I wish to voice my concerns about the stereotyping of Amerindian/ Indigenous Peoples of Guyana. It is a burning issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The question is, how do we address it? What approach do we Indigenous People take? Protest? Dialog? Discussions?
The events that occurred on May 25, 2018 at Mae’s Primary School has exposed how Guyanese feel and think about the dress code of Indigenous People. The discussion is divided as to what is appropriate or not for Indigenous People. Why would anyone in this day and age dictate to us of what is appropriate or not, and ignore our history and culture that made us who we are today? So I ask the question again, how do we Indigenous People approach this issue?
When I first won a hinterland scholarship, I was met with so many stories. Students used phrases like, “you know buck people stupid’. A few years later at UG, some stared at me as if I was an alien. A guy told a story about his teacher who told his class that “buck” people so stupid that they would climb a mango tree, feel if it is ripe, then climb down and pelt the mango. In a nutshell, some folks view Amerindians/Indigenous People as “stupid”.
But how did we respond. We never did. The guy said he never took anything to heart, but his achievements spoke for him. And I, I let my actions do the talking. And for me, looking back on those events, that was my/our victory.
Three years ago, I visited St John’s Bosco Orphanage with a colleague from Aishalton. We showed the boys a video about Amerindians, their culture and traditional dances. I talked to them about Shiriri and showed a video of an elder telling a story in Wapichan. My colleague talked about her home village Aishalton and her culture: the Wapichan culture. And we were blown away by the reactions of those little souls. They were intrigued about what we showed them. They asked us questions about the Rupununi Savannahs, the people and about the lifestyle of the Vaqueros. One boy even started dancing “Parachara” as he saw the Wapichan people of Shiriri dancing. Isn’t it lovely when we can share our culture with little souls and be appreciated?
I dare say to all Indigenous People that we need to approach the stereotyping of Amerindians in an enlightening way. Let us enlighten the young minds. Let us enlighten the young minds of our sister nations (the six ethnic groups of Guyana). Let us go out into the schools and talk about “US”. Let us sing “Kabakaburi Children” with them. Let us dance “Matapi” with them. Let us dress in our Tibisiri skirt with them. Let us talk about “Uncle Basil” with them. Let us talk “Kanaima” stories with them. This way of enlightenment can bring victory for us and Guyana. And I salute our reigning Indigenous Queen, Ms. Sherry Anna Balkaran, for taking a step to talk with Mae’s administration. I hope to see fruitful outcomes from that discussion.
My colleague and I will never forget our little session at St John’s Bosco Orphanage. Little minds marvelling at what we to say. If we touched one soul, it was worth it. We can do miracles with one little conversation. As Mahatma Gandhi once said. “Be the Change you wish to see in the World”.
Proud Indigenous Youth of Guyana