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For us, various waves of imposition have meant new systems of education, health, government, and more generally, a changed culture. Upon all of this we have lost the majority of our lands or have seen its destruction through the careless extraction of its resources. Today we are grappling with a number of issues including the resuscitation and revitalisation of our culture, the legal titling of our traditional lands, appropriate and adequate forms of education for our children, proper health facilities to maintain our population, proper representation of our peoples, adequate government systems, and better transportation and communication systems, among others.
Even though we are celebrating Amerindian Heritage Month, and there is some cause for celebration in that we have managed to maintain various forms of our culture, we cannot truly celebrate until we have legal recognition of our lands which is the basis of our culture, until our languages are recognised in the formal school systems, until the school curriculum includes teachings on our culture and the things that are most important to us as Amerindians, until more education facilities are provided for our children in the environment in which they are most comfortable, until the health and medical care systems ensure that communities are properly serviced, until it is recognised that we can govern ourselves and that we do not need to be treated like children or have others make decisions on our behalf.
Many have spoken about integration into the wider Guyanese society but what are we talking about - adopting other people's culture to the detriment of ours? This must never happen. We can be Amerindians and yet be Guyanese. As an Amerindian I would like to urge all of us to look into ourselves and see where we are and where we want to go. We would like to have our own doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals and I urge the youths to strive towards achieving these goals, but I also urge you to recognise that our languages, our relationship to our lands, our music, our dances - to sum it up, our way of life -- is what makes us a people and we must never lose sight of these.