All Guyanese must support our first peoples

Dear Editor,

It is immensely distressing to learn that our Amerindian community had to resort to writing the UN – their last refuge ‒ to seek redress for mining-related incursions into their customary traditional lands. What has become of Guyana? The soul and spirit of this nation has been crushed almost to extinction.

We have clearly forgotten our history. Greed for gold, land, and greed in general, once almost completely annihilated the Indigenous peoples of the world. Guyanese should be in the forefront of efforts to restore dignity and rights to our Amerindian community. It is said that history does not repeat itself, it merely rhymes. People without a connection to their spirit, without a connection to their heart, will only see dollars in front of their eyeballs. Kevin Costner, in Dances with Wolves, called them “a People without soul, a People without value.” These people cannot understand what Beatrice Hastings (Stabroek News, March 23) means when she says, “We have a deep connection to this river.” They cannot comprehend what she means when she says, “This is our life, one in which we are happy and content. These lands are part of who we are as a people and filled with stories which have been passed down from our foreparents.”  When will they stop? They have destroyed the Mazaruni and so when will they stop? Greed stops when people who understand its shallowness and the emptiness of material society stand up to it.

I am in agreement with the professor of the Coursera course ‘Aboriginal Worldviews and Education’ when he stated that there is a deep and widespread disrespect for Aboriginal and Indigenous culture. The recent comment from the APNU parliamentarian referring to the Amerindian community as ‘backward’ is very revealing of the subconscious colonial beliefs that linger in the psyches of some. We in this nation have failed to give Amerindians and Amerindian culture an equal place in our society. We have also failed to give our other cultures and values an equal place with our religions and virtues, and these are marginalized to the fringes of our society which is under the dominance of western ideas such as capitalism, communism, socialism, scientific materialism and other grand  ‘isms.’

I wish to encourage the people of Isseneru and Kako to stand their ground and to draw strength from the courage and success of original peoples all over the world. The Aboriginal Peoples of Canada have fought for decades and have now successfully entered into business enterprises and partnerships on their terms in harmony with their values and culture for the economic benefit of their communities. It is disappointing to hear the legal arguments in favour of ‘state’ lands. For all the claims from Mr Ralph Ramkarran (SN, April 7) that “this situation no longer exists,” the very situation exists. By now, if some lawyers are yet to fully comprehend it, Guyanese society understands that laws can be unjust. In the history of this country, some laws have had to be abolished. Who decided that the minerals and waterways belonged to the state? Did the colonialists ever really leave?

The manner in which government officials talk down to the Amerindian community is yet another symptom of the tail-wagging-the-dog syndrome. The Amerindian community is being treated as if it is in need of handouts when they in fact own the resources of their communities including traditional lands. While the LCDS is a means to draw funding to the country, we must understand the bigger picture behind it – the failures and shortsightedness of industrial societies and their coming into recognition of the damage their greed and materialism has caused this planet and of the worthlessness of a materialistic culture that does not understand its connectivity to rivers, lands, mountains, flora, fauna and other human societies. These are not handouts to the Amerindian community, but an appreciation of the value and worth of the Amerindian lifestyle.

The people of Kako are trying to protect their entire way of life. They are also concerned about social ills, alcohol and drugs and a general moral decay entering their territory. I stand in support of this community. We must begin to understand the value of peace and tranquillity. The highest forms of communion with God and creation are supported by a naturally pristine environment of peace and tranquillity and forest peoples are the guardians of these environments. Minds that are afflicted by greed, worry and hatred can only bring distress into our peaceful communities. All Guyanese who understand must rise up in support of our first peoples.

Yours faithfully,
Sandra Khan

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