (like petroglyphs). But I never say anything, partly because I don't think it would do much good.
I also don't like when I see ceremonies widely being performed in public as if to say to the world "Hey we are Indian! We do ceremonies! See our feathers? We're legit!" It's interesting that Juan mentioned that his grandmother was a healer, yet we don't see her parading around with a title. My dad has such a wealth of traditional herbal knowledge, yet he's not going around with a title. Same for the many indigenous healers and medicine people in the Caribbean today. They'll never be famous but they do awesome work regardless.
I think stereotypes are damaging, even if from the outset they can seem innocuous, because they give our children false notions of who they are. My best friend, who is Navajo, once told me that her young niece was supposed to do a school project about their culture. When my friend suggested that she ask her grandmother she said "Grandma's not Indian! She doesn't have feathers!" And this child lives on the rez! Subtly she picked up subconscious messages from the dominant culture of what an Indian should be.
I don't think Taino are starting from scratch with their culture. It's there but it seems like some people take the time to learn and really search for it, while others get just a little bit of information and make a show of it. I know it's out there, it's not lost, we need to be going to our grandparents and our great grandparents and asking. They might not say the word "Taino" but they have good information. For example in the Language group David recounted a story of his mother using the word "guare" for "twins".