For the next 30 days, Guyanese of all ethnicities will join their Amerindian brothers and sisters to remember and pay tribute to the numerous contributions by indigenous people in the historical development of this country.
Amerindian Heritage Month 2011 was officially opened yesterday under the theme “Our culture, our heritage, our life: A fusion of Indigenous Diversity” at the Sophia National Exhibition Centre, Greater Georgetown, where hundreds turned up to join in the celebrations.
Yvonne Pearson, Chairman of the National Toshaos Council, told the gathering that Amerindians play an important part in society and since they are the “first people” it is their duty to ensure that persons live up to the country’s motto.
“It is our responsibility to merge, to blend, to bring together, to use different forms or different ways to ensure that we live up to our motto of One people, One Nation, One Destiny.”
She added that 2011 is a very important year for all Guyanese since it is the “Year for People of African Descent” and in May, the country celebrated its annual Indian Arrival Day celebrations as well.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, stated that Guyana is home to some 70,000 Indigenous people, approximately ten per cent of its total population.
The Amerindians continue to play pivotal roles in the nation’s development as their contributions in various areas such as education, economic and social development, culture, health and human rights stand out.
Special mention was made of the first Amerindian Member of Parliament, Mr. Stephen Campbell.
Minister Sukhai explained that in 1995, September was designated as Amerindian Heritage Month where the diversity of people is highlighted. She referred to the sterling contributions of her late colleague, Minister Desrey Fox, who served the country to the best of her abilities and was a role model for many Amerindians in Guyana.
President Jagdeo, who officially raised the curtain on the month of activities, said that with Guyana being a signatory to a number of international declarations, and the implementation of various pieces of legislation for the protection and promotion of Indigenous people, there have been quantum leaps in Amerindian and hinterland development.
He stated that the first Amerindian Heritage Month celebration in 1995 saw handfuls of people, but every year since the number has grown, until now, hundreds turn up in recognition of this special occasion.
It was noted that in spite of geographical location, Amerindians have better access to education through the construction of schools in their villages, granting of local and international scholarships for Amerindian students to pursue tertiary and secondary education in various disciplines and health care services via the construction of health centres in almost all the villages, and trained Community Health Workers, doctors and other medical personnel.
These include investments in Presidential Grants, National Hinterland Secure Livelihood, Land Demarcation and Titling, Hinterland Solar electrification, Road and Water Programmes, School Uniform and more.
According to the schedule of the month-long activities, Aishalton, in South Rupununi, has been designated the Heritage Village, where the focus will be on September 10.
The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has planned a programme of celebrations, including an inter-faith religious service at the Umana Yana, which took place on Wednesday.
An exhibition commenced yesterday at the Sophia National Exhibition Centre showcasing food and craft made by Amerindians. This will continue through September 5.
Prior to that is a Heritage Walk, scheduled for September 4, beginning at the Umana Yana, Kingston, Georgetown.
There will also be an exhibition and reflection on the life of Stephen Campbell, at the Umana Yana, on September 8.
The Miss Amerindian Heritage Pageant, at the National Cultural Centre, will take place on September 17 and a Sports and Family Fun Day is set for September 18.
There will be a dinner and appreciation ceremony, on September 30 at Roraima Duke Lodge, Duke Street, Kingston, and on October 1, the “Grand Heritage Finals” will be held at Mainstay, Region Two, to conclude the celebratory month.