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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Wed Jul 19 13:50:13 2000
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 23:44:55 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: CARIBBEAN: Indigenous Peoples Welcome New Government Concessions
Article: 100380
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: 3c6c73cad812455a42d84d0c7cf5053e

Indigenous Peoples Welcome New Government Concessions

By Peter Richards, IPS, 12 July 2000

PORT OF SPAIN, Jul 12 p When the indigenous peoples of the region gather in Trinidad and Tobago for their International Gathering in August there will be some cause for celebration.

The Caribs from Dominica will be informing their counterparts of the establishment of the long awaited Carib Model Village while the Santa Rosa Carib community in Trinidad and Tobago will welcome delegates with the news that that government is moving to have Oct. 14 designated A Day of Recognition of the country's indigenous peoples.

We see this gathering as not just another celebration or reunion, but as a vehicle that will seek to put in place an organised structure to address the concerns of indigenous peoples of this hemisphere, says Ricardo Hernandez-Bharath, president of the local Carib community.

The Carib Model Village in Dominica is intended to promote and improve the socio-economic conditions in the Carib Territory in Salybia, east of the capital, Roseau.

The village, located on a five-acre site near Crayfish River Falls, will serve as a special tourist attraction with traditional Carib buildings, craft production and sales outlets, and a cultural art-drama centre.

The project, to be constructed in two phases, will adhere to Carib traditions, with materials such as thatch roof covering, rough sawn timber, round wood timber shutters and floors finished with packed earth.

The project will cost 600,000 US dollars with funding from the Caribbean Development Bank and the Dominica Government.

This project is to foster a significant increase in the number of visitors to the Carib territory, who will need food, guides, accommodation, transportation and other services, Tourism Minister Charles Savarin said.

Savarin has urged the Carib community there to position yourselves either individually or in small groups to take advantage of the opportunities as a result of the village.

For Trinidad and Tobago's Caribs, the model village project recalls their continued fight to regain lands lost when Europeans came and the centuries of colonialism that followed.

The history of the Amerindians of Trinidad in the wake of European colonialism has been one of continuous displacement and loss of lands, a document from the Santa Rosa Community said.

In 1976, on the advice of the then Archbishop of Port of Spain, Anthony Pantin, the community formed a limited liability company in an attempt to regain lands for the community.

We have had very limited success. We realised that it is impossible to reclaim most of our ancestral lands, which have been lost to us. However, if our community is to survive, we must have land, the community said.

Hernandez-Bharath says they are requesting 25 acres of land from the government to re-establish a village site and a further 375 acres of forested land to be kept in its natural state.

If our community is to survive and we are to pass on our traditions and leave a heritage for future generations, we must have land. Therefore we ask for restitution. Land in lieu of what we have lost, he said.

Hernandez-Bharath says further, the village would be used to create industries for our economic development.

These projects include the production of cassava bread, farine and cassareep according to traditional Amerindian methods, fans, baskets, mats and carry cases.

However, the Basdeo Panday administration has not committed itself to providing all the lands being requested by the Carib community, but has given hope that some state lands would be made available.

Prime Minister Panday, speaking at the ceremony to launch the third International Gathering of Indigenous Peoples late last month said the country had to recognise that Trinidad had been the home of the Caribs long before Indians, Africans and Europeans had arrived in this country.

Panday told the ceremony he was instructing his Culture Minister Dr. Daphne Phillips to bring a note to cabinet to make Oct. 14 a Day of Recognition to celebrate the Carib community, that has already indicated that the day be known as Amerindian Heritage Day.

Let me stress that the Carib Community has not petitioned for a public holiday. The members of the community have simply asked this country to give recognition and respect on a special day to its indigenous people, Panday added.

On the Carib calendar, Oct. 14 is significant. On that day in 1637, the Carib Chieftain Hyarima attacked and destroyed the Spanish colony and former capital of the country St. Joseph located along the east-west corridor.

Fernandez-Bharath says that while Trinidad and Tobago has been home to a multitude of peoples who were all victims of history all the major cultures that have come to this country have flourished more than the original culture of this land.

He says the decision by the United Nations in 1994 to launch the International Decade of the world's Indigenous Peoples was a recognition of the need to strengthen international co-operation to help solve problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, health, culture and education.

The International Gathering scheduled for Aug. 25-30, will provide an opportunity to take up the challenge of alleviating the situation of indigenous populations and to intensify efforts to respond to their legitimate demands and needs, he added.

The Carib community is also hoping that the International Gathering will lead to the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Caribbean Organisation of Indigenous Peoples, to be located in Trinidad and Tobago.

An establishment of this nature is one way of ensuring that indigenous peoples and their cultures survive in the new millennium, Fernandez-Bharath says.