Taino her­itage on on dis­play in St Mary

Jamaica Gleaner - - RURAL PRESS - Orantes Moore Gleaner Writer ru­ral@glean­erjm.com

Gen­eral man­ager of the Taino Her­itage Camp in Jacks River, St Mary, Jenna Gre­gory-Archer. JACK’S RIVER, St Mary: S GEN­ERAL man­ager of the Taino Her­itage Camp (THC) in Jacks River, St Mary, Jenna Gre­gory-Archer spends her time co­or­di­nat­ing ed­u­ca­tional tours to help stu­dents and cor­po­rate groups ex­plore and un­der­stand Ja­maica’s bril­liant, but largely unknown, in­dige­nous his­tory.

The camp, which aims to em­power vis­i­tors with key in­for­ma­tion about Ja­maica’s an­cient her­itage, is set on an idyl­lic 15acre prop­erty and run by Gre­go­ryArcher’s fam­ily in ac­cor­dance with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion (MoE)’s na­tional cur­ricu­lum.

Since launch­ing in 2014, the project has earned en­dorse­ments from the In­sti­tute of Ja­maica, the Ru­ral Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Author­ity, and Ed­u­ca­tion

AMinister Ruel Reid, who has in­vited 28 schools from across the coun­try to take part in the camp’s an­nual Are­ito (com­mu­nity cel­e­bra­tion) next month. Ac­cord­ing to Gre­gory-Archer, the THC, which was ini­tially es­tab­lished as a mech­a­nism to sup­port vul­ner­a­ble young men, fea­tures a se­ries of in­ter­ac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to en­gage vis­i­tors with knowl­edge about Taino cul­ture, sto­ries, food and mu­sic.

She told Ru­ral Xpress: “As a fam­ily, we’ve been in ed­u­ca­tion for about 13 years, teach­ing at-risk young males. As a part of that, ev­ery year we would have a team-build­ing camp that ran un­der dif­fer­ent themes, but would al­ways in­cor­po­rate her­itage.

“We found it was a very ef­fec­tive tool in con­fi­dence-build­ing and de­cided to cre­ate a sim­i­lar plat­form, but one that all young peo­ple could have ac­cess to. The re­sult is a se­ries of ac­tiv­ity-based ex­pe­ri­ences that are ex­cit­ing and in­for­ma­tive.


“It’s per­sonal de­vel­op­ment un­der the guise of fun, so even though you’re work­ing, you don’t feel like you are. Com­ing to the THC isn’t like go­ing to a mu­seum to see stat­ues, words, and pic­tures. Here, you are re-ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and re­learn­ing your Taino cul­ture, the cul­ture of Ja­maica and the Caribbean.”

Look­ing ahead, the THC hopes to launch a book on Ja­maican his­tory and en­cour­ages all Taino de­scen­dants to con­tact the or­gan­i­sa­tion and share their sto­ries. Gre­gory-Archer es­ti­mates that around 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion carry Taino blood, and sub­se­quently be­lieves that for Ja­maica to re­alise its full po­ten­tial, the na­tion’s cit­i­zens must first com­pre­hend the cul­tural rel­e­vance of their Taino roots.

She ex­plained: “It’s im­por­tant for Ja­maicans to un­der­stand that they be­long in this coun­try be­cause they’ve been here since at least 650 AD, and will con­tinue to pro­mote and de­velop upon their her­itage, which can be seen in things like ar­chi­tec­ture and some of the words we use daily.

“The words ‘ham­mock’ and ‘bar­be­cue’ are ex­am­ples of Caribbean words that have been ex­ported glob­ally: a ham­mock was some­thing the Tainos slept in and was called a ‘hamaca,’ and bar­be­cue comes from the Taino word ‘bar­ba­coa’.

“It’s in­te­gral that we know where we’re com­ing from be­cause, for many years, it’s been kept from us. This coun­try is yours. You be­long here and don’t have to say: ‘My an­ces­tors are from Africa, Eng­land or Spain.’ My an­ces­tors were here be­fore the slave trade, so I can say: ‘This is my land and cul­ture,’ and it’s im­por­tant for young peo­ple to know that be­cause so many of them are float­ing.”

The Taino Her­itage Camp’s an­nual Are­ito takes place on Friday, Novem­ber 18 in Jacks Hill, St Mary, from 9 a.m. to 4p.m. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 4196121 or 726-4464.


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