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National Library Photo
September 1 marks the beginning of the month-long celebration of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples. Heritage Month, first observed in 1995, was so designated by Prime Minister Dr. Cheddi Jagan to acknowledge and recognise the contributions of Guyana’s first peoples to our country’s history and diverse cultural identity. Heritage Month is built around Heritage Day — September 10. On September 10, 1957, Mr. Stephen Campbell became the first Member of Parliament (The Legislative Council of British Guiana) of Indigenous descent.
Campbell was an Arawakan Guyanese politician and political activist. Stephen Joseph Campbell was born to Tiburtio Campbell and his wife, Maria dos Santos, in Santa Rosa, British Guiana. He was brought up as a devout Catholic. He studied at Santa Rosa Mission School, and worked for many years as a teacher in various regions of Guyana. Mr. Campbell — revered by Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples — died on May 12, 1966, just two weeks before Guyana won independence from Great Britain.
Stephen Campbell (Google Photo)
While Heritage Month 2022 is officially called “Amerindian Heritage Month” by the current People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime, this publication recognises and respects the collective, expressed desire of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples to be known as Indigenous Peoples. As such, this publication will refrain, where possible, from using the term “Amerindian” in accordance with the wishes of Guyana’s first peoples.
As is the case every year, a village is selected to host the celebrations of Heritage Day. This year, Mainstay/ Whyaka, Region Two, has been selected as the Heritage Village. The theme of the 2022 observance is ‘Celebrating our traditional culture while building one Guyana.’
Referring to this year’s celebrations, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai said, “September month will bring a whole package of what the traditional knowledge is about. What indigenous culture is about and what our tradition and custom is like. We will be able to introduce to this country again our unique dances, our music, our food and of course the treasure of the way we work, the way we live as one.”
The minister said, too, “We should never be ashamed of being champions for ourselves. We should never be ashamed of our identity; we should never be ashamed of where we come from or where we have been and where we are today. We are as equal in this country as in anyone… we truly have to stand up for ourselves, there is no one who is going to do it for us.”
Heritage celebrations 2022 will include a Cultural Extravaganza on September 1 at the National Stadium, art, craft, cuisine and cultural extravaganza at the Sophia exhibition site, a fitness walk, and the Heritage Beauty pageant, among other activities. The celebrations will conclude with the highly anticipated Heritage Games on October 7 to 9 at Everest Ground.
The Village Voice News takes this opportunity to pay homage to Guyana’s first peoples. This publication shares with Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples the reverence of the hero Stephen Campbell and joins Guyanese in celebration of Guyana’s indigenous cultures.
Happy Heritage Month to all Guyanese.