On Becoming Visible Towards Meaning Recognition, Not with “Spear, Bow & Arrow” but with “Pen and Advocacy” – Chief Hernandez Full Speech at the Launch of First Peoples Holiday Activities
ON BECOMING VISIBLE TOWARDS MEANINGFUL RECOGNITION
NOT WITH “SPEAR, BOW AND ARROW” BUT WITH “PEN AND ADVOCACY”
SPEECH BY CHIEF RICARDO BHARATH HERNANDEZ AT LAUNCH OF ACTIVITIES FOR ONE OFF PUBLIC HOLIDAY. WEDNESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2017
Before I begin my Address, I would like to express the concern of the First Peoples for the plight of the people and countries who have experienced the destruction caused by the recent Hurricanes – Bret, Harvey, Irma and Jose, and the Earthquake in Mexico. Our Prayers are with the Victims.
Our Prayers are also with our indigenous Brothers and Sisters who continue to lose their right to live in the lands where they are the First Peoples. Their livelihoods are destroyed because of industrialization, mining, and drilling for oil. Very recently it was in the news that isolated indigenous tribes in Brazil were attacked by gold-miners.
The National Indian Foundation of Brazil is an institution that uses Drones to observe the life ways of indigenous tribes that live in isolated areas. According to their report, the victims were gathering eggs along the river when they were attacked. Ten (10) of them were killed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you may wonder why I have opened my address in this way. In spite of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we are still seeing atrocities against Indigenous Peoples in different parts of the world, a continuation of the suppression and marginalization of Indigenous Peoples.
Our situation here in Trinidad might not be as graphic as in other lands, because of their particular situations, but do not believe for one moment that as we strive for greater visibility towards meaningful recognition, that we are not faced with similar circumstances, for example, a recent case relative to our land.
While the State is making efforts to assist, individuals with other Agendas, who may at the same time want to oppress and stifle progress at different levels.
The matter is now being addressed by the relevant Ministry
Mabrika!! Mabrika! Satho Moroko, we are here today to celebrate!! Through the granting of this ”One-Off” Holiday, the State takes the lead in dispensing reparatory justice to the’oldest sector’of its population – the First Peoples.
This is a most historic moment for the First Peoples of Kairi, Trinidad & Tobago, as we announce to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the regional and international community that the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago have been provided with a platform for the whole nation never to forget the indignities they suffered and the contributions they have made to nation building. The First Peoples now have an equal opportunity as the others to speak of the genocide of several native races, the inhumane treatment of their ancestors; and to remind the Nation that their Ancestors laid the first foundations towards the building of this country. The First Peoples have historically been marginalized and dispossessed from the time of Europeans Conquest. Our lands were taken away and presented as a gift to the newcomers at the time of the Cedula of Population. Many Historians and the general population believed that the history of Trinidad and Tobago began with the arrival of the Africans and East Indians to these shores. A view which is now changing, as the First Peoples become Visible.
Here, I pay Tribute to the great Chiefs who resisted domination and particularly to the great Nepuyo Chieftain Hyarima, who we celebrate on the 14th October every year. Hyarima, who is seen as our First National Indigenous Hero, fought for his people and paid a great price. Today we continue in his footsteps, may be not with Spear and Bow and Arrow, but we continue our struggle through the ‘Pen and our Advocacy’. Our people have for many years been silent, suppressed under the burden of colonization, to the point of being thought of as non-existent. However, the Remnant- that Root that remains – is springing up again, and as a result, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has given us the tool to assist us in going forward. Government and the Nation as a whole must realize that the Colonisers took away our land, and they have a responsibility to address the wrongs of the past.
Successive Governments have taken incremental steps towards Recognition of the First Peoples, beginning with the recognition in 1990 by the NAR Government that “The Santa Rosa Carib Community be recognized as representative of the Indigenous Amerindians of Trinidad and Tobago” and that “as the oldest sector of this country’s multi-cultural society, the Amerindians have, for some time been recognized as having unique needs for their cultural and economic viability”.
This decision to grant a “One- Off Holiday to the First Peoples is a major one, that distinguishes itself, in that it will cause the national community to stop and focus attention on the First Peoples of this land. We believe that our Vision for the future development of the First Peoples, will contribute to the development which is so often spoken about, in contributing to the economy, and at the same time, preserving and restoring the original culture of the First Peoples.
The “One-off” Holiday must not be seen as another opportunity for leisure, but it must be seen from the perspective of the level of recognition that an event of that nature will bring, and is desperately needed if the community is to secure its vision for continuity.
With this in mind, the First Peoples National Holiday Planning Committee has developed a broad programme of activities designed to build awareness in all sectors of the population. The activities were planned to run from July to October, to embrace the Santa Rosa Festival, a vehicle credited with ensuring the survival and relevance of the First Peoples. As the oldest continuously celebrated Religious Festival in Trinidad and Tobago, it has great prominence in the lives of the First Peoples. The Festival began on August 1st and ended on 29th August. Highlights within this period were the Lighting of the Park, the staging of the Play “Hyarima and the Saints, on 26th August, and the Sacred Procession and Festival on August 27th.
A series of Lectures hosted by the University of Trinidad and Tobago will also begin from September 19 – Dr. Claudius Fergus, the former Head of the History Department, U.W.I. will be the Guest Lecturer.
In September the outreach to the youth and School Children will commence with activities in Port of Spain and Arima where the celebrated Poet and Playwright Pearl Eintou Springer will present her play Hyarima”.
Schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago are also invited to participate in an Essay and Art Competition, where attractive prizes are offered to the Winners and a Champion Trophy to the winning Schools.
The Week of Activities for Heritage Week will run from 8th October to 15th October. The strategic programme will include a Symposium hosted by the University of Trinidad & Tobago. The Theme of the Symposium is “From Chrysalis to Butterfly – On Becoming Visible Towards Meaningful Recognition”. Delegates will speak about how they overcame their adversities in their countries.
Another significant activity is ‘ a Children’s Rally which will be held on the 11th October, at the National Cycling Centre, Couva, courtesy of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. It is expected that up to 2,500 children from schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago will attend.
On Thursday 12th October, it is proposed to hold a Smoke Ceremony in front of the Red House where evidence of First Peoples existence in Port of Spain was unearthed. This will be followed by a massive show of First Peoples cultural and spiritual presence during a Ceremonial Walk through the streets of Port of Spain.
Here First Peoples renew their call for the appropriate handling of these archaeological Finds, which include the Reburial of the human remains in the area where they were found with appropriate ceremonies, and the construction of an archeological and historical museum on the site to house the non-human artifacts
Since 2012, the Community is engaged in a struggle to gain land on which to construct a First Peoples Heritage Village. Today, we are delighted that twenty-five acres of land have been restored to us. However, this delight is fast waning, as the resources needed for its development cannot be accessed, either from the government or corporate Trinidad and Tobago. A planned activity on the final day of our Heritage Week of Activities may have to be canceled because of the condition of the access road, and the lack of temporary facilities for local and visiting delegations.
Our Community receives a yearly Subvention, arising out of the establishment of a Project Committee to build the capacity of the first People. There are different headings under which this money is to be spent. One of them is the celebration of the First Peoples Heritage Week, and we are expected to use it to carry out the activities for the National Holiday. While this allocation has done much for the first Peoples, it cannot by itself enable us to implement all the activities that this national holiday warrants. Therefore we have to fund raise, through our own efforts, government, and sponsors.
To date, we have only achieved $55,000 from corporate Trinidad and Tobago. We know that we are in difficult times, and do not expect all our expectations to be met. However, we are asking the government and the business sector to “look again”, for ways in which to make further contributions, otherwise, we will have failed in our objectives for the observance of a National Holiday for the First Peoples. (Why do I say this? I will elaborate on one example – The Access Road, and our attempts to get it done)
The high point of all these activities is the Celebration of the National Holiday which will be held in Arima, the High Capital of the Indians, as described by F.E.M. Hosein, a former Mayor of Arima, and a Champion of the First Peoples, who emerged 283 years after Hyarima.
In welcoming His Excellency Governor Hollis to Arima in 1930, the Mayor made a special appeal on behalf of the Caribs, “the ancient people of his town” for some assistance in order that their festivities of Santa Rosa may be continued. Mayor Hosein went on to say “I am glad that it is preserved in this district, the high capital of the Indians in Trinidad. I sincerely hope that this ceremony will forever continue so that the name of Arima will never be lost”.
It took forty-six years for further Recognition and Respect to be given to the First Peoples.
It was Dr. Eric Williams, who in 1976 approved a grant of $157.50 to enable registration of the Community as a company. This was a princely grant considering that the only other direct contribution to the community was $200 from the Arima Borough Corporation for the Santa Rosa Festival. Subsequently, every political party in office has provided some support to the Community.
Formal recognition came under the government of the National Alliance for Reconstruction, led by Prime Minister Arthur N.R. Robinson, sixtyyears after F.E.M. Hosein’s appeal. This psychological and financial breakthrough came with the emergence of a champion in the late Mr. Peter Harris, a white man. Can we ponder on this for a while? A champion for the First Peoples emerged from the ranks of the British colonizers! His assistance in preparing a project outlining the plight of the First Peoples led to a quantum leap in the progress of the Community. His act led to recognition of the Community in 1990.
May 8, 1990 was a milestone in the history of The First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. On that date, the Cabinet of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) decided, and I quote “ that the Santa Rosa Carib Community be recognized as representative of the Indigenous Amerindians of Trinidad and Tobago, and approved an annual subvention of $30,000 to aid in its development.
May 8, 2017, therefore, marked twenty-seven (27) years since this historic decision, which was a defining moment in the progress of the First Peoples.
The relevance of the Cabinet decision came into sharp focus with the Declaration of the First and Second Decades for Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In 1995, the State again aided the Community in hosting Caribbean Amerindian delegations for Carifesta VI, on a much smaller scale. Here, I must pay tribute to Dr. Efebo Wilkinson, who in his role of Cultural Officer in the Ministry of Culture did much to promote the presence of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition, the Community gained regional recognition as a member of the Caribbean Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (COIP), and hosted visiting delegations from the Caribbean and the Americas. Today, the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community is the Chair of COIP.
In the year 2000, another signal honour took place. The community was granted a “Day of Recognition” on October 14th, to celebrate the Warrior Chief Hyarima, and promote the presence of the First Peoples. This act has legitimized the struggle of the First Peoples to preserve their land, and is a vindication of Chief Hyarima in leading that fight. In appreciation of this support given by the Cabinet of the United National Congress, an Award was presented to past Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, under whose watch another level of citizenship was restored to the First Peoples.
In spite of these milestones, not enough is known about the First Peoples, and seeing the need for Greater Visibility, the Community therefore lobbied for a “one-off” holiday, to be celebrated in like manner as the Afro and Indo Trinidadian, descendants, and Spiritual Baptists celebrate their survival, where the entire island shares in the celebrations.
While the Community is grateful for the ongoing support given by successive governments since 1976, this National Holiday will have limited effect if the necessary resources are not achieved. Except financial support is raised for the activities outlined, the National Holiday will not have the significance and impact it deserves.
Our communities regard this “one off” public holiday as a singular historic moment for our First Peoples and the nation. It is our latest form of Recognition. Therefore the goal of the celebration is to build public awareness of the presence, traditions and legacy of the First Peoples and their descendants, and leave a positive and lasting impact on the First Peoples and the Nation as a whole.
To support our efforts, several international First Peoples communities have indicated their willingness to attend and be part of the celebrations comprising high profile delegations from within the Region, South America, the United States, Canada, and Australia. How are we to do this without the resources we need? The success of our programme is dependent on the ability to effectively communicate with the public, and engage government and the business community for financial assistance through grants and sponsorship. I hope that this appeal will not fall on deaf ears.
It is therefore incumbent on First Peoples throughout Trinidad and Tobago to identify with their heritage, and build that critical mass to move us forward. Major recognition is yet to come, and should not be delayed for too long into the future.
I call on those who represent indigenous groups or movements for the advancement of the first Peoples to come together in a meaningful and genuine way, if their Agenda is really for the progress of the First Peoples, and not for individual recognition. Because we have lost so much, our focus at this time should be on capacity building towards empowerment of our peoples, re-establishing a sense of pride, and sense of belonging, as to our true identity and place in society. We are not advocating that we are better, or more important than anyone else in the society, we are simply claiming our rightful space for the preservation of our unique cultural heritage, and to ensure that we can make a meaningful contribution to the development of our nation by engaging ourselves in activities that will bring economic sustainable returns to our people and the wider society.
Without the meaningful recognition and in put of our government we cannot advance our cause. Our long term vision is to see the establishment of the Village on the 25 acres of land, that will be a flagship not only for Arima, but the wider nation. It will bring something new and unique, that can be seen as part of the diversification that is needed in our economy. We are presenting a Model, not as a ’Show Piece’, but for economic returns, while at the same time preserving our heritage.
Sometimes, we feel that we are not being taken seriously with this initiative. We are looked upon as “on the side”, as insignificant! So therefore I appeal to the government representatives here today, and those who will hear my voice through the different channels of the Media, to look at it as a $Billion Dollar Project, because at some time it will surely be that.
Let us have a great Ingathering of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago.
Some people believe that there are no First Peoples, because of our “miscegenation”, or mixing of blood. I want to remind you of the wisdom of the wise Cherokee Chief Jim Pell, who said:
“There is no such thing as ‘part-Cherokee.’ Either you’re Cherokee or you’re not. It isn’t the quantity of Cherokee blood in your veins that is important, but the quality of it . . . your pride in it. I have seen full-bloods who have virtually no idea of the great legacy entrusted to their care. Yet, I have seen people with as little as 1/500th blood quantum who inspire the spirits of their ancestors because they make being Cherokee a proud part of their everyday life.”
The same applies for the First Peoples descendants in Trinidad and Tobago.
So with that endorsement and motivation, let us have a great Ingathering of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago. Come as Individuals, Groups and Organisations, and let us work together in the established Celebration of the Festivals, and island-wide activities for the national celebration of this highly prized “One-Off” Public Holiday – a JEWEL of great price!
Just before I leave the Podium, I want to say that all this would not have been possible if we did not have a dynamic Planning Committee under myleadership. Their help is greatly appreciated, and I invite those present to stand and be acknowledged:-
Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar
Mr. Clarence Moe
Pearl Einou Springer
Ms. Angelita Bharath
Mr. Raj Jadoo
Ms. Irene Medina
Dr. Hilary Bernard
Dr. Satnarine Balkaransingh
Ms. Mariella Pierre-Peschier
Mr. Terry Mohomed
Ms. Maria De Ramos
Pyai Cristo Adonis
Ms. Naema Khan
Mr. Jason Calderon
Ms. Jassie Singh
Mr. Elwin Johnson
Ms. Jean Superville
Mr. Mino De Maggio