Participation in the IACA Archaeology Congress, St. Croix, USVI

An article compiled by students of SIMARC (St. Maarten) and SABARC (Saba)


Sint Maarten Archaeological Center SIMARC is a community-based, non-profit group of local high school students, founded and directed by Dr. Jay Haviser since 2005. Saba Archaeological Center SABARC is also a community-based, non-profit group whose director is Dr. Ryan Espersen. Since 2012, SIMARC has been the official depository for archaeological artefacts collected during fieldwork that has been carried out in St. Maarten. It is also where we do our lab work and have heritage educational lectures for students and the broader community. Established in 2012, SABARC has its office in the Saba Heritage Center, complete with an artefact laboratory, artefact storage area, and educational display cases.


IACA is the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. It is the largest gathering of professional and amateur archaeologists from the Caribbean and overseas, who work and have an interest in the archaeology of the Caribbean region. The Congress of the IACA is hosted in a different Caribbean country every two years – in 2015, it was on St. Maarten; and from July 24 to 29 this year, it was held at Divi Carina Bay Resort in St Croix.


Two students from SIMARC, Soma Persaud and Tisiana Hart, along with two students from SABARC, Hylke Van Der Velde and Donald Hassell, were selected to participate in the IACA congress as representatives of the two organizations. They began preparations a month prior to the conference by gathering information about current research and findings on the islands of St. Maarten and Saba.


The preparation for this IACA presentation allowed them to show their understanding of the scientific methods required for heritage research, review what work they have done over the last two years, while the conference participation also allowed for a great crossover exposure and experience with professional experts in the field.


The students not only attended the congress, but also made a joint SIMARC-SABARC presentation to the assembled archaeologists. They got the opportunity to attend receptions and fieldtrips. These experiences helped them to learn about the history of the island of St. Croix. They visited many historical sites as well as the botanical garden.

During this IACA participation, they also got the opportunity to exchange knowledge and information with fellow archaeologists and local St. Croix high-school students attending the congress. “We hope that from this new youth networking, we can maybe someday have a youth exchange with students from St. Croix,” they expressed.


Over the last year, SIMARC has taken a creative approach with a re-enactment video which was used to fulfil our goal of saving our heritage and historical sites of St. Maarten. “By using our voices as youths to speak up through video [we hope to achieve our] overall goal to educate and provide the community with insight on what SIMARC is, and what we do to help protect and educate about our island heritage.”


What do SIMARC/SABARC groups do for their communities?

“We create bonds between the local high-school students and the island communities, with a development of knowledge and pride in our heritage. We also help improve economic growth through heritage tourism, as we document and sometimes repair damaged historic sites, we plant trees and, as with this IACA trip, we travel abroad, spreading the word of our pride in heritage. By setting future goals, purpose and value are added to our time and efforts. We focus not only on present projects, but also on what we would like to see to develop for the betterment of our organization.


“The first and foremost future goal we wish to achieve is positive recognition. Not just recognition on a local level, not even on a regional level – the aspiration is to have an international presence in the global community. To achieve this goal, we wish to increase our collaboration on projects with interested organizations. We also find it necessary to have our image spread on the Internet; hence, it is our goal to start being active on social media.


“Additionally, some other future goals are as follows: Making signs for important sites of heritage information, compare historic grave headstones between St. Maarten and Saba, interview elders around the island about our culture, and continue developing our networks around the Caribbean and abroad. Lastly, we hope to diversify the student population in our group, and just be role models for other youths.”


In order to participate in this important IACA travel, SIMARC and SABARC greatly appreciate the direct sponsorship from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (Caribbean region), Be The Change Foundation, AirStMaarten, and indirectly from the governments of Saba and St. Maarten through annual operational subsidies.

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