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Archaeology and Youth Exchange between St. Maarten-Barbuda

This article is one more in a series compiled by SIMARC students themselves to communicate to the St. Maarten community their experiences and observations relating to archaeology and culture of the island. SIMARC (St. Maarten Archaeological Centre) is a youth program focused on teenagers, directed by Dr. Jay Haviser, with support from the Island Government as well as the private sector. The 2009-2010 SIMARC student authors of this article are: Lashandra Pantophlet (St. Maarten Academy), Ivo Meijer (Caribbean International Academy), Kilee Mercuur (Learning Unlimited) and Jonathan van Arneman (St. Dominic High School).

In July 2009, two students from the St. Maarten Archaeology Centre (SIMARC) attended the International Congress for Caribbean Archaeology (IACA) professional conference in Antigua. There they met Dr. Sophia Perdikaris, Ms. Edith Gonzalez and Mr. Cory Look of City University New York (CUNY) Brooklyn College. After the IACA conference, SIMARC President Dr. Jay Haviser and Dr. Sophia Perdikaris maintained contact, and SIMARC student Christopher Velasquez even went and attended CUNY courses in New York for a short time. For the last two years, CUNY students under the direction of Dr. Perdilkaris have been conducting archaeological research on the island of Barbuda (which is part of the country Antigua-Barbuda). Dr. Perdikaris then invited to sponsor Dr. Haviser and four SIMARC students to join the university students on Barbuda to take part in a unique learning experience, and also to hopefully establish a youth link between Barbuda and St. Maarten. The four SIMARC students selected to participate in the Barbuda trip are the authors of this report. So for two months before the trip, together with all the other SIMARC students, they prepared a presentation for the Barbuda High School about what we do and how we can cooperate. The SIMARC staff and students would like to thank all the sponsors (CUNY-Brooklyn College, USA National Science Foundation, Thingeyjarsveit Archaeological Association, Antigua and Barbuda National Parks, and the Barbuda Island Council) and especially Dr. Perdikaris herself, for this great opportunity to enact one of SIMARC's main goals, which is to have youth-to-youth exchange networks among the different Caribbean islands.

ALTHOUGH Barbuda is in the beginning stages of commercial and tourism development, as a hidden secret just behind Antigua, there are people on the island who want to protect its valuable cultural and natural resources, such as Councilman Calvin Gore, teacher John Mussington, park manager Kelly Burton, and Antigua archaeologist Dr. Reg Murphy, who all impressed and assisted us very much. We learned to understand that with this CUNY project, Barbuda now has a team of scientific professionals to help with their preservation goals. While St. Maarten has had preservation groups for many years, such as SIMARC, St. Maarten Heritage Foundation, St. Maarten Pride Foundation and EPIC, there still needs to be more attention to preservation of our nature and heritage from the authorities. Sometimes it takes another point of view from outside sources to realize when something like preservation is very special and on Barbuda these CUNY university students have started this.

The SIMARC group left on January 17 for Antigua, where during a flight stay-over, we were able to visit the Nelson's Dockyard Museum and Heritage Centre. At Nelson's Dockyard we learned about Antiguan history and took a lot of pictures. We also saw an identical anchor to one found in the Great Bay Harbour on St. Maarten last year, and how they had restored a wooden stock for it in order to put it on display. We can adapt this idea for our own historic anchor and build a stock for it so that it can be displayed. This will be a future project of SIMARC as the anchor is currently being stabilized in fresh water.

WITH ABOUT 62 square miles and 1,500 people, Barbuda is an island of coral limestone, similar to the terrain of Anguilla. The island of Barbuda is abundant in natural beauty and large caves, as well as lots of intact archaeological sites. Even with only one high school, the Barbudan students are very informed about global matters, such as global warming and rising sea levels, as their form of education is comparable to that of the British system. In comparison, St. Maarten is less than a third of the size of Barbuda and with triple the population! Despite being a short plane ride apart, St. Maarten and Barbuda are really very different and unique. During our visit, we assisted in archaeological fieldwork such as digging at excavations of a prehistoric village site, mapping of artefacts in a cave, and digging-sieving at excavations of an historical "castle" in the main town of Codrington. We also saw that Barbuda was not a plantation island in colonial times like St. Maarten was, so the historical sites are different from ours. With all of this work, we applied professionally-used, scientific methods and techniques for archaeological fieldwork.

We also took various island tours, one being to large caves far into the bush-country, where we saw a modern day "hunting camp." This is a place where traditional Barbudans go and live off the land. We observed the remains of hundreds of land turtle shells, deer bones and deer fur hanging on the branches of trees. This is a very rare ethnographic site with an important value for archaeological studies, seeing that today many of these animals are going extinct and few Caribbean peoples hunt them anymore, since now we go to the grocery store to purchase our food. The trash of olden times was perishable materials, but unfortunately now it is mostly plastics that do not dissolve, leaving long-term trash piles. Barbudans, like St. Maarteners, have a central dumping ground for their modern trash, but the Barbudans are now searching for different ways to get rid of their waste in a healthier manner, including with the introduction of scientific possibilities which are also part of the environmental aspect of the CUNY project.

DUE TO the small population and extensive land area, there are potentials for better nature and heritage preservation, especially at the Codrington Lagoon and in the country-side. The lagoon is very clean and has few boats, mostly fishing boats looking for lobsters. Also among the lagoon's mangroves are nesting grounds for frigate birds, with a huge frigate bird sanctuary. We took a tour of the area on a small fishing boat, and found that it's truly a beautiful place untouched by human hands. As it was nesting season, we watched as hundreds of these birds flew freely around us. Barbudans have such strong ties with the land, which is why they are very fortunate in having preserved archaeological sites; many historical buildings and ruins still remain in the main town of Codrington, unlike St. Maarten which has demolished so many of these valuable historical sites.

While on Barbuda, our main SIMARC focus was to help the youth of the local Sir McChesney George Secondary School to appreciate archaeology and heritage, including the work of CUNY, and inspire them to be active in researching their own heritage. We made a PowerPoint presentation about the different achievements and activities SIMARC has done on St. Maarten over the years, and gave some ideas of what they too could do. At their school, they had already started a nursery for indigenous plants and so we could see they were on the right track to creating a group like SIMARC. We look forward to maintaining contact with them in the future, and hopefully we will be able to exchange ideas about what can be done on both islands.

BARBUDA IS rich in culture, partly due to the lack of development. While driving along, we realized how few roads were actually paved; most were smoothed out dirt roads or just plain bumpy terrain. Like the island of St. Maarten, Barbuda too is growing and westernizing, just at a much slower rate. The people of Barbuda were very friendly to us, and you can see they have a growing interest in their heritage. We, the SIMARC students, encountered a rich sense of "Old Caribbean" culture among the Barbuda people, and especially the high-school students showed us great respect, which is why we want to continue our connection with the youth there.

Another goal of SIMARC is to create an educational network among Caribbean islands, and through that networking to assist each island to instil pride in its own community and heritage, especially among the youth. We have already created contacts in Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Anguilla, Curaçao, and now Antigua-Barbuda. Recently, we were even contacted by Puerto Rico to create a youth connection with them. Thus, we hope to continue creating environmental and heritage awareness among the islands and thus play our role in bettering the Caribbean. It is important to "think globally and act locally," as we always say. If we can implement this mindset all over the Caribbean, the SIMARC youth will be able to make a difference.

In July 2011, there will be an IACA conference in Martinique. We hope that SIMARC students, Barbuda students, Bonaire students and other youth archaeology programs from around the Caribbean will be represented. Though the IACA conference is mainly for professionals, SIMARC and BONAI have shown in the past that youth can contribute effectively to the knowledge of the professionals. In 2011, we hope to continue to leave a lasting impact on the professionals of the Caribbean, that high school students are making a difference on their own islands, and that St. Maarten is at the spearhead of this youth movement.

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