Amerindian Heritage Celebrations 2020

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Amerindian Heritage is an annual celebration of Guyana’s Indigenous peoples throughout the month of September. It is linked to Guyana’s first Indigenous Parliamentarian, Stephen Campbell from the Arawak nation of Moruca (Santa Rosa) in the north-west region of Guyana, who was sworn into Parliament on September 10, 1957. Every year Guyana’s Indigenous people take time to remember his achievements at a time when there was little to no representation of the rights and interests of Indigenous people in Guyana. The celebration, which is launched in Georgetown, brings Indigenous culture and traditions to the masses, allowing people of other ethnic groups to glimpse parts of the Amerindian way of life.

This year, the COVID-19 crisis has meant that virtual activities have been organized to celebrate Heritage under the theme “Fostering traditional practices for a safe environment”. Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Campbell-Sukhai, in her feature address at the launch of Amerindian Heritage Month highlighted that the theme “articulates the way of life of Amerindians and their contribution to the conservation of the environment and the safe use of the natural resources…”.  President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, in his address to the nation, also highlighted that our Indigenous peoples were “the ones that first inherited this land, and who have treasured and protected it for generations” and assured that his government “would never underestimate the value of [Amerindian] heritage; neither would [Amerindians] be taken for granted”.

On this note, the Darwin Initiative Traditional Knowledge in Conservation project will be joining the online Heritage festivities by showcasing participatory videos about traditional knowledge made by Indigenous communities around Guyana. It is customary during Heritage to see exhibits of traditional craft, have opportunities to taste a variety of Indigenous cuisine and be entertained through the performances of storytelling, singing and dancing. We hope to bring you video examples of these, so we can build a greater appreciation for the role our Indigenous sisters and brothers play in helping to conserve and manage the resources of our nation.

Rebecca Xavier
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Rebecca Xavier is a proud Amerindian woman, a descendant of the Wapishana nation. She has a sound primary school education, followed by experiences in the Wowetta Youth Environmental Club, and then further education at the Bina Hill Institute, Annai where she trained in ICT, agriculture, basic maths, English and leadership skills. She is fluent in Wapishana, Makushi and English, and has worked for the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), a local Indigenous community-based organization, in different roles over the last twelve years.