Recent work by the North American-based National Geographic Genographic Project on the Carib community in Trinidad, utilising Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid (DNA) has confirmed that members of the community in Arima have very strong ancestral links to Africa and to Native American Indians.
The project involved testing 25 members of the 600-strong Santa Rosa First Peoples Community in July last year and according to Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, who heads the community, the results will hopefully put to rest, the questions that have been raised regarding the community’s identity in the past. The results of the project were released to Bharath-Hernandez late last month by Dr. Jada Benn Torres from the University of Pennsylvania.
In her letter, she thanked the community for its participation adding, “we have completed preliminary analysis of the mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome (NRY markers). These analyses will tell us about the maternal and paternal lineages of the community members.” She said the findings of the genetic ancestry of community “indicate a complex ancestry that includes Africans, in addition to a very strong Native American ancestral component” and that all of the 25 individuals tested would receive their information at a later late. She has also promised to release detailed findings of the analyses to the community.
Dr. Benn Torres’s primary research area is the Anglophone Caribbean where she explores genetic ancestry and population history of African and Indigenous Caribbean peoples, according to her online profile. A second area of her research “combines the tools and theories of molecular anthropology with molecular epidemiology in order to examine differences in the distribution of disease across human populations. This work focuses primarily on women’s health, more specifically on the prevalence of uterine fibroids among African Americans.”
Bharath-Hernandez said not all members of the community were enthusiastic about the project and hence the reason why only 25 provided swabs for testing. The results have coincided with the discovery of pottery artifacts and bone fragments by workers doing restoration works at the Parliament building last month. Officials believe that the discovery is a link to the Amerindian heritage dating back to AD 0-350.
Bharath-Hernandez who has already visited the site, says he is prepared to perform the necessary ancestral rituals once it is confirmed that the fragments are indeed Amerindian. He said the community is also excited to participate in yet another Genographic Project in an effort to trace the paternal and maternal lineages of all of its 600 members.
Bharath-Hernandez said he is also seeking to construct a permanent home for his community on 25 acres of land. “We plan to construct a modern Indigenous Amerindian Village, meaning we want to keep the village as authentic and traditional as possible but with all modern day amenities. “It will comprise a main centre to be used as a meeting and cultural space which will be located in the centre of the village. Spiritual rituals will also be conducted there. There will also be an official residence for the Carib Queen, Jennifer Cassar.” Bharath-Hernandez said there are also plans for a cassava processing plant to make farine, cassava flour, cassava bread and casaripe; a craft centre where the people will be doing the indigenous craft, as well as an indigenous museum to display our artifacts. [. . .]