Expressing pride in our history and culture
by David James
September 7, 2000
THIS September, we the Guyanese people celebrate yet another Amerindian Heritage Month.
For all non-Amerindian Guyanese it is a time to learn more about the history, culture and achievements of their Amerindian brothers and sisters.
For the nine Amerindian peoples of our country, it is generally a time to celebrate our achievements and to express pride in our history and culture.
As a result, a variety of activities are planned in the many villages across Guyana; from Santa Rosa in the north west to Orealla in the east; to Aishalton in the deep south of Rupununi.
This year, both the young and the old will participate in traditional dances such as Marie-Marie and Parishana, in story telling and singing in their native language and in games and other contests.
A select few will take part in the ants-stinging ceremony. This is a purification ceremony which requires a person to show no sign of pain while being stung by giant-sized ants.
While, we the Amerindians make the most of enjoying ourselves during September, many among us also take time to seriously reflect on our present situation in our country.
Many of us ask, is our future secure? Will our future generations still enjoy the relatively pure and pristine natural environment which has sustained us for millennia? Or will we be forcibly herded into tiny tracts of land surrounded by concessions of one sort or the other - be it mining, timber or rocket launching?
Must we, the first people of Guyana, pay the price for so-called development by losing our land, our customs and values and by having our rights continuously violated?
The experience throughout the world where indigenous peoples live is that as they lose their lands - they also lose their culture and their main source of sustenance and survival. The land and indigenous peoples form a sacred bond which when severed has grave consequences for the native peoples.
In Guyana, there is still an excellent opportunity for the vexing Amerindian land rights issue to be resolved. The Government of Guyana should realise that sitting down to meaningful consultation and negotiation with the representative leaders of the Amerindian peoples of this country can be a process that brings dignity and respect to all involved.
When we, the Amerindians, finally achieve legal and other guarantees of our land and other fundamental rights, only then can we as a people say with some confidence that our future is secure.
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