Joby Taylor, Guadeloupe program director, was invited by Guadeloupe’s Ministry of Culture to attend the island’s annual international Amer-Indian Celebration in April. Trois Rivieres, VISIONS host community for the past three summers, is an important archeological site for study of human history prior to Spanish arrival in the Caribbean islands. Evidence in the form of petroglyphs and pottery shards suggests that it was formerly home to a large Arawak Indian community that possibly extended its political reach to several islands.
The festival brings together current Amer-Indian tribes who share their diverse cultures and learn about tribes such as the Arawak who formerly populated the Caribbean. This marks the first time that North American tribes have been represented at the festival! Joby, who is part Cherokee, invited three representatives of indigenous US cultures. Along with Dana Jim, a Cherokee-Navajo friend from Oklahoma, Joby was accompanied by Florence and Mike Running Wolf, old friends of VISIONS from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. (Mike is Sioux and travels annually to his home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in North Dakota to participate in the sun dance there.)
Although bus strikes on the island forced cancellation of many of the festival’s formal events, our North American delegation made presentations at schools and community centers. They described their homes in Montana and Oklahoma and their professions, both traditional and modern. Joby translated as Dana and Mike performed traditional dances and Florence described her traditional costume and its cultural significance. Mike even offered interpretations of the prehistoric Guadeloupean carvings, which pleasantly surprised local educators. Mike said that there are similar carvings in Montana. It just goes to show you that we never know where our experience and knowledge may become important.