Minister of Social Cohesion with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr George Norton, announced on Thursday that the building on Waterloo Street which currently houses the Ministry of Citizenship will be renamed in honour of Stephen Joseph Campbell, who is the first Guyanese of Indigenous descent to have become of a Member of Parliament.
The Arawak (Lokono) and Portuguese descendant was born in Moruca, British Guiana on December 26, 1897. Norton said that consideration is also being given to the possibility of erecting a monument in Campbell’s honour, according to a release from the Ministry of the Presidency.
In 1962, amidst widespread concern that Indigenous lands would be expropriated after the departure of the British, Campbell presented a petition signed by 26 Indigenous Chiefs to the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Duncan Sandys at the British Guiana Constitutional Conference in London to lobby for Indigenous land rights.
When no satisfactory response was received after one year, Campbell and the then leader of The United Force (UF), Peter D’Aguiar jointly pursued the matter, resulting in a number of initiatives, including the establishment of semi-reserves, fixed boundaries, and safeguarding of the right of appeal to the Privy Council concerning Indigenous rights for at least 10 years after Independence.
In 1964, the Amerindian Association of Guyana was formed, with Campbell at the helm where he continued to tackle land rights issues affecting Indigenous peoples, which led to the establishment of the Amerindian Act. Campbell also advocated for matters including agriculture and education, the release said.
Campbell’s contributions are celebrated every year on September 10, during the Annual Indigenous Heritage Month observances.