Amerindian Heritage

Amerindian Heritage Month is being celebrated under the theme “Celebrating Our Traditional Culture While Building One Guyana”.
This year, Heritage Month comes at a trying time for our Amerindian brothers and sisters with respect to their land rights within their communities, but also a time of unprecedented development powered by what they have safeguarded for generations – the forest.
As Guyana celebrates Amerindian Heritage Month, all Guyanese must be conscious that our culture is dynamic and complex. Owing to an interesting unification of six ethnicities, Guyana’s cultural fabric is interwoven with African, East Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, Indigenous and European influences.
Most of today’s international conflicts are driven by differences, including economic and class tensions, and are masked by ethnic and religious differences. Thankfully, Guyana has been spared the atrocities associated with religious and cultural extremism.
One of the main factors which have essentially shielded us is that many in our society have remained open to the viewpoints, thoughts, and experiences of others, and have actively sought to explore and honour those differences.
Over the next month, we will join our Indigenous brothers and sisters in celebrating Amerindian Heritage, and will be invited to participate in the many planned activities across the country. We will undoubtedly be exposed to many aspects of the Amerindians’ rich and diverse traditions, most of which we are familiar with; many will be new to us.
In these instances, it is apt that we remain respectful and mindful of our viewpoints, lest we offend. We must at all times guard against the temptation to judge as wrong views that are different from ours. There will be instances when cultural norms of one group may make us uncomfortable. However, we must resist the urge to judge. Instead, we should make a conscious effort to understand the other perspective.
It is true that we are entitled to our opinions; it is also true that we should feel comfortable expressing our views, this goes without saying. However, we need to avoid imposing our own values on others. Again, because we live in a plural society, we need to make a conscious effort to understand the perspectives of others.
It goes without saying that our answers to important societal problems will not be identical. Also, our understanding of the causes of existing issues will not have the same frame of reference. But, like most things, the development of our cultural identity, our tolerance and understanding are all ongoing processes. Every opportunity that our society is given to celebrate and unite can be used as a platform where individuals, organisations and groups can become aware of each other and recognise existing commonalities.
During the coming month, scores of events will be held nationwide to celebrate a very important aspect of our culture; let us proceed in the spirit of peace and tolerance.
Despite many challenges, Indigenous people on the whole have worked to preserve their cultures and traditions. Today, they continue to work towards gaining full sovereignty over their lands and resources, as well as greater recognition of their cultural identity.