A Taino Tribal Leader Meets With Heads of US Census


Tau Jatibonicu Taino Tribal And Inter-Tribal Members,


I the representative of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation, Principal Chief Pedro Guanikeyu Torres was invited by Ms. Glenda Ahhaitty of the Native American Advisory Committee to attend the United States Census meeting on Joint Advisory Committees meeting on April 14, 2000 at the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. She was nice as she had already faxed to our tribal office the agenda for the April 14th US Census meeting.

A REPORT ON THE UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU MEETING:
By Principal Chief Pedro Guanikeyu Torres

SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND MY PURPOSE OF ATTENDING THE UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU MEETING:

I was there to bring them a report by our Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Boriken Puerto Rico and its protest for Puerto Rico's US Census representatives and their direct violation of the US Government OBM (Office of Budget Management) ruling on Race and Ethnicity by the US Census representatives in Puerto Rico and the United States. It seems that they had been instructing people in Puerto Rico and in the United States not to choose the American Indian racial category based upon their foolish bias understanding that the Tainos are not Indios Americanos (American Indians) but Puerto Rican Indians and that they (The Tainos) should pick the ("Other") category to mention the Taino as a second race. According to US Census personnel the ("Other") category is in all actuality never really counted. This was reported to me by one of our Jatibonicu tribal member in Puerto Rico. I immediately contacted the US Census office in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. A US Census worker at the office said the following, "I did not know that people in Puerto Rico could choose the American Indian racial category and add their principal tribe, this is news for me."He then said that "people should pick Hispanic and Puerto Rican and (the then choose "Other") category to add the Taino as a second racial group." I then told him that they were in direct violation of the US Government Census OBM ruling on race and ethnicity. I then called Ms. Glenda Ahhaitty a liaison with the Native American Advisory Committee to the US Census. She advised me to contact the US Census office in Virginia and bring this to the attention of the Director of the US Census Dr. Ken Prewitt . I called the US Census and spoke to the Assistant Director as Dr. Prewitt was out of the office. I spoke with Ms. Ellen Lee the Assistant Director and told her what was going on in Puerto Rico and that our Jatibonicu Taino tribal nation of Puerto Rico was very angry and that we have plans on calling an official congressional investigation by the Chairmen Robin Bachman of US Congressional Oversight Committee on the US Census 2000. I told her that I planned on attending the next meeting of the joint Advisory Committee's meeting in April 14, 2000 in Arlington Virginia.

A TRAVEL REPORT TO THE JATIBONICU TAINO TRIBAL COUNCIL:


I left on April 13th from New Jersey via bus for Philadelphia and traveled via an Amtrak train to Union Station in Washington DC in route to Arlington Virginia, to take part in a meeting being held by the joint United States Government's US Census Advisory Committees of the US Census. My travel expenses came out of my own pockets, not from the tribal or Inter-Tribal Council's expense, even though it was related to the business of both Taino organizations. On April I3th I was picked up at Union Station in Washington DC by my younger sister Rose Marie Torres and taken to her house in Arlington Virginia to stay over night so that she could drive me over to the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel at around 8:00 AM in the morning. I had time to sit down for a cup of coffee at 8:15 before the meeting agenda began. The meeting started off with the registration of Advisory Committee members and their invited quests. I was met at the door by Ms. Thelma J. Stiffarm who is the program Administrator of the US Census Customer Liaison Office. Ms. Stiffarm is an American Indian who is the liaison officer for the American Indian Advisory Committee. She was very nice and understanding about our problem and said that she had spoken with me on the phone and then invited me to sit at the table of the American Indian Advisory Committee. I went over and met a number of American Indian representatives at the table. The attending AIAC members were Ms. Glenda Ahhiatty, Mr. Robert Nygaard, Mr. Gregory Richardson, Mr. Larry Rodgers, Ms. Rosita Worl, Chief Curtis Zunigha. I formally introduced myself as the Principal Chief of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Boriken Puerto Rico, Florida and New Jersey. I then informed them of the census problem that was going on with the US Census in Puerto Rico. Chief Curtis Zunigha of the Delaware Nation said that our Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Council should of brought the existence of our tribe in Puerto Rico to their attention last year as the American Indian Advisory Committee would of been able to help us by making sure that our Jatibonicu Taino tribe of Puerto Rico was mentioned on the official records of the US Census Bureau as an American Indian Taino tribe of Puerto Rico. I was then told by Ms. Thelma Stiffarm the liaison of the American Indian Advisory Committee that she would add me as a speaker on their committee's agenda to speak on behalf of the Taino tribal nation of Puerto Rico and the United States. The meeting agenda started at 8:49 AM with the Introductory Remarks by Ms. Paula Schneider, Principal Associate Director For Programs, US Census Bureau. Many issues were spoken about as I sat and listened to each Advisory Committee's comments as to their racial communities. The African Americans, the Asian Americans, the Hispanic Americans the Native Americans and other committees had made their reports to the US Census Bureau. When it came to the Puerto Rico census issue they said that " In the 12 regions of Puerto Rico, of the original 16 Million census forms that had been planned to be mailed out only 13 Million census forms had been mailed out in Puerto Rico. I found that very strange as I thought that between Puerto Rico and the United States that the population was some where around 7 million. I spoke with the representatives of the Hispanic Advisory Committee and directly spoke with Ms. Flame of (HAC) and the other committee members about the issue relating to the Taino American Indians of Puerto Rico and the United States. They look at me with their smiling white faces and replied that they had no idea that there were any surviving Taino Indians in Puerto Rico and that American Indians are only from the United States. I mentioned to them that in the 1990 census reports on Puerto Rico's population it only reported that the population of Puerto Rico is made up of 80% White and 20% Black I further asked them what happened to the Taino Indians who had filed US Census forms in 1990? They only smiled and raised their arms, more or less saying to me that they did not know. It came my time to speak around 5:45 PM in the afternoon and then Ms.Thelma Stiffarm the liaison of the American Indian Committee presented me to the joint US Census Committees and asked me to take the floor. The microphone was turned on at the table where I was siting and then I addressed the heads of the US Census Bureau and the reporters that had news cameras pointing in my direction and I said the following,

"I am Principal Chief Pedro Guanikeyu Torres. I come here today as an invited Representative of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Puerto Rico, Florida and New Jersey and its Taino Tribal Council Government, to report an unhappy situation that has occurred within Puerto Rico's past history and to the present US Census. I would first like to say that we the Tainos are the very first American Indian Nation to greet and meet Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. We are the Native American people of the Caribbean and Florida region of the Americas, who live a marginal (Over looked) existence as American Indian people. We as a people have been placed under a false category of extinction. The American Indians of the Caribbean and Florida supposedly do not exist. "Boo!" I am a ghost of the past and I say that we the Tainos are still here. (Smiling). This foolish extinction story was and still is being spread by the past and the present dominate Spanish European colonial island governments of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Cuba and in Florida. The aforementioned territories are the past traditional homelands of the Taino tribal nations of the Caribbean and Florida. In Puerto Rico, a census was officially maintained by the past Spanish colonial Government throughout the years of the 1700's until the beginning of the 19th century when Governor Don Toribio Montes, faced with the difficulty of fixing ethnic origins, banded all non-whites together under the title called Pardos (free colored people). In the Puerto Rico census made at the end of the 18th century by order of Carlos III of Spain, proof was given that the Taino natives were not exterminated in the first half of the 15th century, since in 1799 there was a documented contingent of some 2,302 pure natives of Taino Indian blood living in the country and who had settled in the Central Cordillera (Puerto Rico's Central Mountain Range). These places today are known by our people as the Indieras (Indian Lands). In the year 1820, the term "Indio" or Indian was officially removed as a racial category from all Puerto Rico census reports. I would now like further speak on a direct violation of the OBM ruling on Race and Ethnicity as it applies the US Census and the US territory of Puerto Rico. In a resent issue related to the US Census worker in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as it was reported to me that they were telling people in Puerto Rico not to pick the American Indian racial category because they say that we the Tainos are not Indios Americanos (American Indians) from the United States. They said that we are Puerto Rican Indians and that we should be picking the Puerto Rican category and to have us add the Taino under the "Other" category as it relates to race. They said that they had never been told to inform anyone about this American Indian race category and that is news to them. I can say on behalf of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation as well as the other Taino groups that we are outraged at these findings. The US Census accounting of Taino Indians will now show an incorrect accounting of our Taino people in Puerto Rico and in the United States as a whole. I thank you for hearing my words and permitting me to speak and I will say no more."

After the long speech to the US Census Bureau a number of Census Bureau representatives that including Mr. Marvin D. Raines, Associate Director for Field Operations who came over to me asking what he could do to help correct the problem and that he would officially contact their US Census personnel in Puerto Rico to find out what was going on, in Puerto Rico. At 5:30 PM in the afternoon of that same day I left and went home with a feeling that I had done a good job for all of the Taino people of the circum Caribbean and United States.

A Report To The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Council April 15, 2000

Please contact the US Regional Taino Tribal Affairs Office For All Official Documents of The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Boriken

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Taino Tribal Council of Jatibonicu
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