Local lifestyle and entertainment company Hakwai Clan acted as connecting bridge between the Santa Rosa First Peoples (SRFP) and the High Commission of Canada. The group coordinated a joint commemoration of World Environment Day (WED) 2017, with a tour of the First Peoples’ Museum and a Tree-Planting on June 05th 2017 at the First Peoples’ Community Centre and the site for the Modern Amerindian Heritage Village, Blanchisseuse Road respectively. A Moriche Palm, a Red Flamboyant and a Yellow Poui were planted by the Chief of the SRFP, the Canadian High Commissioner and Hakwai Clan. The event also served as a launch of Hakwai Clan’s tree-planting and land rehabilitation exercise to be conducted on July 08th, 2017 in Toco.
The partners were strategically selected as the First Peoples have developed a programme of activities to increase their visibility and as the original custodians of our natural environment, the event would place a much needed spotlight on their ongoing struggles and in particular their newly returned 25 acres of land, which has to be developed with support from all of Trinidad and Tobago. Further, Canada is the host nation for WED this year, and is also celebrating its 150th Anniversary of Confederation with a focus on Youth Engagement, the Environment, Reconnection to Indigenous Peoples, and Inclusion & Diversity.
Corporate Secretary for Hakwai Clan, Rudolph Hanamji, revealed that the very initiative itself was designed to give life to the theme of this year’s WED – ‘Connecting People to Nature’, as “WED gives us a perfect opportunity to come together and give back to the land that supports us all – indigenous and non-indigenous – all members of the ecosystem alike.” Hakwai Clan was founded by a group of diverse young people on the principle of balance and the aim of creating positive change. Its founder, Jeremy Tai Chew, and a number of its members such as Director Jason Calderon, are actually part-descendants of the First Peoples. The word ‘Hakwai’, loosely means ‘mixed’, and not only describes the members of Hakwai Clan but, represents Trinidad and Tobago’s diversity and the fact that we are stronger in unity.
Chief / President of the SRFP was in high praise of Hakwai Clan for “its foresight in leading such a project and the Canadian High Commission for its support”. He noted that “the First Peoples, whose world view is firmly rooted in nature… have depended on [it] for physical sustenance and intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth.” He used the occasion to recognize the one-off holiday (October 13th 2017) proclaimed to celebrate the First Peoples and to invite all indigenous persons across T&T and the region to unite. Mayor of Arima, Her Workship Lisa Morris-Julian, herself a descendant of the First Peoples, joined the Chief in applauding all partners’ efforts and called on Hakwai Clan and young people to get more involved in national development and that of our indigenous communities.
Canadian High Commissioner Carla Hogan-Rufelds shared similar sentiments, commenting that “no people are more connected to nature than Indigenous peoples. They have a special relationship with the Earth and all things living in it that goes back thousands of years. They have a rich knowledge, history and special skills in environmental stewardship. They have extraordinary contributions to make in discussions and decisions around climate change and sustainability. We need to listen to them.” H.E. went on to say that she is “particularly excited to be in Trinidad and Tobago on this WED, where the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve is on record as the oldest legally protected forest reserve, established on april 13, 1776 – over 241 years ago. Scientific American has commented ‘that the protection of Tobago’s Forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement.’
All partners have committed to participating in the July 08th Tree-Planting and Land Rehabilitation exercise, with the Canadian High Commission having pledged a grant; the SRFP to having its members volunteer. The Forestry Division has allocated a parcel of land in the Toco Forest Reserve and over 200 saplings along with direction in land preparation by Forestry Officers. More information can be found on Faccebook @HakwaiClan.