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‘Indigenous Peoples—Migrants & Movement’

Thursday, August 9, 2018
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez

The Santa Rosa First Peoples Community has direct links from the Encomienda system to the Missions. Arima was the last Mission to which the First Peoples from the remaining Encomiendas were placed to make room for the colonists.

The Community is made up of several Nations – LOKONO, CHAIMA, YAIO, NEPUYO, CARINEPOGOTO, CHAGUANESE, WARAO, TAMANAPOGOTO, ARAUCAS, to name a few.

In defining Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Forum has this to say:

“Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of the society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”

The Santa Rosa First peoples Community can trace its lineage to pre-Columbian periods. In 1990 the government of the day recognised the Community as “representative of the indigenous peoples of Trinidad and Tobago”. The

Community is therefore pleased to join the estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world in celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’, under the Theme “Indigenous Peoples’ Migration and Movement”.

In our context, we focus on the internal movement of the indigenous peoples to make room for the migrants who came to our shores and displaced our people. It is historically proven that under British rule, the First Peoples of the Arima Mission were further displaced when they lost 1320 acres allocated to them by the Spanish government. Successive governments have given some measure of redress to this situation in several ways, including the restoring of 25 acres of land to the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community for the establishment of a First Peoples Heritage Village. The Community looks forward to greater support, through the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which it is a signatory.

A major challenge facing the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago is the question of whether or not they are “purebred”. This is a blatant discrimination, designed to diminish our struggle for an equal place among other ethnic groups, none of whom are asked that question as to whether they are purebred.

The discovery of the Banwari Man/Woman and the recent Red House Find are significant for the descendants of the First Peoples, as they give authenticity to our claim of our identity.

On the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we reiterate our call for:

(a) Reburial of the human remains unearthed at the Red House site

(b) Establishment of an appropriate monument to mark the significant discovery of bones and non-human artefacts belonging to the First Peoples.

(c) Continued support to the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community in its efforts to establish the First Peoples Heritage Village.

These actions will contribute to the general education of the population, showing that Trinidad did not start with Columbus. It will also add meaning to our National Anthem, in terms of every creed and race finding an equal place.

Further, Government will show its commitment to honouring the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Article 1, it is stated that:

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.”

I appeal to all people of First Peoples descent, and those of other ethnicities, to join in advocating for the fulfilment of the rights of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago in their positive movement for equality and development.

Ricardo Bharath Hernandez is the Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community. International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated today (August 9).

Ricardo Bharath Hernandez


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