Fostering of diverse cultural exchange begins between Guyana and US – Native American flautist entertains

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Educator and flautist Johnny Kent, commonly called JJ Kent, a native American, presented a special performance at the Umana Yana on Thursday. Kent is on a week-long visit, and is exploring Guyana’s culture, meeting with community leaders and visiting villages in Surama and St. Cuthbert’s Mission. During his interactions with citizens, his experience, culture, customs and the challenges he encountered as a Native American are being shared.
US Ambassador to Guyana, Brent Hardt, in his welcome remarks at the Umana Yana, stated that the United States is proud of its native American history and culture, which is an integral part of US history and culture.
“From the cultural traditions….to the connection to the land and the spirit of conservation,” Ambassador Hardt stated. He also lauded US President Barack Obama and his administration’s commitment to implementing policies for a brighter future for tribal governments and native Americans.
The Obama administration has focused on improved health care, promoting sustainable economic development, making tribal communities safer, resolving disputes and legal claims, and education among other social services.
Like the United States, Guyana also has a rich indigenous heritage, which has seen the government making significant
strides to demonstrate solidarity with the Amerindian community. Ambassador Hardt outlined government’s programmes which parallel those of the US administration. He made special mention of the Guyana Constitution and the Amerindian Act, which, together, guarantee the legal and traditional rights of Amerindians.
Meanwhile, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai stated, “Today, the case of Guyana represents a legislative and constitutional right to land, self-determination and the protection and promotion of languages and culture.”
Subsistence Amerindian activities, including farming, hunting and gathering are still practiced by many Amerindians; however, she observed that with the introduction of the cash economy, this has changed somewhat; and in some communities; it is a common practice for men to leave to seek jobs in the mining and logging sectors.
However, entrepreneurship among Amerindians is also growing and is visible in some communities in areas such as tourism, mining, lumbering, transportation and village shops.
The minister also mentioned that while the nine groups are defined into three linguistic sets, each has its own language and efforts are constantly being made to ensure the languages are kept alive. The nine Amerindian groups in Guyana are the Arawak, Carib, Warrau, Patamona, Akawaio, Arecuna, Macushi, Wapishana and Wai Wai.
Like the indigenous people in other parts of South America, Amerindians in Guyana continue to depend largely on the land for their sustenance, hence many have developed a relationship with the land where it is not treated as a mere commodity.
While many Amerindian villages are maximising the use of their culture and heritage to spur tourism in their villages, the natural surroundings of most villages present virtually untouched natural attractions, waterfalls, rivers, and mountainside. Coupled with their distinct culture, history, art, architecture, lifestyle, values, festivals and heritage, they create an exciting package for tourism.
Due to an agreement between Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway, funding will be made available for economic and developmental projects in villages.
The musical programme presented by Kent at the Umana Yana was geared towards reflecting and fostering the diverse cultural exchanges between the native peoples of the US and Guyana, as well as the relations between the two countries.