It is time for the Amerindian nation to wake up and represent itself
In the Stabroek News dated Wednesday, August 15, 2012 I saw an advertisement that asks: ‘Why should one ethnic group own more than 1/3 of Guyana?
The advertisement further stated that the areas on the Guyana map displayed represent the areas that have been allocated to, identified for, or restricted to use for Amerindians only.
The moves by this interest group, if allowed to be successful, are a threat to our survival as indigenous peoples. It would be cultural and practical death of the Amerindians to limit us to land utilization the way other Guyanese are accustomed to. I sincerely hope that the Government is not party to this move.
I cannot refute the correctness of the areas shown on the map of Guyana by whomsoever placed this ad in the newspaper but am somewhat surprised that the Amerindians have not asked for 2/3 or even more of Guyana.
But then one cannot be surprised that the first peoples of this country, who are generally known to be contented to have just what they really need, should request far less than what is rightfully theirs.
Take for example the Rupununi Savannahs. The Wapishanas and the Makushis were the first peoples in this Region apart from the Atorads. Nowhere have I seen a claim by these peoples for all the lands that are traditionally theirs. Instead, they have only made claims for so called extensions to their village lands.
The actual fact is that the lands should not be requested as extensions but as claims for repossession of traditional lands that have been taken away from them.
Then it was brought to my knowledge that a certain group is lobbying that mineral rich areas traditionally owned by indigenous villages should not be granted as extensions to the Amerindian villages. This takes us back to centuries of abuse by governments and dominant groups against indigenous peoples. In some instances the indigenous peoples were pushed into arid lands but when these ‘no good’ lands were found to be mineral rich, the downtrodden indigenous peoples were then moved further away on one pretext or another.
One example closer to home involves the community of Rewa, Region 9. In one meeting the villagers reported that even though they had applied for lands contiguous to their titled lands and known to be used by them traditionally, the areas that are said to be rich in petroleum were conveniently not approved as part of their extensions.
Maybe it is too soon to ask but one wonders whether or not the Amerindian Peoples have elected leaders who are willing to identify themselves with the Amerindian cause. I sincerely hope that we do not have a new National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) that will merely rubber stamp the Government’s policies and programmes but will also be promoters and defenders of the first peoples’ interests. It is also time for the Amerindian nation to wake up and represent itself.