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Borikua Taino Foundation Meets with Navajo Coder Brittney Gene to Discuss Technology Solutions for Tribes

Members of the Taino Nation of Boriken met with community ally Brittany Gene of the Navajo Nation, an  industrial designer and coder. She comes to us as a 2022 fellow MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellow along with Board President Brooke Rodriguez and Board Secretary Alexandria Cruz.

We met with Brittany to gain insights into the possibility of creating an application for the National Enrollment of Borikua Taino Descendants. There is currently no national enrollment system in Boriken, nor does the local government acknowledge our rights as Indigenous peoples. Within the Borikua Taino community, the absence of an official enrollment system exacerbates the challenges of existing as a twice-colonized nation. Without a centralized platform to document descendants, individuals have struggled to establish and maintain connections to their ancestral roots and familial ties. This lack of documentation also hinders efforts to access resources, services, and support tailored to the needs of the Taino community. In Puerto Rico alone, where 61% of the population carries Taino DNA, countless families have been separated from one another, and from their connection to the land. Today, approximately 3.2 million people are living in Puerto Rico per the 2020 Census (this number does not account for transplants), whereas 5.8 million Puerto Rican-identifying people living in America per Pew Research (so 64% of the total estimated number of Puerto Ricans, not accounting for the number of folks living in other places like Europe). This displacement has created a condition where we exist largely as a diasporic community. This number grows with each natural disaster caused by climate change and urbanization. 

We believe that the creation of an official enrollment system can help our nation reclaim our Native identity, create a pathway to self-determination, and allow us to protect our heritage sites on the island. Documenting our ancestry is proof of our perpetual existence as a nation, we have never been extinct. People in the Taino Reclamation movement have called our experience a paper genocide, if we cease to exist, our resources and land become available for purchase or seizer. As more and more transplants arrive on the island, we must secure our rights as native peoples now more than ever.

So what did Brittany think of all this? She believes it can be done and has agreed to support our effort to build a Borikua Taino enrollment system! Stay tuned for more!

My name is Brittany Gene. I am an industrial designer from Indian Wells, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. In the spring of 2021 I graduated with my masters of industrial design from Arizona State University. During graduate school I had the opportunity to work as the lead graphic designer for Turning Points Magazine (Native American Student magazine at Arizona State) and as a teaching assistant for the Herberger School of Design. Some of my most recent projects include contributing to the Ethel Branch for Navajo Nation President campaign as the lead marketing, design and branding person and becoming a MIT Solve 2022 Indigenous Communities finalist.

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