Reflections on Amerindian Heritage Month Viewpoint
By Fred Fredericks
Guyana Chronicle
October 1, 2002

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THE month of September is set aside for Amerindians to showcase their culture. Appropriately this year, the month was opened with a church service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Brickdam, where prayers were offered in different Amerindian languages by Amerindians.

The theme for this year was, "Let's Unite and Celebrate Our Diversity". In the context in which this theme is put forward, we the indigenous people must be allowed to show off our culture. But this is what we are not allowed to do.

Please do not think for one moment that I am attacking anyone. I am just trying to point out some of the ill things we could avoid. Take for instance, the music played at different functions; they were people signing in the Western style instead of Amerindian songs of which we have. The boom-boom boxes that are played in rum shops were belching out some sounds (as they are called) at most, if not all of our functions. Also East Indian music which I do enjoy and I have a collection of my own were also aired. But forgive me please, when we should be showing off our culture, we should air our music only of which there is plenty.

Amerindian Heritage Month should be the month in which our other Guyanese brothers and sisters should have an opportunity to really see our culture. This should not be a month of merriment only but of education also. There is much that our Guyanese brothers and sisters can learn from us and about us.

This last August I am quite sure all of us have learned a lot about the African culture. The programme was entertaining as well as educational. I touch my headdress, my (Kwamahu) to the organisers.

Year after year, Amerindian Heritage Month is planned and organised by people who know nothing about Amerindians or Amerindianism.

I understand at one planning session, a woman member of some non-governmental organisation (NGO) asked that we must not bring the strong Piwari, but only the sweet one. I am sure she would not have liked the after effects of a drink of that. She was asking for a good bout of what we call Sorehi.

Our young and nimble Minister of Amerindian Affairs Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues can surely get all the help she needs if she can only contact the Amerindians. But first, she must understand that not every Amerindian is an Amerindian.

Amerindian Heritage Month should be the month in which we expose our culture to Guyana. Let Guyana really see who we are. We have to integrate into the Guyana society and this can only be done if others understand our ways of living, and we too understand theirs. Therefore, we the indigenous people should be free to show our culture.

Minister Rodrigues rightly said, and I quote, "The world is moving ahead and we have no choice but to keep up with that pace. We should therefore be striving to educate ourselves, especially our young ones by inculcating the attitudes, and gaining the relevant knowledge that are necessary for survival in today's world."

For many years, I have been saying this to my fellow Amerindians, but perhaps in different words. The wind of change is blowing very strong in today's world. We have to go with it, but it does not mean we must get lost in it. No! We must keep together, keep our culture, "Let's Unite and Celebrate Our Diversity". This theme should not be for Amerindian Heritage Month, September 2002 only. It should be for all Guyana and all Guyanese. Let us respect one anotherís culture and get together and make one big "Guyanese Culture".