Natural resources are high on the agenda to develop the country and propel the economy. The myth of Eldorado is materializing so Guyana could become like other countries in the Pan-Amazonian region that are advanced in terms of exploiting their natural resources. However, these nations which have developed policies for exploiting their pristine rain forest and natural resources like Brazil, are proceeding at a pace that is worrying.
Editor, I am not against the development of my country; I am just concerned about the way in which it will be carried out, because it’s not comforting to read news of what’s happening in neighbouring Amazonian nations. In those regions which are rich in natural resources, the wealth is found most times close by or on Indigenous people’s lands. There multinational companies are engaged in mining, logging and agriculture, contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
It is very sad to read that the lands of our brethren in neighbouring countries are being invaded by ranchers and miners, and that they are being displaced. When I read or watch the news about them being taken advantage of by the wealthy, etc, I remember the time when our forefathers suffered at the hands of the conquistadors who exploited the wealth of the New World. The same type of colonial strategy is being used in this modern-day capitalist world.
The lack of ‘development’ in the country’s hinterland has allowed most of the indigenous traditional culture to remain relatively undisturbed, compared to many indigenous cultures in the developed world. Neither the British colonial government nor the Guyanese government in power since independence undertook massive educational and business efforts to colonize the minds of the Indigenous people.
Editor, given this reality, I hope and pray that our leaders in this current administration can approach things differently and involve the Indigenous people in dialogue. This is where we will need our Indigenous philosophers, anthropologists and lawyers, etc, to come together to discuss with the leaders in the government, and find wise solutions and approaches to the dilemma regarding the Indigenous people in Guyana.
I often ponder how Guyana can be different in its approach to exploiting our natural resources for the benefit of all, and at the same time respect the environment and Indigenous people’s culture. In the history of the conquest of the New World, a similar challenge was encountered by the Spaniards in respect to the treatment of the Indigenous people which resulted in intellectuals debating it in 1550-1551 in Spain. It was called the Great Debate, and took place between Las Casas and Sepulveda in regard to the treatment of the Indigenous inhabitants of the New World.
Our country is a beautiful one, rich in terms of a diversity of cultures and natural resources. The country is also different in many ways in comparison to its South American neighbours, for example in respect to its treatment of Indigenous peoples, since our Guyanese ones don’t suffer great oppression. On this note, I would like to ask, can the country continue to stand out in its reasonably positive treatment of Indigenous people and also be an example for other nations in the Americas?