The Indigenous peoples need a more relevant programme for Heritage Month

Dear Editor,

I extend warm greetings to all my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters across Guyana, as we  join in celebration for yet another month of planned activities in relation to our rich cultural heritage, Amerindian Heritage Month, 2017.

I also wish to express heartfelt appreciation to the past administration for hosting and highlighting some of these activities during their tenure. Also sincere gratitude to the present government for their continued support and commitment towards the betterment of this occasion.

At this juncture we must not forget to pay homage to the late Stephen Campbell and others who were instrumental in laying a foundation for us the indigenous peoples to educate, promote and preserve our rich cultural heritage.

Special mention must be made of the late LFS Burnham, who officially named our first international airport ‘Timehri’, an Amerindian word; initiating the construction of the now historic Wai-Wai benab (Umana Yana) in Kingston, Georgetown; and still under his watch, providing scholarships for the very first batch of Amerindians to attend the prestigious Queen’s College in Georgetown. All of this was testimony to his genuine concern for the Amerindians of this country.

This is in no way an attempt to castigate or romanticize those of the past or present administration, or to downplay any form of success we may have witnessed from both sides of the coin during the staging of our Amerindian Heritage Month programme of activities. The real purpose is to let it be known that the core organisers of this very important event must now come to grips with the rich legacy which our foreparents left when they graced this beautiful land of many waters.

In these circumstances, the organisers over the years have been putting on stage our young Indigenous people to over-play certain roles, and this can lead to further stereotyping of us. While it is good to note that we have maintained most of the skills (languages, etc) that we inherited from our foreparents and are allowed to showcase them when the opportunity arises, the brighter side of our history needs exposure.

I wish to advise that our foreparents were not only drinkers of strong paiwari and parakari beverages. They were involved in multiple roles which contributed significantly to the developmental foundation of this country in its initial stage. Therefore, we the first peoples of this country deserve a more relevant programme, so as to celebrate with respect and dignity in this blessed homeland where we all now live and whose benefits we enjoy as a Guyanese people.

I must now implore my Indigenous brothers and sisters to revolutionise our thoughts and reflect on the positive things which our foreparents did for our country, so that there can be a spiritual rebirth, which can cause good things to happen again for our Indigenous generation to come.

Hence, we must make a start somewhere to defend the incontrovertible record of our rich history and avoid falling into the pit of despair, so that neither we nor the great leaders of this country will ever be able to help us to climb out again.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Anthony Rodrigues

Region Nine

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