27 February 2005

In Memoriam: Hilary Frederick, past Chief of the Dominica Caribs

Hilary Frederick, former Chief of the Dominica Carib Territory, passed away on Wednesday, 03 November, 2004,in the Roseau Hospital from pneumonia and complications arising from tuberculosis.

An obituary was prepared by Arthur Einhorn, an American anthropologist who had sponsored Hilary Frederick during his schooling in the United States. The obituary reads as follows:

"Hilary Belgrave Frederick, 45, Born ca 1961 - d November 3, 2004 in Roseau General Hospital, Dominica, W.I. of TB infection and complications from pneumonia. A former Elected Chief of Dominica's Carib people during three separate terms, and both a Senator and Representative in Dominica's House of Assembly at various times; he also was over the years a delegate to several international conferences on indigenous peoples held in Europe, Asia, Central and South America and the United States.

"Born and raised in the Carib Territory on Dominica's windward east coast, he came to the United States at the request of his parents, as a student in 1973, via the efforts of Arthur Einhorn and Judge George R. Davis (Ret.), of Lowville, Lewis County, New York. Enrolled in Lowville Academy, he lived with the family of Richard Watkins, and later with the Einhorn family, graduating in 1977. During his tenure in the United States he participated in sports, worked on a farm and on vacations went camping and also visited various Iroquois Reserves in New York State. His favorite TV program was 'Colombo', whom he always mimicked as a joke. While here he also envisioned the cultural revitalization of his people.

"On his return home, following graduation from Lowville Academy, he was elected Chief in the first upcoming election. It was a trying time for him to hold office. In 1979 Hurricane David devastated the island, forcing him to travel to the United States to seek emergency aid (Lowville contributed one ton of donated supplies), from the OAS in Washington, DCand other funding agencies. This disaster was followed by a revolution during 1980, which ousted then Prime Minister Patrick R. John, and succeeded by an interim government in which Chief Frederick participated. Later elections brought in Mary Eugenia Charles as PM; the 'Iron Lady' of the West Indies who encouraged President Reagan to invade Grenada.

"A film was produced in 1981 by Philip T. Teuscher of Westport, CT, which featured Chief Frederick's efforts to lead his people and revive their culture. It was the first ethnographic film ever attempted about the life of the Carib Indians in Dominica; a people who met Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. The film was aired on PBS at one time.

"Influenced greatly by Indian affairs in the United States and Canada, Chief Frederick promoted a political philosophy of active confrontation for change in government policies while raising his people's awareness of their cultural heritage; a posturing that spread to other islands with indigenous peoples and which some scholars labeled as Caribism. Since leaving public office Chief Frederick took up traditional Carib farming.

"Hilary's father, the late Andrew Frederick who died in 1999, had been an activist earlier on, communicating with the Indian Defense League of America in Sanborn, New York, headed by the late Tuscarora leader, Clinton Rickard.

"Three children, his mother, and several brothers and sisters survive Chief Frederick. A State Funeral is planned in Dominica."--Arthur Einhorn

Hilary Frederick was honoured with a full state funeral, attended by the Prime Minister, the President, Cabinet Members, and their respective families.

I was privileged to meet and interview then Chief Frederick in September of 1998 on a research trip to Dominica. Along with friends and family, I wish him eternal repose.

Taino and Native American DNA Testing

Over the past few weeks a number of agencies have contacted one or more editors of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink (http://www.centrelink.org/) with news and details concerning DNA testing services for those interested in verifying or documenting their Taino or other Amerindian biological parentage.

CAVEAT: As the author of this post, I have been reticent about forwarding this information, for fear of seeming to endorse these services or of inadvertently encouraging readers to hire the services of these agencies, at considerable cost. I am doing neither, nor am I condemning these agencies. What I would caution against is the notion that biological parentage and cultural heritage are in any way one and the same--the existence of one does not prove the existence of the other, even if the linkages between the two can be highly suggestive in some cases. Otherwise, put simply, cultural meanings and practices do not neatly map onto genetic patterns.
Having said that, two of the agencies which have contacted us were:

1. FamilyTree DNA at http://www.familytreedna.com/
2. GeneTree DNA Testing Center: Native American DNA Verification Testing at

In the case of the first agency, Dra. Ana Oquendo Pabón, MD, FAAFP, wrote to us explaining: "In our DNA Project, we have 81 members and are steadily growing at a pace not seen in other groups at FTDNA (FamilyTree DNA). Of these members, 40+ have tested the mitochondrial HVR1 region and many have also tested the HVR2 region. Several more are pending. As would be expected, fully 61-65% % of our testeees are Haplogroup A (majority), Haplogroup C, with one Haplogroup D further attesting to our Taíno Heritage. The fascinating aspect of this study is not only that they are of indigenous roots but that so many have exact haplotype sequences. In other words, people who have joined our group who did not know one another have the EXACT haplotype sequence and therefore share the same ancient maternal Taíno mother. It is our plan to develop special pages re the mitochondrial results of our Project. No names of members will be used, only an ID number. Quite a few of our members have also had a test called a DNAPrint (an ancestral DNA test). The Native American % ranges from as low as 5% to as high as 45%."

Doctor Pabón is also involved in the "Puerto Rican DNA Geographic Project" which you can read more about at http://proyectosadnhispanos.bravehost.com/ProyectoADNPRen.html. This is part of a broader series of projects titled "The Hispanic DNA Surname and Geographic
Projects", which can be found at http://proyectosadnhispanos.bravehost.com/indexeng.html, and might be of course to those of Cuban and Puerto Rican backgrounds, as well as those from New Mexico. For further information, see http://www.familytreedna.com/hispanicprojects.html.

In the case of the second agency, Terry Carmichael, Vice President for Marketing and Sales at Sorenson Genomics, explained in an e-mail that the company, "is providing DNA genotyping services to African Americans and Native American Indians which allows them to trace their roots back to a region in Africa or assess a Native American tribal affiliation." Sorenson's business units include GeneTree, mentioned above, at http://www.genetree.com/, as well as Relative Genetics at http://www.relativegenetics.com/.

Again, this information is simply being relayed, and no endorsement or recommendation is to be inferred from this posting.

26 February 2005

Bobby Gonzalez: Presentation on Taino History

"Bobby Gonzales challenges students to seek true history. That’s not surprising because Gonzalez dislikes labels. A man whose poems, interests, and opinions have no boundaries, Gonzalez is a free thinker in an era..."[read more at: http://www.und.edu/dept/nativemedia/rednation.html .]

19 February 2005

Disney and its Cannibals

I recommend that readers click below to read a concise, critical examination of the Disney affair in Dominica and now St. Vincent, written by Karl Eklund. Karl is a retired nuclear physicist with a fascination for Carib history and archaeology and he resides part of each year in St. Vincent.


17 February 2005

Statement from Chief Charles Williams of the Dominica Carib Territory re: Disney

Fellow Dominicans, my Kalinago brothers and sisters people of the Carib Territory, every Carib brother and sister around Dominica where ever you may be.

Disney is preparing to film the second part of the movie titled Pirates of the Caribbean part two. At the moment they are casting interested persons for backup role in the film.

Some time late October / early in November I as Carib Chief was approached by officials from the ministry of tourism and the N D C informing me of the proposed film, they did indicate that there was a sensitive part of the film and that Disney would be meeting with me as Carib chief to discuss.

Some two weeks later a team including Paul Toulon of Digital Designs, Disney local representative, the film Director/ producer cast director and others came to talk to me on the issue.

The discussion started and I realized that they wanted permission from me for my Caribs (Kalinago) people to participate in a film that is highly discriminatory against us. I was told that there is this film titled Pirates of the Caribbean part two, supposedly consisting of a
section with a role that has some features of cannibalism.

I realized that the discussion needed more than just me, so I called in councilors Irvince Auguiste Kent Auguiste and Christabel Auguiste, whom I was able to reach at the moment via telephone and Dr Worrel Sanford Margaret Rose Burton, Gerod Langlais other community members.

The discussions went on and we were told that the film is a fiction movie, something to do with ghosts, it has strong element of cannibalism in it, they cannot hide it, they cannot change it, they must film the movie, they will dress us beyond recognition and we will not be mentioned.

Some members of our team present in the discussion felt that Disney is a rich corporation and perhaps this was an opportunity for us to get something from them, some felt that we needed to do some more investigation, and said we should follow up with some resource persons before we can decide.

We also felt that perhaps a disclaimer at the end of the movie would help. Disney's' people then said they would follow up with us for confirmation on our decision.

On the week of the 26th of November Disney was planning to have their cast done at the kareena Cultural village, and I told them we were not ready, because the council was still divided over the issue.

On the 29th of November 2004 the matter was taken up at a special council meeting and the four councilors who were present along with the Carib Chief voted overwhelming not to participate in that film, some time later during our meeting the parliamentary representative joined us and strengthened the councils position by saying "that is nonsense and we should not prostitute ourselves and spoil our image for nonsense such as this, he went further to say that we should contact the prime minister for his take on the matter and that he too would talk to the PM for the same reason.

On Saturday the 11th December a meeting was planned several members of the community were invited including parliamentary representative who did not appear, principal of all the schools, and other prominent members of the community, again to meet with four members of the filming team, the director the producer the cast director and the extra cast director.

They explained that the movie is fiction, there is strong element of cannibalism in it, there is an encounter with a pirate on the beach, there would be savages who wants him to lead their clan and to do so they have to kill him to get his spirit to do so, they spoke of the chase, the capture, hanging of people in a cave upside down saying we are all there to be eaten, roasting of someone like on a barbeque fire, and the scenes of mountains and gouges is needed so to fire their bow and arrows.

They said they cannot hide the fact there is cannibalism in the movie one will not see blood and actual flesh eating but cannibalism is strongly implied, they cannot show us the script because it is not Disney policy to do so, they cannot change the movie, they must film it, they will be filming in the Soufriere, Indian River Portsmouth, Vieille case, Hampstead and Londonderry areas. They won't be filming in the Carib Territory.

They will as far as possible employ people in the catchment areas and was offering just $10.00 E C per hour.

Later on I learnt that they wanted specially the red Amerindian looking people to participate in the movie who would be filmed practically nude. I also understood and if we were not willing to participate they would seek people from the Pitite Soufriere and Pitite Savanne areas, and was also considering getting the Caribs of St.Vincent. [NOTE FROM MAX FORTE: I can confirm, thanks to a correspondent in St. Vincent, that Disney has rented an entire Bed & Breakfast there to accommodate crew who will be shooting there in March.]

After the film officials were dismissed a discussion was held again to ascertain our peoples position, in the end from among over two dozen people present only five voted in favour of the movie the rest were undecided.

It was further planed that a team of five people would meet on the same Saturday night since I as chief had offered to give a final answer the following Monday only one person attended the last meeting, taking into consideration all that was said and done I as chief informed, Disney filming team through Mr. Paul Toulon that we were not interested in participating in the film; copies of our decision was also sent to the ministry of tourism and the N D C.

It must be noted that at a meeting that was held with cabinet, the minister of tourism raised the issue and when I as chief stood up to defend our position for not agreeing to participate councilors Elvis Francis & Irvince Auguiste claimed that was the chiefs decision not theirs.

The matter was again raised at the council's statuary meeting on December 29th I as chief explained that we have to understand that we through our ancestors were the ones whom the pirates encountered in the 15th 16th and 17th century when they came, and we were labeled savage cannibals because we stood and fought for our rights, and this is documented in every history book around the world that speaks of the Caribbean history, we are stigmatized up to this day as cannibals, every time that some conflict arises between blacks and Caribs right here in Dominica it is thrown into our faces "we ate the Arawaks but wont be able to eat us blacks".

Today Disney wants to popularize that stigma once more, this time through film. And to my amazement councilors whom the people trusted as leaders, councilors who served in the office of kalinago chief, councilors who have served for several terms as leaders of the people, councilors who took an oath to serve the kalinago people are betraying their own blood brothers and sisters and rallying them to participate in a film that so unjustly discriminates against us.

I say shame on them, for a few dollars you all are betraying your own flesh and blood, every year during Carib week they stand and pledge solidarity messages on community platforms, this one opportunity proves how weak and in genuine we are to our cause to fail to such a small test such as this.

Perhaps I should add that even after the strong statement of the parliamentary representative during our councils meeting, the day in cabinet he has asked me to tow the line.

I dare say people with no morale background, people who do not believe in principle, people who do not understand their history, people who do not understand what is the meaning of representation should never stand and offer themselves as leaders, for they do not understand the role of leadership.

I therefore call on all Dominicans, all who understand what is it to be suppressed, all native and indigenous people, nationally, regionally and internationally to condemn that act of victimization and stigmatization by all those who promote and support it, money is not always the answer, love and cordial respect is worth much more for peace and tranquility to prevail in the world we live in.

I thank you.

Chief Charles Williams.

16 February 2005

Dominica Caribs Exoticized as Cannibals: More News and Other Links

Following from the previous posting on Disney Corp.'s plans for casting the Caribs of Dominica as cannibals in its sequels to "Pirates of the Caribbean", readers may be interested in seeing how this news story has spread across the Internet, as well as examining what other sites are posting in criticism of the cannibalistic festish exhibited by Disney and others.

(1) Other news reports:

"Carib Indians protest 'Pirates' sequel". Last Updated Mon, 14 Feb 2005 17:50:02 EST. CBC Arts:

Daily Telegraph: "Disney accused of bad taste over Carib cannibals in pirate movie". By Tom Leonard in New York (Filed: 15/02/2005).

'Cannibals' round on Disney film. Associated Press in Dominica. Tuesday February 15, 2005
The Guardian:

"Pirates row over cannibal claims". Yahoo! Movies: http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/050214/242/fcfh5.html

"DOMINICA: Official defends plans for upcoming Disney film expected to portray indigenous group as cannibals": A Package of News Briefs From the Caribbean, The Associated Press Published: Feb 15, 2005 :

Carib Chief argues over 'Pirates' sequel
Filed: 12:39 GMT, Monday 14th February 2005 -- by Daniel Saney:

"Movie Makers Upset Native Indians". CONTACTMUSIC.COM, 2/15/2005:

(2) Some important notes from other websites and blogs:

Nalo Hopkinson's Blog:

"Pirates in Dominica: Caribs as Cannibals"--"As the plot for Pirates of the Caribbean II has Dominica's Caribs practising cannibalism, what's the basis for the idea that they ate human flesh?...":

WIKIPEDIA: Cannibalism (also contains an interesting series of sections on various subtopics related to cannibalism)


14 February 2005

Caribs of Dominica to be Portrayed as Cannibals in Disney Film

According to a recent report from the BBC News (Monday, 14 February, 2005 -- see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4263227.stm), Disney is planning to shoot a sequel to "Pirates of the Caribbean" in Dominica, in which the Caribs of Dominica will be featured as cannibals.

The plan is being vigorously protested by the new Chief of the Carib Territory, Charles Williams, who came to office in July of 2004.

Five centuries after the beginning of European colonialism in the Caribbean, we are still witnessing very crude attempts at branding aboriginals for the sake of profit. Previously, branding someone a "cannibal" would be sufficient justification under various royal decrees for the enslavement of such "fierce" and "savage" people, that is, assuming they were even recognized as human beings. Continuing this tradition of imperialism, it is now hoped by Disney, apparently, that they can continue to reap revenues by trading in this dated imagery.

At a time when the leader of the world's biggest and most arrogant military superpower feels free to proclaim that the U.S. is engaged in a struggle against "barbarism", waged by those in the "civilized world", this should not be too shocking. "Space" for this renewal of imperialist ideology has been opened up from the top down in American society, providing some of the strongest legitimation for these rehashed assaults on the "Non-Western Other".

The same brush that would tar the peoples of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, would eventually tar all other representatives of some sort of primordial barbarism, including indigenous peoples. It is more ironic than ever, at a time when Ward Churchill is being persecuted with the willing complicity of some American Indian leaders, that some of these same leaders were openly supportive of Bush's plans for invading Iraq, and heralded American Indian troops in Iraq as heroes to be celebrated. The glaring parallels between 1492 and the invasion of Iraq were completely lost on them. Instead, we are asked not to protest a war for fear of "hurting the feelings" of the parents of these troops...as these troops took part in the pummeling of a half-starved nation that had just clawed its way through more than a decade of genocide.

That Disney Corp., should dress up this history of unforgivable European cruelty in a manner that its audiences might see as funny and entertaining only adds more evidence to how far backwards we have let public discourse slide.

Pirates of the Caribbean, at the very least, should be protested and boycotted.