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Guyanese, more particularly our Amerindian brothers and sisters, mark September as “Amerindian Heritage Month.” This year’s theme ‘Preserving our customs and traditions’ could not be more apt, given the history of our First Peoples.
Going against the grain of what we have been taught, Christopher Columbus could not have discovered lands already occupied. That pride of place belongs to our Amerindian family, who, centuries before Columbus, made their way to these shores.
In the settlement of the Americas the various tribes brought their customs and traditions. Customs and traditions, of which some have shaped the nation and we all identify with and benefit from. Names, places, food, architecture, building materials etc. of our First Peoples have seamlessly been woven into the nation’s fabric and helped in shaping our aspiration as One People, One Nation, One Destiny. Guyana (Land of many waters) is of Amerindian origin. So too is the Cacique Crown which graces our Coat-of-Arms and is one of our National Honours. Pepper pot, cassava bread and cassareep, naming a few, are among the customs and traditions taken for granted today.
What stands out importantly about our brothers and sisters is their unwavering belief in the right to self-determine. This conviction saw valiant struggles carried out to protect the innate desire to shape their lives and live consistent with their ideals. That the Government of Guyana respected and protected this is the Constitution, is indicative that our Amerindian brothers and sisters were on the right track centuries ago. Having fought against the odds and alive today to tell the stories of struggles and successes from these, such a heritage is worthy of celebration. Happy Amerindian month!