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#1215: Taino People in LaGonave :Burnham replies (fwd)
From: thor burnham <email@example.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.
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