Amerindians asked to ponder issue of integration during heritage month
Stabroek News
September 3, 2003

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Festivities to mark Amerindian Heritage Month got underway on Monday at the Umana Yana with calls for indigenous people to consider their place in the wider Guyanese society.

The event, punctuated by cultural activities and a craft and food sale, was attended by indigenous people from various communities and villages as well as President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Touchans from Regions One, Six, Seven, Eight and Ten each brought greetings for a successful heritage month from their communities.

Amerindian Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues said some 30 communities were expected to join in hosting activities and she encouraged persons from other ethnic groups to join in celebrating the rich Amerindian history as there was much they could learn.

She further recognised that although Amerindians were a proud people they still had some work to do to ensure respect from other groups.

The minister alluded to instances where Amerindians were continually disrespected and discredited although they were the first people to settle in this country, were the first miners and chose to settle in the remote areas.

She said the month would be used to forge debate on the integration of Amerindians into the wider society and the changes to be adopted to deal with a changing society.

Rodrigues also highlighted efforts to revise the Amerindian Act and solve the land issue, especially in Region 10.

Education was identified as the key to removal of the stigma against the indigenous peoples, and applauded the good results of students benefiting from the hinterland scholarship programme.

The minister also paid tribute to the achievements of someone she called an outstanding role model for indigenous peoples who had obtained a doctorate in linguistics, Desiree Fox.

President Jagdeo said the celebration was a way of showcasing developments of Amerindians and should be designed to inform the rest of the country of the heritage and significance of Amerindians.

He said the government was committed to redressing the inequalities suffered over the years by the indigenous peoples.

The month of activities, although officially starting on Monday, was formally launched on Sunday with a church service at the Sacred Heart Church on Main Street.

As part of the festivities there will be an art, craft and food exhibition and sale from September 1 to 7 at the Umana Yana and educational tours for students from Region 1 from September 8 to 13.

The official annual Amerindian Heritage Day activities will this year be held in St Ignatius in Region 9.

There will also be a panel discussion at the GTV Studios along with a hinterland students forum, a day of sports, a fund raising dinner and the annual Amerindian Heritage Pageant at the National Cultural Centre on September 27.

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