Celebrating Indigenous Peoples heritage

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ON Friday, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs launched its programme of activities to mark Indigenous Heritage Month 2019, which will be celebrated next month.
The year’s activities will be held under the theme, “Maintaining our traditional practices while promoting a ‘green’ economy”. At the launch, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe also said August 9 coincided with celebrations around the world for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, noting that the date also marks the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982. This year’s activities will be celebrated internationally under the theme, “Indigenous Languages”, and will focus on the current situation of indigenous languages around the world, within the framework of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Heritage Month provides numerous opportunities for our diverse society to know more about the Indigenous community, and ways in which our common interests can be pursued to the collective growth and development of all the peoples and the nation. For it is only through understanding, appreciation and respect for the other, accompanied by requisite institutional protection, can people in a multicultural society co-exist in peace and harmony.
To this country’s credit and that of its various administrations, there remains continuous efforts on the part of the government to ensure the Indigenous Peoples’ culture gets its deserving space and respect in the national culture. Such augurs well for our national motto, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”.

The foundation of this society, as we know it, was laid on exploitation and discrimination, and ensnared the group as the first casualty. Thus today, this oneness of experience, though groups have been affected to varying degrees, requires of us seeking understanding of the heritage of the other, to do so with open, enquiring and receptive minds.
It is to this nation’s benefit to learn how the Indigenous Peoples who primarily occupy the hinterland regions, have been able to co-exist with nature through the centuries. Also, when the world is also looking at alternative medicine, foods and other merchandise, including those organically grown and preserved, lessons can be learnt and economic and employment opportunities obtained from and within this community. Where emphases are placed on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, which entail good environmental practices and the use and proper management of indigenous resources, those on the coastland can be empowered with knowledge from their hinterland counterparts.

With the fascination and fierce loyalty to modern technology, it should be borne in mind that over the ages, this would have evolved from Earliest Man’s intuition and wisdom in understanding the environment and developing the tools to enhance his well-being.
In architecture, persons can witness the marvel of the ingenuity of the Wai Wai nation in the construction of the Umana Yana (a Wai Wai term for “meeting place of the people”) without nails, in 1972, during the Forbes Burnham administration for Guyana’s hosting of the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers Conference. The building was used as the VIP Lounge and Recreation Centre for the dignitaries, and has retained its pre-eminence for hosting events.

Moreover, evidence can readily be seen in the country’s name, Guyana (i.e. Land of Many Waters) the National Flag (the Golden Arrowhead, which pays homage to the potency of the arrow), the National Honours (Cacique Crown of Honour (CCH), and Arrow of Achievement (AA)) and Coat of Arms (the crest is an Amerindian head-dress). In foods, there are the renowned pepper-pot and cassava bread; the airport (Timehri), and for relaxation the hammock, to name some. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters have contributed to every facet of this nation’s growth and development, and space will not allow the recounting of every aspect of it. Neither will one month suffice in recounting this proud heritage. And though the children of independent Guyana have had the benefit of learning of the Indigenous Peoples’ heritage to varying degrees, creating more opportunities for deeper knowledge can only work to the holistic development of all Guyanese.