Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The home schoolers go indigenous with the Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum on St. Croix!

Today, we had the pleasure of going on a field trip to the Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum at Cane Bay! Whew, what a mouthful! This trip, although open to all ages, ended up being all elementary kids. There were three girls and three boys - what a great group they were too!

The kids arrived and were instantly captivated by Kelly the Parrot who sand Happy Birthday, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, some opera, and cried like a baby!  She was really cute and hates to not be the center of attention.  Anyway, after talking and interacting with Kelly, they all went over to the open air picnic area and took their seats.

The children learned all sorts of fascinating things about Tainos. Tainos were the indigenous people who lived here on St. Croix from PreColumbian times up until shortly after Columbus "discovered" the Virgin Islands.  They were one of the most populous groups of Native peoples in the Caribbean. They farmed, hunted, gathered, and created beautiful works of art.  It is thought that their farming techniques were so far advanced that they only had to dedicate 2 hours a week to gardening. They produced such food stuff as pineapples, cassava(or yucca), peanuts, and sweet potatoes. They also grew cotton. Apparently when Columbus came by he noted, as did other explorers, that the island of St. Croix was heavily terraced and farmed with cotton plants.

Some of the islands in the caribbean still retain their Taino names. Some of these islands are Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti.  It is thought that St. Croix's name was AyAy which means The River. Now, why would St. Croix be named The River? There are no rivers or flowing bodies of water here! Well, way before the plantation industry got going here, St. Croix was FULL of rivers and streams and guts. With the advent of plantation farming, all the trees were either burned or cut down and it stopped raining here.  Once the rain stopped, guess what else stopped? THE RIVER!! Salt River is named just that because there was a river of water that flowed out of the hills and into the ocean. When we have tremendous rains, our guts fill and flow into the old path of our ancient river. I wonder what St.Croix would look like today if those plantation owners hadn't deforested our island - don't you?

ANYWAY back to some facts that our group thought was neato:

  1. There were between 20 and 30,000 people living on St. Croix at the time of Columbus' arrival
  2. A Taino woman shot one of the Spaniards with bow and arrow when Columbus' men came ashore
  3. Columbus never actually set foot on St. Croix
  4. Tainos had parrots
  5. Tainos used blowguns
  6. Spent a lot of time making very cool art
  7. They wore feathered hats
  8. Taino Indians were some of the first Indians to live on St. Croix
  9. Many words came from the Taino Arawak language

So folks, if you get a chance to go visit Brian and his wife Jill at the  Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum at Cane Bay, please let us know what you think.  This is a great resource for artists, collectors, and children to learn a bit about our history here on St. Croix before the European conquest.

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