|Decision Welcomed in Barrier Island Name Dispute|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2012|
Brevard County, Florida (UCTP Taino News) - Earlier this year, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names received a proposal to name a Florida barrier island after the Spanish Conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon. The proposal was opposed by local residents, local governments, Indigenous organizations such as the American Indian Association of Florida and the United Confederation of Taino People, and others. On November 8th, it was announced by the Domestic Names Committee that the island would remain unnamed.
“I am happy with this decision” stated Pat Pasley, a local resident who opposed the name Ponce de Leon Island.“If it couldn't be named Ais Island, keeping it unnamed it a good thing. This will keep the historic maps as a last point of reference for a name [Ais] and the honor will remain to those Native Americans who lived here so long ago.”
Tai Pelli, a Liaison Officer for the United Confederation of Taino People agreed. “It is so good to see that our combined efforts paid off and that it will not be named after the conquistador.” She continued stating that “This is the right decision as it reflects the choice of the communities involved.”
Upon learning of a forthcoming proposal to honor the Spanish soldier by naming an island after him, the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) officially submitted its opposition to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Citing Ponce de Leon’s abuses of the Taino People in the Caribbean, the UCTP supported a proposal by the American Indian Association of Florida to instead name the barrier island after its original inhabitants, the indigenous Ais Peoples.
“Since we learned about this issue in November 2011, it was our [UCTP] position that the island either be named Ais Island or remain unnamed” stated Pelli.
In an awareness raising campaign, the UCTP launched an internet petition, engaged with local government, and successfully urged local, national, and international organizations to oppose, in writing, the proposal in favor of Ponce de Leon. Respected organizations such as the International Indian Treaty Council, the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and Guabancex, among others responded.
“I am very thankful for all the help… as I feel it made a big difference in the deciding vote,” stated Pasley.