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From TAINO-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU Fri Jul 6 06:51:42 2001
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2001 00:33:31 -0500
Sender: Taino-L Taino interest forum <TAINO-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU>
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Subject: TAINO-L Digest - 4 Jul 2001 to 5 Jul 2001 (#2001-115)

Regarding our ancestral bones in Florida

A dialog from the Taino-L, July 2001

From the Miami Herald,
By Sara Olkin and Martin Merzer, Wednesday, 4 July 2002

An extensive, ancient cemetery almost certainly created by the native Americans who occupied the Miami Circle has been unearthed in downtown Miami's Brickell Park, archaeologists revealed Tuesday.

Discovery of the human remains immediately ended plans for a high-rise on the site, and the revelation could permanently preserve one of the last slivers of greenery along Brickell Avenue.

Test holes in the 2.4-acre park exposed the bones of at least 12 people, said Bob Carr, a leading archaeologist who directed the project and also helped discover the Miami Circle. The remains are up to 2,500 years old and span 1,000 years—from about 500 B.C. to the year 500, he said.

It's an astonishing development, Carr said. This appears to be the selected mortuary for the Tequesta town on the south side of the Miami River. These were the people who were using the Miami Circle.

The discovery of so many remains through such a limited exploration -- scientists dug only 41 small holes—suggests that 50 to 100 bodies are buried in the park, Carr said.

His 36-page report, given to The Herald on Tuesday, lists the findings in the terse, objective language of science. One of many examples:

170N/294E (FS56). Remains of at least four individuals present. The right and left mandibular fragments with nine teeth and possibly two others (numbers 1 through 4) belong to one individual . . ..

Confronted by the magnitude of Carr's findings, Gotham Partners of New York, a development firm that conditionally agreed just last month to buy the site for $18 million, bowed out.

I take this personally as a loss, said Stuart C. Neil Fisher, a West Palm Beach consultant for Gotham Partners. I knew it was a tough deal. I guess it was just tougher than I originally anticipated.

Opponents of the development plan cheered the decision.

I'm very excited about it, said Tory Jacobs, president of the Brickell Homeowners Association. We have so little park land in the city. Now, it would take a very insensitive developer to try and develop it now.

Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, frequently a pro-development force, applauded Gotham for pulling out.

I think the historic value of the property is too great to turn it into another condominium site, Carollo said. I want the city to invest dollars in that park, so people really use it.

Patricia Wickman, historic preservation officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said she hoped the site would be respected.

There is not an inch of space on this state that the ancestors of the Seminoles have not walked on, hunted on or died on, she said.

There are thousands and thousands of Indians that are bundled up like so many sticks of firewood, sitting on museum shelves. These remains should be left alone. In peace.

Fisher, the developer's consultant, said factors beyond the archaeological study also contributed to the deal's demise.

Under the complicated arrangement, Gotham Partners would have bought the land from a trust established by the city and heirs of the pioneering Brickell family. Real estate agent Edie Laquer, who handled the deal, said she is helping the developer find another site.

The Carr report, along with all our other professional studies, were taken into consideration in building a world-class project, Fisher said. The property is developable for the right type of project.

Not everyone agreed with that assessment.

State law safeguards unmarked human burials, and such discoveries severely complicate plans to develop a site.

Builders must design projects to avoid buried human remains or must work carefully under state control to move the remains. Even then, builders risk offending native Americans or other people who believe the remains are sacred and must not be disturbed.

One can certainly say that the city of Miami has to be prepared for the public perception and the cost and outcry and outrage that could come from disturbing a burial site, said Chris Eck, director of Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Division.

State experts concurred, saying that future development was not completely out of the question but it seemed highly unlikely.

This site would certainly present a challenge. It's a very small piece of property and it's a significant number of burials, said Ryan Wheeler, an archaeological supervisor for the state Division of Historical Resources who helped assess the Miami Circle.

Located just one block north, the Miami Circle was discovered in late 1998. It consists of 26 basins and other holes cut into a 38-foot-diameter circle. Most archaeologists believe it is about 2,000 years old and was used as a ceremonial site by the now-extinct Tequesta tribe.

During that site's excavation, many experts were surprised by the relative absence of human remains.

Now, Carr said, that mystery is solved.

At various periods of the ancient past, native Americans lived in or near the Miami Circle but buried their dead about 300 yards away in the area now known as Brickell Park, he said.

Nestled between the Sheraton Biscayne Bay Hotel and the First Presbyterian Church, the vest-pocket park runs 700 feet from Brickell Avenue to Biscayne Bay and varies in width from 140 feet to 170 feet.

Protected since 1924 by an agreement between the Brickell family and the city, the park long survived—even as concrete rose around it—as a leafy refuge of mahogany, gumbo limbo and ficus trees.

With the exception of a Brickell family crypt, now empty and abandoned, virtually nothing ever was built on the property.

It was an undisturbed piece of land, Carr said. We got a glimpse of a portion of South Florida that had never been touched.

But after many years of legal battles, Brickell heirs and the city agreed last year to sell the land to developers through a third party and split the proceeds, with at least $2 million of the profit dedicated to help clean up the Miami Circle and open it to the public.

Gotham Partners signed its deal in June with the third party trustee, City National Bank of Florida. The trustee, through an intermediary, hired Carr and his associates to conduct the archaeological assessment of the site required by state and local law.

Carr and his team surveyed the site for several weeks. They established a grid and, using shovels, trowels, spoons and other tools, carefully dug the 41 test holes, generally at 50-foot intervals.

Each hole ranged from one to four feet deep. Each side measured 18 inches. Soil was removed and filtered as the scientists searched for human remains and other artifacts.

Human bones were photographed in place and not removed, according to the report. Teeth and other human material were returned to their original sites.

Seventeen of the 41 holes contained bones or other human remains, Carr said. This, he believes, is evidence of secondary graves, depositories of bones removed from a tribal counsel house or other initial resting place.

The deposits have not been subjected to radiocarbon dating, but based on the surrounding artifacts and the bones' fragility, Carr believes that some remains are 2,500 years old.

Many of the other holes contained shards of pottery, broken sea shells, animal bones, evidence of food preparation and other cultural material, he said.

This is a very significant site, one of the few where human remains are extensively preserved, Carr said. Scientifically, it's important. As a sacred site, it is particularly important.

Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001 10:45:19 -0700
From: <daleyl@PEAK.ORG>
Subject: Re: Regarding Our The Tekesta Taino Ancestral Bones in Florida

Tau Cacique Guanikeyu:

It seems from my some what confused point of view that DNA analyses are required here.

1. My training as a scientist suggest that this should be done.

2. Politically this might well be advantageous since the sequencing of DNA may well yield links to present Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban populations in Florida that may well be stronger than those of the Seminoles. This could generate strong support from certain members of congress.

3. Historically it is known that first generation Taino-Spanish were in Florida with Ponce de Leon way before the Seminoles arrived.

Thus the question is should there be any objections to DNA analysis from a Taino point of view? One could postulate that DNA analysis might be looked at as merely an extension of the customary preservation of ancestral bones in Taino culture.


Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001 11:48:56 -0400
From: Principal Chief Pedro Guanikeyu Torres <jttn@TAINO-TRIBE.ORG>
Subject: Re: Regarding Our The Tekesta Taino Ancestral Bones in Florida

Tau Arocoel Guamoel,

Hello Grandfather Guamoel,

Elder Guamoel, I agree with you 100%. The original people of Florida are of Caribbean and South American origin and the Miami Circle and the bones of our ancestors belongs to the Tekesta Taino people of Bimini (Florida).

I am bothered to read about the statements made via Ms. Patricia Wickman of the Seminole tribe of Florida, who seem to be publicly stating and laying claim to original indigenous people and the whole state of Florida. They directly are saying that the Tequesta or Tekesta Taino Indian people of Florida are their ancestors. Strangely historical documents show that they had only arrived in our Taino Florida homelands from Georgia and the other northern states back in the late 1700s. Historically, we have been in Florida for well over 2 or 3 thousand years as the 15 original tribes of Florida spoke a dialect of South American Arawakan languages.

The Taino people are Pre-Seminole or in other words we have an older existence in Florida before the coming of the Seminoles or any other tribal nation.

It was the Jatibonicu Taino people and the Tekesta Taino Tribal Band of Bimini who had lead the fight to protect, preserve and save the Miami Circle at a cost of 26.7 Million dollars.

Sadly we had requested the help of the Seminoles to save the Miami Circle and the Seminoles sat back and did nothing. Now we have another unearthed Taino sacred site and a new fight on our hands to protect and save the bones of our past Taino ancestors in our Bimini (Florida) homeland.

Patricia Wickman, historic preservation officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said she hoped the site would be respected.

There is not an inch of space on this state that the ancestors of the Seminoles have not walked on, hunted on or died on, she said.

From: Taino-L Taino interest forum
[mailto:TAINO-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU]On Behalf Of Francisco Gonzalez
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 7:17 AM
Subject: Tekesta-Seminole relationship

I just want to add my two cents to the discussion regarding the Tekesta and the Seminole, just because I think it is important that we keep in mind that, like everything else in life, things are more complicated than what they may seem at first glance. The issue of potential Seminole claims to the Tekesta remains is one of these. The Seminole, of course, are a relatively new tribe, formed in the early 18th century out of the remains of displaced villages, mostly Cree and Cherokee, fleeing conflict with the English settlers in what are now the states of Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. These refugees eventually found asylum in Spanish-held Florida. By this time, the Native population of Florida had been decimated by two centuries of Spanish rule, which included forced relocations to missions, massive epidemics of European diseases, enslavement of Indians that resisted the ocuppation (many ended up in Cuba working in building Havana's fortifications), etc. HOWEVER, an unknown number of Timucua, Tekesta, Guale and others sought refugee into the Everglades and the more remote parts of Florida. Spanish settlements where concentrated in the north, in a band that streched roughly from Pensacola to St. Agustin; there where only scattered cattle ranches across most of the rest of the Peninsula, so cimarron (wild) Indians had plenty of room to life free.

When the Seminole came to Florida, they intermixed with these local cimarrones, and adopted many of the Native Floridian ways, traditions, and genes.

By the way, in the same fashion in which they intermingled with the Native Floridians, the Seminole also adopted, and intermarried with, runaway African slaves.

All that I am saying is that the Seminole do in fact have a claim to the Tekesta remains, by virtue of the Tekesta having been one of the communities that created the modern Seminole people. Those of us with mixed genetic and cultural heritage, but that also identify with our Taino heritage, cannot deny the same right of identifying with, and claiming ownership of, the legacy of their ancestors to the Seminole.

Con todo respeto,
Francisco J Gonzalez

From: Francisco Gonzalez <francisco.gonzalez@SMRLS.ORG>
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 10:16 AM
Subject: Tekesta-Seminole relationship

Tau Francisco,

On the issue of the Seminoles having any Tekesta Taino blood from Florida. I would have to say that up to this date the Seminoles have not provided any kind of evidence or documentation to us or to anyone else as to collaborate their claims.

In the past three years we have been in contact with some of the leading genealogists in Florida and they have conclude that the Seminoles have no real documentation to support their genealogical claims. The Seminoles resided in the northern part of Florida. The Tekesta are from Southern Florida and had thus mixed with the Spanish colonists long before the Semnioles had ever arrived in Southern Florida and mixed with the runaway African slaves in the everglades.

What you fail to realize that the Seminoles started making claims when they found out that the Taino had been organizing under the Tekesta Taino Tribal Band of Bimini Florida. It seems that they feel that we are a major threat to state gaming halls and Casinos in Florida. For this and no other reason they have been undermining our Taino reclamation of our Florida homeland.

I had spoken to Dr. Patricia Wickman in the past and I asked her for some kind of proof. She always talked around in circles and tried to pull the wool over my eyes like If I was a person who was born yesterday. The time factor do not put the Seminoles in the picture at the time of the encounter with the Tekesta Tainos, who had migrated back to Cuba. Some of them had later returned to Florida and mixed with the Spanish Europeans and became known as Spanish Indians of the South Florida Miami and West Palm Beach area.

I feel that you mean well but you are looking at this from the viewpoint of an outsider and are unaware of the historical context of the arrival of these modern day Muskogee people in to Florida. The old historical Spanish documents speak for themselves. These documents tell another story that the Seminoles do not want anyone to know as to what they are doing to protecting their own financial interests in Florida.

Respectfully yours,
Cacike Pedro Guanikeyu Torres

Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2001 09:34:32 -0500
From: Francisco Gonzalez <francisco.gonzalez@SMRLS.ORG>
Subject: Re: Tekesta-Seminole relationship

Tau Gauitiaos;

Regarding my earlier comments on the Tekesta-Seminole issue, I just wanted to make an observation regarding the claims of the Seminles in the context of the historical & archaeological record.

The MODERN political implications are another issue, and I personally believe that we the Taino people do have the right and the obligation to reclaim the bodies of our Tekesta relatives and protect their heritage and legacy.

Having said all of that, the fact remains that the Seminole, after they entered Florida, intermarried with and absorbed most of the few remaining indigenous Native people. The Cree/Cherokee/Yamassee refugess that eventually formed the Seminole people drifted away from the northern part of Florida, where ALL the Spanish towns and major settlements where located, into the interior, as continuous slaving raids by English & English-allied Indians from Georgia and Alabama devastated the Spanish missions and settlements of the Florida panhandle.

y The Spanish records are clear in that many local Indians, descendants of the Timucua and Guale, who had become Christian and spoke Spanish, abandoned the missions and sought shelter from the English raids in the interior of the Peninsula.

The Tekesta and other Indians from Southern Florida had already dissapeared as traditional communities because of disease and Spain's own pratice of enslaving local Indians to work in Cuba, Hispaniola and Mexico. However, since the Spanish failed to establish a single permanent town in southern Flroida during the 2 centuries of their rule there, the local authorities really had no idea of the exact identity and the numbers of local Indians that lived in isolated settlements in the Everglades and other remote areas.

It is quite probable that remnants of the Tekesta, Timucua, Guale, and other other local Indians lived in the Everglades and other remote and thinly-populated areas of Florida well into the 18th century, at the same time that the Seminole refugees were making their way into the interior of the Peninsula. That they intermarried and that this mixture of different Indian peoples resulted in today's Seminole Nation is a historical fact.

Again, let's defend our legitimate Taino interests and positions, but let's keep an objective mind. Above all, we need to learn, understand and adapt to the legacy of the past, without trying to re-write the past.

I also conclude my on-list comments on this topic; if other people are interested in continuing this discussion about the history of Florida's Indians, I'll be happy to do so off-list. I will also provide bibliography and citations to my sources if requested.

Con mucho respeto para todos mis hermanos Tainos,

Francisco J. Gonzalez