Feature Address at the Launch of Activities – First Peoples Heritage Week

Presented by:

Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly

Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts

Throughout the chapters of our nation’s history, we see protagonists emerging at various intervals; determined individuals who, in the face of adversity, exude unrivalled strength such that change becomes inevitable.

When I think of the story of our First Peoples, the great warrior chief Hyarima, who we saw enacted as part of the “I, Hyarima” play, stands out for us. He took up the mantle to chase the invaders out of our country, which was a daring effort. He was very brave and we are very proud of his feat in the history of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago. I think Dr. Satnarine Balkaransingh’s reference of Hyarima as “Trinidad and Tobago’s first national hero” is really an apt one.

I want to congratulate your advocacy and your determination, because the granting of this one off holiday is a direct result of the First People wanting to ensure that they mark their spot in the cultural history and heritage of Trinidad and Tobago as they should. I want to congratulate you for your advocacy, and for your patience, and I look forward to how your holiday will be celebrated as a slew of activities all geared towards ensuring that the true story of the First Peoples is told, and ensure that we understand the lasting legacy of the First Peoples present here today in Trinidad and Tobago.

As the poem “Mabrika” by Pearl Eintou Springer says, the First Peoples are here now, they were here before, and they will be here into our future in Trinidad and Tobago.

It is important for our children to know what our First Peoples contributed to Trinidad and Tobago. It is important for them to know that when they are eating a piece of pone, when they are sleeping in a hammock, that this was the heritage of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. It is important for us all to have our roots, to understand how we came, who we came, especially in a country, like Trinidad and Tobago with so many influences. It is important for us to know how each of the strands came together to weave this basket that is Trinidad and Tobago.

At the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, we are honoured to have the Launch of the First People’s Heritage Week coincide with our National Patriotism Month, because it coincides in such a critical way. Patriotism Month is our effort at the Ministry for us to be reflective as it is focused on self-knowledge. There are so many of us in Trinidad and Tobago that are different from each other, and it is a constant source of pride when different ambassadors come to my office and comment on how we all look differently but yet we live peacefully, and that is something that we should take great pride in, in Trinidad and Tobago. As the focus of patriotism Month is for us to look at ourselves, all of us, how different we are, and yet how we come together in this melting pot that is Trinidad and Tobago.

And we are so happy that this coincidence of the First Peoples event and Patriotism Month bring us together, and infuse this Patriotism Month with a focus on the First Peoples and their contribution to Trinidad and Tobago.

This year, as one of our activities for Patriotism Month, we held in collaboration with the National Trust, an East Heritage Tour to different sites, and we dedicated one of those to the First People’s legacy. Attendees were able, for free, to visit the UWI Zoology Museum, where they were privy to the history behind the excavation of a pre-ceramic site at Banwari Trace, San Francique; a tour to the First People’s Community facilitated by Chief Bharath Hernandez who served an array of traditional Amerindian foods. This tour was very well received, and Chief Bharath and we thank you again for adding such value to this national heritage tour that exposed so many persons to how integral the heritage of the First People’s is to the life we know in Trinidad and Tobago, today.

We at the Ministry have begun an aggressive thrust into our handicraft industry, by holding a handicraft symposium followed by a two-day craft market which took place this weekend at NAPA. And Chief Bharath I wish to throw out the invitation this year, we did have a lovely Amerindian display, and I want to thank you as well because as we would have been in touch with you for some of the artefacts on show at the craft market. We wish to get some more of our First People’s indigenous art into our handicraft market, as well as the food. Chief Bharath, I throw this challenge out to you for us to work together, as we are accustomed to doing, to get some more of our First People’s heritage into that craft market coming up before Christmas this year.

In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago would be hosting the region and international visitors at CARIFESTA XIV, being staged right here, and Chief Bharath, I look forward to your involvement and we look forward again to partnering with the First people’s community as we plan for Carifesta XIV, which we are into now, and the execution most certainly, we have to present the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and we must have a strong showing from our First People’s so that we can very aptly show the rest of the region the First People’s heritage in Trinidad and Tobago.

I wish to thank you for your attention, and as I close,  I once again applaud the First People’s community on all of your accomplishments, your tenacity, your determination, and for giving us stories and protagonists such as Hyarima that provides us with the knowledge that we are descendants of people who fought for their lives, and therefore we should be very proud that there are these people in Trinidad and Tobago, existing even today, who have worked so very hard to ensure that they are not forgotten. As Professor Julien said, we hope no more are forgotten. We salute you the First People’s for all that you have done, and all that you will do, and the Ministry pledges its support, not only for your activities that you will engage in, to ensure that the communities of Trinidad and Tobago understand what contribution the First People’s have, do and will make in the cultural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.

I thank you.