INDICATIVE of the government’s recognition of Indigenous Peoples, practising our true native culture, something ‘Indigenous’ must have been the input in composing the theme, “Maintaining our Traditional Practices while promoting a Green Economy.” That’s what it should be.
Implicit in that theme, though, is not only the concept of a people practising a life that is unique to themselves, but being thankful and proud for the opportunity to be able to contribute to growth in a new epoch, or dispensation, in our beloved Guyana. The pretext of some of our own being ‘indigenous’ for only a specified time in the year, for convenience’s sake, is probably a myth. Here’s hoping that’s not reality.
Perhaps in the past we were made to loathe ourselves, but understandably so, because individuals did not understand our way of life, because persons in the larger Guyanese society did not believe we have the potential to make a difference in this beautiful land. So, at all times, in all places, we are a proud people for we are seen essentially as natives of this beautiful land, continuing to promote, in general terms, our general image as Indigenous Peoples. We are demonstrating, too, that all things being equal, we can be as competitive as any of our ‘other’ brothers and sisters in our social world. Yes, as proud Indigenous Peoples we can excel.
How could we then delineate ourselves from our own native origin, opting out, as it were, from the identity of being an Indigenous person? We have a contribution to make in our own unique way– originally ours, so to speak. In the Guyanese mainstream society are social scientists, artists, administrators, lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers and I can go on, and on; many, many, of whom I can mention are of Indigenous extract…but for unknown reasons preferred not to identify.
Student Rianna Toney, originally from the native village of Kwebanna, Region One, topped the Anna Regina Secondary School, Region Two, in this year’s CSEC examinations; Dianna Boyan-Persaud of Arawak ancestry from the native village of Wakapoa on the Pomeroon; a practising attorney in the CARICOM nation of Barbados, was called to the Bar in Guyana in 2008.(she should be recorded as our first female lawyer .)… and, of course attorney-at-law, Miriam Angelique Sonu Andrew, of Wapichan ancestry, called to the Bar recently, who for all intents and purposes is Indigenous and in no uncertain way takes most pride in her ancestral roots. How can we not be a proud native people?
My take as an Indigenous leader is, if anyone experiences a perception of loathing for one’s culture, that, that can only be a symptom of growth or a turning point–sociologically speaking–within the native man. It’s a symptom in the crude process of societal growth and development. The conflict, however, only arises out of the total rejection of one’s own culture or way of life and the adoption of another culture, living as Dave Martins and the Trade Winds sang, “Imitations,” aiding and abetting the loss of one’s own culture. But it’s all a process and should not been seen in a negative light.
Nothing is generically wrong in owning cars, fancy houses, having top-notch education, etc. I thank God, too, for all my wonderful friends from all walks of life…but our roots must be important to us. Not recognising this essential “life’s” question is perhaps the source of problems of many a people in the world today: where did I come from?
To be careful to preserve our originality and preserving the Indigenous identity is first and foremost the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of us the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana — no one else’s.
I take this opportunity to salute my Indigenous brothers and sisters during this month of Indigenous heritage celebrations. I salute all of us from Pointa’ Playa to Siparuta on ‘the Corentyne’s lush sands,’ from the Atlantic Coast to Lethem. Certainly, we all take pride in “maintaining our traditional practices” among ourselves as Guyanese first and foremost, every culture, of all ethnic origins; not pretending to be others, but continuing to be a proud people within our diverse cultures. Yes, we all invest of our talent, time and energy, making a difference within our unique worlds, for our regions…and for the nation at large, but let us continue to take pride in what is originally ours.
As for me, ‘Indigenous is awee own’.
Joseph C. Atkinson