Affirming their place in modern society Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 28, 2001

THIS WEEKEND, a bevy of Amerindian beauties will glide their way across the stage of the National Cultural Centre and into Guyana's history as the first group of indigenous young ladies to participate in their own fashion and beauty pageant.

Weighted with history as well as with immense cultural significance, the Miss Guyana Amerindian Heritage Pageant is quite possibly the boldest move made in recent times by local aboriginal women, who are renowned for their shy and modest deportment. And judging from the news pictures we have seen in the print and electronic media, these young ladies will give one another serious competition for the title and crown because they are all sylph-like and beauteous of visage.

Amerindian Heritage Month, which was initiated by the administration in the mid-1990s, concludes on Sunday and reports of the activities held to celebrate and pay homage to Guyana's first people have indicated the high level of national awareness of the Amerindian peoples, and appreciation of their contribution in giving Guyanese culture its unique ethos.

There are nine Amerindian tribes of Guyana, and they all descended from the early inhabitants of Asia, who crossed the Bering Straits during the Fourth Ice Age and made their way to the Americas. Scientists say this took place some 15,000 years ago. While some of the hunter-gatherers stayed in North America, others made their way down to Central America and settled in the Caribbean and later South America. To this day well-preserved mummies of aboriginal people are being unearthed in Peru and other countries of South America. Guyana's late artist/ author/archaeologist Dr Denis Williams created a sensation in scientific circles during the early 1980s after the Smithsonian had authenticated skeletons excavated at Barabina, Northwest District as being 7,000 years old.

It was this country's early people who, after exploring the network of rivers, creeks and streams, called it Guyana, which means Land of Many Waters. They have also bequeathed to us a precious gift of pre-Columbian cave and rock art in the wondrous petroglyphs found in the southern area of the Rupununi. Guyana's aboriginal people have made meaningful and life-enhancing contribution to the national ethos. They did not only gave us casareep and cassava bread and the delicious pepperpot, which is an integral item on the menu of Christmas dishes, they blessed our consciouness with the songs of David Campbell and the powerful mixed-media works of the late Stephanie Correia. Both Stephanie and David are two of the offspring of the late Stephen Campbell, the first Amerindian to enter the British Guiana Legislative Council. David Campbell, who several years ago travelled to North America and established links with his Native American brothers, once told his sister in a very poetic letter that he was travelling to California, where he would wait to see the sun rise in the west!

We must here recall the comments of former United Nations Secretary General Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the launching of "The Decade of the World's Indigenous People (1995-2004)". The launching of this observance Mr Boutros-Ghali noted, was the result of the determination of the aboriginals not to remain at the margins of national and international life.

Our lissome beauties are certainly affirming their place in Guyanese society with their decision to participate in the Amerindian Heritage Pageant this weekend. We wish all the delegates a wonderful and rewarding experience.