How Did the Garifuna Become Indigenous People? - Reconstructing the cultural persona of an African-Native American People in Central America "However, anthropology has been forced to come to terms with the realities of the modern world in which displaced identities and recuperated identities go to form what has been called a global ethnoscape" Neil Whitehead(I998). Introduction The reason for asking the question how did the Garifuna become indigenous is that they are black within a region, highly conscious of skin colour, that ascribes indigenous identity only to persons with olive skin colour. This chromatic reason for questioning will always remain at the popular level especially forthcoming from other indigenous people, who have accused the Garifuna of usurping an identity that is not truly theirs1. The other reason to ask the question is to understand how the Garifuna have maintained continuity in their identity notwithstanding an accumulation of destructive experiences, each of which could have derailed them from the track of being one people with one identity. These experiences include migration across large areas in northeast South America and spilling over into the Eastern Caribbean, systematic genocide in St. Vincent, massive displacement across hundreds of kilometres in the Atlantic Ocean, and over 200 years of pervasive racial discrimination in Central America leading many persons to forsake their cultural identity altogether and join the majority within their respective societies. The short answer to the question how did the Garifuna become indigenous is that they added the label "indigenous" onto themselves when they and other bio-cultural groups of Native American descent within the Circum-Caribbean acquired the generic term in the late 1980s. Beforehand, these people, also called Amerindians, had used their own traditional names, such as Maya, Kekchi, and Garifuna. The acceptance of "indigenous" came through the influence of indigenous activists in the political movement originating in North and Central America. One regional indicator was the formation in 1989 of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (COIP) by peoples in the former British colonies from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Belize 1 In discussing the view of some Dominica Caribs on promoting tourism on their island, Whitehead noted. "It is firmly believed that Black Caribs do not sufficiently conform to the touristic ideal of the Amerindian, and so should be hidden away, erased from the culture and history of the Caribs." (1998) Palacio 2006: 215-234). The larger global validation came in 1992 when the COIP was accepted as member organization of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WC1P) (Palacio 2006: 215-234). The use of the designation "indigenous peoples" has been refined by multilateral agencies including the United Nations and the Organization of American States. This essay follows on the theme of this Gathering - "An inquiry on the notion of persona - reconstructing the notion of persona in Mexico and Central America" - with a focus on the Garifuna. I amplify the scope of reconstructing cultural identity in three ways. Firstly, I trace the formation of the cultural matrix of an indigenous people over several hundred years and several hundred square kilometres. Secondly, 1 accentuate the efforts of the people to consistently retain their cultural identity, while taking advantage of available opportunities. Thirdly, I integrate my own experiences in the consolidation of Garifuna peoplehood in Belize within the past thirty years. There is implicit in this essay the spirit of an odyssey that starts with the trajectory of a people and ends as my own personal experience as scholar and activist among indigenous peoples. This paper is still very much a work in progress. I thank the organizers of this Gathering whose initiative has helped me sharpen my focus on the definition and formation of social and cultural identity among a people, who have been doing so despite overwhelming odds for thousands of years. I am grateful for questions and comments as I move forward. Garifuna Studies It is impossible to arrive at a population figure for all the Garifuna because of their large scale geographical spread across four countries within the northeast coast of Central America and their dispersion within North American cities, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. The figure normally quoted is about 300,000. The largest proportion lives in Honduras with additional numbers in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua (see Fig. 1). In these countries they have settled for a little over 200 years initially in tens of coastal small villages, many of which are being overrun by ladino immigrants displaced from their own hinterland communities. In response the Garifuna are moving in larger numbers to coastal towns, such as Puerto Cortez, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba in Honduras and Belize City in Belize, as well as further away into North American cities. This last succession within urban frontiers is generating probably the greatest threat to the survival of the Garifuna as a socio-culture, which previously had always been located within small, kinship based rural communities. The longevity of Garifuna culture as we know it has been due to its incubation within small villages all along the coast of Central America for the better part of the last 200 years. For their relatively small population size the Garifuna have been hosts to several ethnographers, since the 1950s. Douglas Taylor, Nancie Gonzalez, Virginia Kerns, Catherine Macklin, Mark Moberg, Byron Foster, Carol Jenkins, Alfonso Arrivillaga, and William Davidson are only a few from the large body of anthropologists. Additionally there are several Garifuna men and women, who have published works about their own people. They include Sebastian Cayetano, Marion Cayetano, Roy Cayetano, Jorge Bernardez, Felicia Hernandez, Joseph Palacio, Myrtle Palacio, Godsman Ellis, Zoila Ellis, Salvador Suazo, and Virgilio Lopez Garcia. The relatively large numbers of native scholars within the Garifuna population, a large part of which still remains at limited levels of literacy, indicates a strong dedication to unravel the story of their people through the written word. On the other hand, there is a large body of oral literature that is untouched and needs to be captured. The published data about the Garifuna falls into segments on history and contemporary issues. The topic of cultural identity, which is the theme of this Gathering, is pervasive within both of these segments. One of the most comprehensive analyses of the history of cultural identity is Nancie Gonzalez's 1988 volume on ethnohistory and ethnogenesis. She traces the historical formation of the Garifuna and uses the configuration of select traits to identify their ethnic identity in coastal Central America. Taking a parallel approach - also based on coastal Central America - has been the interest of mainly Garifuna students on genealogy, more specifically on first settlers of given localities and subregions by family groups (Arrivillaga 2005: 64-84). Both Davidson (1980: 31-62) and Palacio (2005:43-63) have extended their genealogical reconstruction as far as families in St. Vincent. Indeed, it is tempting to peel back the layers of the Garifuna persona through time and space from South America and West Africa through the Eastern Caribbean, and eventually arriving in Central America. Such effort awaits the work of several scholars in history and anthropology. However, it is possible to outline a schema, as I have done in Fig. 2, which could be the skeleton of such a longitudinal reconstruction. The schema has three parts - the pre-St. Vincent, St. Vincent, and post-St. Vincent periods. The pre-St. Vincent falls into the prehistoric period that took place in northeast South America and West Africa together with the historic period centring on the efforts of the Island Caribs to wrest control of their former East Caribbean subregion from the British and French. The St. Vincent period starts from the mid-seventeenth century and ends with the exile to Central America in 1797. The post-St. Vincent period extends from 1797 to the present. Within the schema I attempt to retrace the building of a pre-Garifuna identity and follow major episodes in its transformation to the state that we know it today. Whereas the core traits that the modern day Garifuna people can claim as theirs originated in northeastern South America and West Africa, the congealing of the overall socio-culture to its present stage took place in St. Vincent. Afterwards, the people have been opposing being relegated to an ethnic group in their Central American states with the ideology of peoplehood that resonates with their original status as sovereign nation in St. Vincent. The Pre-St Vincent Period If the Garifuna culture has been a cumulative body of various sub-cultures, is there a place and a point in time that marked the genesis of its cultural matrix? While we can be certain about the broad parameters of the location, we can be less accurate about the time. The location was the Orinoco River basin, which cuts the map of Venezuela into two parts running in an east-west axis. Because of the overlap among socio-cultures extending south of the Orinoco, Neil Whitehead (1988: 9-20) uses the name "Guayana" for the larger subregion extending from the Orinoco to the Amazon River. Furthermore, this confirms the designation Amazon Rainforest Tradition for the cultural matrix of the ancestors of the Garifuna. In narrowing the location of genesis, we refer to the part of the Orinoco River basin nearest to the Caribbean islands into which the Garifuna ancestors dispersed. The island of Trinidad is located a short distance north of the delta of the Orinoco and further south along the Atlantic Ocean there are the Guianas. Presently located in French Guiana and Suriname are the Galibi Karinya, who were culturally related to the Island Caribs. Some anthropologists have added that the Galibi were precursors of the Island Caribs (Allaire 1997: 177-185). The question when the cultural matrix started falls into the hands of archaeologists and diachronic linguists and in both groups there is great uncertainty. We are safe in saying that it would have been earlier than 2000 B.C., the earliest time marker for habitation in the Caribbean islands, although it cannot be said that these pioneer settlers would have originated on the South American mainland (Rouse 1992). Needless to say there is also doubt as to who these pioneers were. Of more importance than name designations were the larger set of preconditions that facilitated the welding of peoples who eventually became the Island Caribs. The Orinoco River basin is replete with a wide variety of small and large micro-environments producing riverine, terrestrial, and coastal resources that could be exploited and traded (Whitehead 1988: 7-20). After centuries of these reciprocal exchanges the Karinya emerged among the more dominant groups, who were able to command greater share of the resources. As in the other cases of reconstructing a history with many unknowns, it is safer to conclude that along with the Karinya there were other groups with similarities in language, belief systems, and material culture; and that they formed alliances for their mutual well-being. From such an overlap came groups who crossed at various time periods into the Caribbean islands, following a pattern of overcoming ever new frontiers. It is worth emphasizing a caveat that will be recurring in further discussions that ascribing place names to groups living within overlapping geographical subregions is not fruitful. Holdren (1998: 1-8) refers to the dilemma that ethnonyms can create in the historical description of groups in the Caribbean. The discussion that we have covered so far falls into the prehistoric pre-St. Vincent period. Taking place simultaneously across the Atlantic in West Africa would have been another set of factors consolidating groups, who would eventually travel to the New World first as free men on exploratory missions and later in much greater numbers as slaves. There has not been any attempt at a chronological coordination about events taking place among groups on both sides of the Atlantic, whose descendants would eventually join to become the Garifuna nation in St. Vincent. Both the origins of Africans who ended in the Eastern Caribbean and their intermixture with the Island Caribs are topics least known in Garifuna history and are awaiting much needed research. The next stage in the prehistoric pre-St. Vincent period was the movement and consolidation of the descendants of the Orinoco River basin peoples, who came to be known as the Island Caribs or Caraibe, the term that Holdren (1998) prefers. The adjective 'Island' differentiates them from the mainland Caribs, who remained in South America. There is agreement that if they had left the mainland as separate tribal groups, they narrowed many of their differences as they formed a "confederacy" of "politically autonomous" groups (Holdren 1998), extending from Grenada in the south to the Virgin Islands in the north. The amalgamation came from their opposition to European colonization resulting in recurring warring expeditions by men drawn from the islands as well as from their allies on the South American mainland. While there was scant information about who had been main operators during the Orinoco River basin period, what they traded with whom, and the level of complexity in their social structures, there is much information available about the Island Carib period originating in reports by French missionaries and the archives of colonial authorities. Interestingly, one of the most knowledgeable about this period Louis Allaire (1997: 177-185) gave much credit to the statements of the Island Caribs themselves that reportedly they gave to Columbus and his chroniclers. Based on the documentary sources available, Allaire concludes that by the mid 17th century they had a strong identity characterized by traits, such as the women's ornamental wear ^and drinking manioc beer (not done by the Arawaks). Allaire (1997: 180) adds ".... they shared a strong national character and ethnic identity. They claimed openly that they were of the same ethnicity as their Carib neigbors of what is today French Guiana and Suriname." A main characteristic of the Island Carib was their use of multiple languages even within their own community and household. According to Cooper (1997: 186-196) women used Island Carib when speaking to their male peers and Arawak with their children and other women. On the other hand, the male children spoke Island Carib to their fathers. Among themselves the men used a Carib based pidgin, which was a widespread trading language in South America (Allaire 1997:177-185). This pidgin resulted from centuries of trading and warring practices in which mainland Caribs had engaged with several tribes. In an illuminating article Cooper (1997:186-196) has analysed the differences that existed between women and men speech, some of which exist in modern day Garifuna society. We can summarize what we know about the descendants of the mainland Caribs, whom we had earlier seen within the Orinoco River basin and had started their island hopping probably as far back at least as 2000 B.C. By the end of the 17th century A.D. they had a strong cultural identity that had been tested several times in wars first against other native tribes and subsequently against Europeans. The French and British had suffered so much from their guerrilla raids that both agreed in 1686 and again in 1748 that Dominica and St. Vincent (see Fig. 1), the two sub-capitals of Carib aggression, should remain as neutral territories for either side. In other words, they would be sanctuaries for the Caribs within a region that was quickly becoming the colonial territories of Britain and France. Engaging in wars, of course, has been the stereotypical perspective of the Island Caribs. However, we need to include their strong role as traders, in which they had engaged from their early mainland era and received much impetus through the introduction of European trade goods. As in their war effort, trading necessitated covering long distances over land and ocean, accumulating much needed skills in boat building, navigation, and how to negotiate with different sets of peoples across several cultures on everything from pathways to buying and selling trade items. They had acquired remarkable ease to succeed when dealing in multiple situations across space and time, demonstrating an uncanny skill to know and pre-judge reactions. As people with enduring spirituality they had adjusted their long held mainland iconography to the ecology of the islands. In a highly reflective essay Honychurch (2002) has traced how they used newly appreciated island images, such as the summits of volcanic mountain outcrops, as symbols for their deity. Similarly, they could no longer hunt larger mammals in the islands, such as tapir and jaguar that had been available on the mainland. Instead they fashioned traps to catch smaller game animals. Finally, they adjusted traditional ceremonies to mark the annual seasons that were slightly different in the islands. The cultural plurality, already so well established among the Island Caribs, took on added ingredients from groups arriving after Columbus. Europeans intermarried with their women notably in Dominica and St. Vincent. If these marriages were of a predatory nature where white men took advantage of native women, there was another type of intermarriage initiated by men escaping slavery and desperately in need of refuge within a host community. These were maroon African slaves escaping from plantations in nearby islands, and especially taking advantage after Dominica and St. Vincent had been declared neutral islands. The intermarriage of Africans took place extensively throughout the Eastern Caribbean and the entire archipelago. The fusion between the two parties taking place in St. Vincent was unique insofar as there was a consolidation into a cultural matrix with a sustained past and continuity up to the present. Among corresponding intermixtures in other islands this level of welding has not endured. While there have been distinct socio-cultures formed from the mixture of Africans with Native Americans in other pars of the Americas, notably Brazil (Bastide 1972), the only example in the Circum-Caribbean is the Garifuna. The following description of the St. Vincent era explains further the process of consolidation. St Vincent The next period in the schema in Fig. 2 takes place in the island where the Garifuna, the name the Black Caribs use for themselves, were formed. There is much that is available in the literature on this period from a wider variety of sources than for the previous periods that we have reviewed. In addition to the traditional anglophile sources, such as (Young 1971), there is the account by Kirby and Martin (1972), which presents a perspective that is as close as one can get to the Garifuna viewpoint. There are also French sources that present a humanist perspective highlighting their interactions with the residents of St. Vincent (Hulme 2005: 21-42). Curtis Jacobs' essay (2003) gives a view of the French records about the 1794-1796 Brigands War, also called the Second Carib War. Unfortunately, there would seem to be even fewer accounts of the socio-culture than what had been available from French missionaries in the previous era. The result is that we know much more about their fighting with the French and British than the things they did in their daily life. The regret is that it was large parts of this socio-culture that eventually arrived in Central America. The Island Carib stranglehold of the Eastern Caribbean that had taken place in Pre-Columbian times was bound to dissipate in the face of the superior military might of the British and French. By 1700 Dominica and St. Vincent had become little more than symbolic vestiges of a previous regional domain in the hands of indigenous people. The two questions that are appropriate for this essay are how would the end take place; would Garifuna be able to preserve as a socio-culture or would it haemorrhage to the point of gradual extinction as had happened in other parts of the Circum-Caribbean earlier and would do so later. The end came about as a protracted attrition of rights to natural resources. As a result, the Garifuna lost their natural resources but in the process consolidated their nationhood or their persona as a people. Europeans firstly denuded the forest of St. Vincent and secondly acquired all lands that belonged to the Garifuna. By 1700 Barbados with a land area of only 451 square kilometres already was severely overcrowded with a population of over 65,000 (Beckles 1990: 42). To satisfy the need for fuel as well as timber for construction, the British had long looked to St. Vincent located a mere one hundred and forty square kilometres to the west. Further environmental degradation came with the overflow of French and British colonists who clear-cut forests, while introducing their domestic animals. In the advance of these incursions the remaining Caribs and Black Caribs were forced to relocate to the more remote portions of the leeward side of the island. In the end they encountered ever greater difficulty to retain their traditional system of living with the land in reverence to the wishes of their ancestors and as stewards for the next generations (Miller 1979: 79). The larger numbers of arriving maroon slaves and the correspondingly declining numbers of yellow Caribs were by themselves sufficient reasons for the welding of the Blacks and Yellows to form the indissoluble Garifuna socio-culture. But there was also taking place the struggle for sovereign control of the island, which became a political act with which there was disagreement between the Garifuna and the British but around which the French and Garifuna formed an alliance against the British as their common enemy. While the Garifuna fought for the land that was their patrimony as a nation, the French were fighting for the same land to reclaim as their possession. Archival information that Jacobs retrieved from French archives are most revealing in tracing the various machinations of master Brigand2 Victor Hughes to bring St. Vincent under French control, although the colonial motivation in Paris at that time had weakened, as there was much more focus on rehabilitation after the disastrous French Revolution. * The Brigands, name given to French soldiers who fought in the Eastern Caribbean in the late 18th century to restore for France islands that had been taken over by the British. The diverging reasons for the collaboration between the Garifuna and French are summarized by Jacobs, "Hughes, however, was the representative of a country and government that on one level, had been locked in a struggle with Britain throughout the 18th century, and despite France being in the throes of revolution during this period, had not abandoned their ambitions for territorial expansion. "On the other hand, the groups [including the Garifuna] nursing long-standing grievances over British rule were not, in the first instance, concerned with France's colonial ambitions. Their immediate aim was the redress of their grievances." (p. 3) (the words in parenthesis are mine). Articulated clearly in this statement was a calibre of inter-cultural political negotiation, a skill that the Garifuna had honed going as far back as their time in South America. The high stakes political gamble that the Garifuna played with the French against the British was not successful. However, this last series of fighting had further galvanized a national character among the Garifuna for two reasons. They had fought for the lands bequeathed to them by their ancestors, both Yellows and Blacks, and in doing so they literally fought to death, building a tradition that would forever remain among their descendants. The fixation on land as primary cause for the conflict came forward in the response of the British at the end of the war in 1797. Jacobs continued, "In 1804, an Act was passed in the St. Vincent legislature that re-vested in the Crown the lands that they [the Garifuna] had held at the time of the Treaty of 1773. By rising in rebellion, the Caribs had forfeited all claims to their lands. The Caribs remaining in St. Vincent were later pardoned by an Act of the Legislature in 1805, but they lost all claims to the lands they formerly occupied." (p. 11) (the words in parenthesis are mine) Post-St Vincent While those remaining at St. Vincent lost the vigour of their cultural identity, among those coming to Central America it has flourished. However, in the aftermath of their traumatic experiences in St. Vincent, they became a nation in exile; a nation that lost its territory, sovereignty, and the political/military power to engage in alliances with other nations. Instead, they were subsumed as minority ethnic groups into emerging states and in the case of Belize, a colony of Great Britain. The question to be posed for this part of the essay is as follows. While it has been impossible for them to regain the core of their identity, namely sovereign ownership of their homeland and their socio-culture, would they be able to retain their peoplehood? Although the banishment to Central America took place in 1797, it has not been until the past fifty years that their ethnic identity has been subjected to modern day anthropological rigour in theory and methods. The people themselves have shifted in their identity from being mere appendages in often unwelcoming national societies to reclaiming the indigenous identity, which had always been theirs prior to their exile. The analytical model of ethnic group within the nation state has received much support from Nancie Gonzalez. Her important 1988 volume, entitled "Sojourners . of the Caribbean - ethnogenesis and ethnohistory of the Garifuna", has a Part Two entitled "The cultural basis of ethnicity" and a Part Three "The making of a modern ethnic group". Critical to Gonzalez's thesis is the centrality of the nation state as a society and that its parts (i.e. cultural groups) can be identified as ethnic groups. This thinking in western social science has been surpassed by the concept of peoplehood, which holds that indigenous people are a priori nations in their own right. The ideology gained widespread recognition in the 1990s and has received confirmation from the United Nations and the Organizations of American States. Apart from being appropriate to the Garifuna as indigenous people, as we have already shown in the previous phases of their evolution, the designation of peoplehood lays bare the traditional lack of acceptance in their host countries in Central America. In other words, why should they be part of a whole that either rejects them for racist reasons or accepts them, only on becoming assimilated into the national society? Gonzalez may have been alluding to this conceptual abyss when she admitted in the above volume, "In relation to ethnicity, there are in this study both theoretical and practical problems of continuing concern to many social scientists. One such problem relates to the structural position of an ethnic group vis-a-vis the larger society and what that or any other configuration may mean for the continued well-being of both. One aspect of this problem is how the individual segments of a transnational ethnic group can sustain a sense of unity." (p. 10) What to Gonzalez in 1988 had been a "transnational ethnic group" was actually "The Garifuna - a nation across borders", the main title of a volume that I edited in 2005. Indeed, the acceptance of the ethnic concept in western anthropology came from a conviction that inevitably natives would have become either extinct or fully assimilated into national societies by the end of the last century. The realization that this had not taken place was the theme of Marshall Sahlins' introductory essay in the 1999 Annual Review of Anthropology entitled "What is anthropological enlightenment? Some lessons of the 20th century" (p i-xxiii). Having confirmed that the predictions of anthropology in the last century about the fate of native peoples had been inaccurate, he observed that many cultures had survived through their own adaptation of western technology and other aspects of the capitalist economy. Actually, there had grown a self-consciousness of culture or "a demand of the peoples for their own space within the cultural world order" (p. x). There has been now a much greater acceptance not only of the survival but also of the demands of natives to be regarded as peoples. With special reference to the Caribbean, Maximilian Forte's edited volume (2006) presents several case studies and a wide variety of methods that anthropologists have been using in their analysis. As in the case of any ideology attendant on a larger social movement, the acceptance of indigenous peoplehood varies among the target group. There are many Garifuna, who accept their position as an ethnic group as an immutable fact, even when the nation-state has not defined them as a people and continues to deny them such rights. I relate briefly how a group of us struggled to initiate the ideology of peoplehood among the Garifuna in Belize. The genesis was the resurgence of a Black Nationalist movement in Belize City in the 1960s in opposition to the racism within the larger colonial society. Many upwardly mobile young Garifuna men and women became members. This by itself was unusual; as normally they would be set within the established society in such fields as the religious ministry, teaching, and the public service. The realization gradually dawned on some of us, however, that not only were we black we were also part Native American with a vibrant culture that could not be subsumed within a Black Nationalist movement. We needed to heed the call of our ancestors even as we would link with fellow blacks or other oppressed groups. Most specifically, the ancestral heritage component of Garifuna culture grabbed our attention. Roy Cayetano's poem "Drums of Our Fathers" was symptomatic of the collective reawakening taking place among us. As this realization grew, a liberating exhilaration overtook us. We argued that our designation in English should not be 'Caribs' or 'Black Carib' but Garifuna, the name that our ancestors have always used for ourselves. The success of this insistence is that even in the social science literature the name changed permanently from Black Carib to Garifuna. Why should we give our children African names when we could give them Garifuna names? As a result, we compiled a list of names that we shared far and wide with those who wanted to join us in giving the 'appropriate' names to the next generation. Why should we dance to Jamaican reggae at parties, when we have our own drums and songs? Why should we confine our religiosity to only the western church when we also have a vibrant spirituality? Who was going to document our technologies that were quickly disappearing as masters of the crafts were dying? The same question was appropriate for our songs, dances, and folklore? Ironically, involvement in the Black Nationalist movement exposed us to the other element in us that needed re-awakening. Simultaneously, we travelled to conferences on indigenous peoples, as we conducted advocacy at home and strengthened Garifuna organizations that eventually became the National Garifuna Council. Gradually, we saw a full blown indigenous peoples organization take shape in which we - the group that started in the 1960s -are still active, if only in an advisory capacity as elders. Over time many of us took up senior level positions in teaching, university administration, religious ministry, community development, the private sector, and public service. However, we still retain strong interest and positions of leadership in the NGC and the international indigenous peoples' movement. ^ It is not surprising that this same group has left indelible marks at the world level in such areas as the regional Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples, scholarly publications now being used as texts at the university level, and leading the difficult work toward the 2001 UNESCO Proclamation of the Garifuna music, language, and dance as masterpiece of intangible culture for all humanity. Even more importantly we have generated a set of new, younger, dynamic leaders to carry on the never ending work. The significance of this group for this essay is in capturing that indomitable spirit of Chatoyer and his fighting men and women to preserve Garifuna identity. We might have lost our territory and sovereignty as a nation in St. Vincent but we have done much to uphold the peoplehood that our ancestors in the Americas and Africa struggled to form. Summary and Conclusion This essay started with the question how did the Garifuna become indigenous people. It has shown that the Garifuna acquired the label from others in North and Central America, who were already advocating within the indigenous peoples movement in the 1980s. The historical perspective dominating this essay has shown that our friends from afar were merely re-awakening among us the indigenous peoplehood that had been the core of our cultural matrix in South America and evolved with African and European influences in the Eastern Caribbean. In short, we have been indigenous for hundreds and even thousands of years. This essay has tried to review some of the processes that accompanied transformation within the Garifuna persona. At each stage the need for more research is glaring. However, having built a skeleton the rest of the work should be more easily achieved in the future. One of the main deterrents to building lasting peoplehood is control over segments of the political economy, a point that has missed my focus in this essay, although I made reference to it in the experiences of the Island Caribs. As point of departure, we need to revisit the uncanny political acumen Garifuna ancestors displayed in the Eastern Caribbean. Even more, there ^is the deep struggle to continue within the same nation states that have shown a lack of empathy to the ideology of peoplehood that I have described. Fortunately, the United Nations and Organizations of American States have provided much moral and technical support. 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