As we collectively celebrate the month of September in Guyana which is designated Amerindian Heritage Month, I feel compelled to acknowledge the continuing accomplishments of the Indigenous people, particularly in Region 2. The Indigenous communities across the Region have produced some outstanding personalities in the field of education, health, sports, administration, politics and social activism. The Assistant Regional Executive Officer, Ms Yvette Hastings-Tafares is of Amerindian descent. Her responsibilities are wide ranging, and include the administration of the local authorities which comprise the five Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. She has also championed the welfare and advancement of Amerindians and who would frequently seek her intervention on a number of social, cultural, domestic and economic issues. She is the first top level manager of Amerindian heritage to hold the post. The Region has also done well at the national heritage sports event, from which both the male and previous female cricket champions originate. The females won the title in 2015 while the males are the defending champions. Ms Hastings’ office has been quite instrumental in organizing and selecting the best athletes to compete at the games.
The Region has also produced the head of the National Toshaos Council, Mr Joel Fredericks, who hails from the village of Mainstay. His activism as a leader of the Amerindian community has been well documented. Calypsonian, the Mighty Chief, who hails from the Pomeroon River remains the Region’s most gifted performer of the art. In fact, he has represented the Region in a number of national competitions and is known nationally. His children have continued the tradition and have since formed the Calibro band which is now a household name in Essequibo, and perhaps beyond these shores as well. There are also a few Amerindian councillors on the Regional Democratic Council, including former parliamentarian Lloyd Perreira and Doreen Jacobus, who was a former Toshao too. Their input in representing their constituents has resulted in significant progress in various communities, including having access to cleaner water, transportation, the rehabilitation of roads, dams, schools and health centres. Providing social services to such communities is often quite challenging, especially with regard to providing pensions and having the requisite documentation to access same. In this respect, councillors and Toshaos pay a pivotal role in determining the fate of many residents, particularly from the upper and lower Pomeroon River.
Amerindians in positions of influence include young doctors who recently graduated from Cuba and are stationed at the Public Hospitals in Suddie and Charity. There are also trained teachers, more of whom are now being exposed and encouraged to upgrade themselves at institutions like the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education. Previously, headteachers from the coastland had to manage the schools in the interior owing to the inexperience and limited qualifications of Amerindian teachers. This scenario has now significantly changed, and more teachers of Amerindian descent are now managers of schools, and the list is beginning to lengthen by the day. Indeed Amerindians are beginning to occupy their rightful places in every endeavour, having the opportunity to express themselves, gain exposure and have equal access to the numerous opportunities that are being offered, including scholarships and jobs. In this regard, they have been placing their shoulders to the wheel and continue to positively contribute towards the development of Region 2.