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#1215: Taino People in LaGonave :Burnham replies (fwd)

From: thor burnham <thorald_mb@hotmail.com>


    i met several members of the group last april in Port-au-Prince. Indeed, 
it is an interesting series of questions you raise. My impression from the 
conversations i had with one of them specifically (visual impressions aside) 
was that they were not percieved to be "Native Enough" by Native groups in 
Quebec.  However, they believe that they are direct descendants of groups 
that travelled between Canada and Hispaniola before Columbus showed up. They 
believe, if i recall correctly, that the group would spend the winter months 
in Haiti and return north in the winter months.
    The person with whom I spoke had adequate skills in English, but their 
mother tongue, i believe, was french. They were, at the time, actively 
engaged in learning Haitian.
As someone who grew up in close proximity to First Nations people in 
Alberta, Canada....they didn't "fit the description".  Although, that in 
itself is a contentious issue at the best of times.  They did certainly have 
teepees. I'm not sure they claim Taino descent specifically, but it was my 
impression that they felt connected to the Taino through their own "oral?" 
     However, metissage, culture, and identity are complicated by time and 
place. All of us invent our identities.  The degree to which we do so will 
obviously vary.  For people of the Diaspora, who is to say when someone has 
passed the threshold from being Haitian to being Haitian-Canadian to being 
just Canadian. Or, Is that possible with first generation immigrants? And 
what of their children?
     Given the choice, is the degree to which one pledges allegiance to a 
time, place, colour, language or nationality entirely personal? Regardless 
of the answers to those questions, meeting them and conversing with them 
challenged some of my own notions of invented tradition and invented 
identities. It was a reminder to me that it is a practice more common to 
each of us than we might care to admit.

Thor Burnham

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