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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arawak, huh? Where are you from? Yurumein

My family history goes back to the island of Saint Vincent. I haven't been able to trace my specific lineage any further back. My friend, Roberto says the following:

What we know is that there are folks on St. Vincent called "Red Carib, Yellow Carib, and Black Carib (or Garifuna). The "Red and Yellow" consider themselves different from the Garifuna. I have heard this first hand.

To be a "Carib" in the islands is really to be part of the Arawak family - the so-called "island-carib" spoke/speak an Arawakan language related very closely to the Lokono language of Guyana/Venezuela/Suriname. Garifuna is primarily an Arawak language because their African ancestors learned this language from local Arawakan peoples.

So, Yurumein is an Arawakan word for the island of Saint Vincent said to mean "the beauty of the rainbows in the valleys." I don't know if that is the correct translation but Yurumein as a word for the island can be used by "Red Carib, Yellow Carib, and Black Carib (or Garifuna) as well as Arawaks and Taino.

. is a geographic location not an ethnicity. If you were Garifuna your tribal identity card would say "Garifuna, Yurumein." When people ask "What kind of Arawak are you?" the response is "Arawak from Yurumein" (meaning St. Vincent) in the regional indigenous language.

It is like me saying I am a Boriken Taino which means a Taino from Puerto Rico as compared to a Kiskeya Taino meaning one from the Dominican Republic.

Here is more information.

Quick Taino History

Arawak Settlement

Lokono Arawak Language  Lokono Arawak

What’s in a name - Arawak or Taíno?  This is an editorial written by my friend, Robert.

There is widespread confusion concerning the application of the term Arawak on Caribbean Indigenous Peoples. This is not surprising given our disparate state across the islands and into the Diaspora. As descendants of the first Indigenous Peoples in the Western Hemisphere to be labeled Indians, our communities are dealing with over 500 years of colonization and misinformation via educational institutions promoting ideologies that were established by the colonizers.

Even non-indigenous academics have been struggling with the application of the term Arawak in the Caribbean. By the 20th century the term “Island Arawak” become preferable for use by some historians, anthropologist, archeologists, and linguists to highlight significant differences between mainland and island communities.

The application of the term Arawak stems from the fact that Indigenous Peoples identified by the colonizers as Aruac, Aroaquis, Aroacos, Arawaks, etc. traditionally lived in the coastal areas of northern South America. As a result of their location they were among the first Indigenous Peoples to be encountered by Europeans on the continent. These peoples however - at least the some of the communities encountered in British and French Guiana as well as Suriname - did not call themselves Arawak. These peoples called themselves Lukkunu or Lokono.

As for Arawak, there are many contemporary indigenous groups that now identify themselves as Arawak or at least part of the “Arawakan family”. Affiliation extends from the northern to the southern areas of the continent. This can be compared to the use of the term Sioux among the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Peoples or the use of Navajo among the Dineh Peoples in North America. Sioux and Navajo were not the original names of these peoples yet many have incorporated these terms into their contemporary identity.

In the Caribbean, a similar practice occurs among indigenous islanders who identify as “Carib”. Local oral tradition affirms that at least some of these communities identified themselves traditionally as Kalinago. To reveal the complexity of the identity issue, Kalinago and other Island Caribs are more linguistically and culturally related to “Arawakan peoples” than to mainland “true Carib” (Karina Peoples).

Another point to consider is that while the Lokono Arawak and the Kalinago are among our closest cousins for Taíno to identify strictly as Arawak does not take into account our verifiable ancestral relations with other Indigenous Peoples from the region such as our Meso-American relatives.

There are many contemporary Taíno who are comfortable identifying themselves as Arawak or even Carib. In my view, there is nothing wrong with this practice as long as it does not seek to hinder the aspirations of those identifying themselves as Taíno.

In the end it is all a matter of self-determination.

Roberto Múkaro Borrero is a Borikén Taíno historian, artist, and activist who currently serves as President of the United Confederation of Taíno People. He can be contacted at mukaro@uctp.orgEsta dirección de correo electrónico está protegida contra los robots de spam, necesita tener Javascript activado para poder verla or at