Keep it ‘Indigenous’
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…petitioners call for Ministry to remain as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs

INDIGENOUS groups and leaders in Guyana are not pleased with the government’s decision to rename the portfolio of the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs to the ‘Minister of Amerindian Affairs’ and are calling on this to be corrected.

In a press release to the media on Thursday, Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Lennox Shuman, said that his party has received messages and phone calls expressing “concerns and fear” over the change.

This is even as a petition is now circulating on the internet with almost 1,000 signatures calling for Minister Pauline Campbell-Sukhai, who was appointed to the post, to advocate that the portfolio be reverted to Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.

“The generalized ethnic label ‘Amerindian’ or ‘American Indian’ is now an acknowledged misnomer resulting from the erroneous geography of Christopher Columbus, a label which has been perpetuated without the consent of Indigenous Peoples; a label which will continue to distort our histories and search for our lost and hidden indigenous identities. This historical blunder must end with us,” the petitioners urge.

They call on Campbell-Sukhai to refrain from, and advise against renaming the Ministry as “Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.”; to use the term ‘Indigenous Peoples’ instead of ‘Amerindians’ when addressing Guyana’s first peoples and to ensure the incumbent government honours this appeal in all references pertaining to Guyanese Indigenous Peoples, especially within the media.

“Until we derive a label authentically indigenous and empowering to our peoples collectively, we choose to identify as Indigenous Peoples of this beloved country as enshrined within the Preamble of our Constitution. It promotes solidarity with our brothers and sisters of other nations and also fulfills the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and similar declarations and conventions,” the petitioners added.

There was also a stir on social media shortly after the announcement of Campbell-Sukhai as Minister of Amerindian Affairs.

“Call it as you should using politically correct language and the language used by UN and International Human Rights bodies. Amerindian is disempowering to our Guyanese Indigenous peoples. Amerindian, basically ‘American Indian’, refers to just that. They share their own experiences and struggles that are vastly different to the Indigenous peoples of Guyana. They existed way before the Europeans could ‘name them’ Amerindians,” Communications and Visibility Officer of the APA, Dennis Glasgow stated.

The name of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs on Quamina and Thomas Streets has not been changed nor has the social media page or website of the Ministry from ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs’.

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