THE Amerindian Village at the Sophia Exhibition Site is transformed annually in September into a microcosm of the wider national network of Guyana’s indigenous peoples.
This calendar event represents a melting pot of the Indigenous tribes of Guyana, whose cultural performances are traditionally done in several Amerindian languages by representatives of the various Amerindian communities.
September was designated Amerindian Heritage Month by the late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
Formerly relegated to the periphery of existential dynamics within mainstream national demographics, with little or no access to the amenities and facilities coastal dwellers take for granted, and little hope for advancement or development for their children, Amerindians have come into their own since the PPP/Civic assumed governance of the nation in 1992.
Their achievements today are phenomenal, with Amerindian women being powerful members of the Cabinet, and a host of other Amerindian professionals serving in various capacities across the nation.
Many have opted to return and serve in their home villages upon completion of their formal education.
They are allowed choices within their development paradigms and, second to government, they are the largest landowners in this nation.
Once treated without respect as a backward people, allowed the dregs from the nation’s coffers, the indigenous people of Guyana are today fully integrated in the wider society, while yet maintaining and sustaining their traditional cultural and social identity.
In his address during an Amerindian celebratory event, then President His Excellency Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo said: “Every year we set aside a month specifically to focus on the richness and diversity of the culture of our indigenous people, and since the month of September was dedicated to such a celebration by our late Presiden Dr. Cheddi Jagan, there has been growth, not only in terms of the number of people who participate, but in terms of the knowledge of this rich, wonderful culture of the nine tribes of our indigenous people.
“So we are extremely grateful to our Amerindian people for broadening and deepening our culture and our cultural identity.
“I have been privy to the many debates that have characterised our most recent history, particularly the conclusion that indigenous peoples need to preserve their culture and that any intrusion of modernity could lead to a reversal, or an erosion of this culture.
“In many parts of the world there is this view that our indigenous people and population must become museum pieces; that they must be kept in a historically intact state, but…I have said this for a very long time, and the government and the party I come from share the view that we can balance the two – we can ensure that our indigenous people progress materially, and that they can also dream big dreams while, at the same time, we can create and sustain the conditions for the preservation of this wonderful culture.
“My government will never impose on you any development model, or theory, or idea that is aiming to undermine your culture.
“Whatever model or initiative we choose to institute at the village level will have to be done carefully and with the consent of the people who live in those areas, because we respect the right of our Amerindian people to have choices. We have worked for a very long time to give them choices, not only at the local level, but at the national level. Their children can go to school and further their studies after primary school. Now they can get secondary education through dormitories built in their communities, and they can come to Georgetown, and go even further [sic] afield, on scholarships. They have choices to become young doctors and nurses and, at the same time, maintain their cultural identity.”
Since the former President made the foregoing speech, Amerindian development had escalated by leaps and bounds, with dormitories for students being among other initiatives that are aimed at providing relief to Amerindian communities and enhancing the lives and lifestyles to the first peoples of Guyana.
Stymied for the five preceding years until the PPP/C administration returned to office, the Amerindian communities have once again been equalised in the national developmental dynamic and for the years to come, there will be many brighter days ahead.