The Establishment of an Amerindian Heritage Village and Living Museum for the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community of Arima, At Blanchisseuse Road, Arima: Excerpts of a Preliminary Master Plan.
By – Satnarine Balkaransingh
The Santa Rosa First Peoples (Carib) Community of Arima, after approx. 176 years of losing all of their physical property as a result of colonial exploitation and greed, was granted a 25 acres parcel of land along the hill slopes of the Northern Range on the Blanchisseuse Road, just outside of the main commercial area of the Borough of Arima. The land has been granted for the specific purpose of the establishment of a Model Amerindian Heritage Village and Living Museum.
The final letter of approval from the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration of the previous administration, dated September 4th 2015 advised Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community that “ ..An institutional lease” was granted for the identified lands on Blanchisseuse road , Arima “ for a period of 30 years with the option to renew for a further term of 30 years.” A cadastral drawing of the 25 acre parcel, excised from the forest reserve of the Northern Range, had earlier been provided. The Commissioner of State Lands provided the necessary approval for the Community to take possession of the land under specified lease conditions. This area of the hill slopes of the Northern Range are currently covered with verdant forest.
In anticipation of this approval for the allocation of the lands, a preliminary Master Plan for the development of the acreage has been prepared by economist and Planner, Dr Satnarine Balkaransingh and engineer Mr Samaroo Dowlath. This preliminary Master Plan was undertaken with the collaborative guidance of the Santa Rosa Chief and President Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Queen Jennifer Cassar and the Community’s collective input in the development of an agreed Conceptual Vision and Mission and their overall Planning Principles.
Justification for the development of the Model Amerindian Village and Heritage Museum
This project is justified by the history and ancestral traditions of the First Peoples if Kairi (Trinidad).This sacred land of Kairi now known as Trinidad, once fed and sheltered the descendants of those noble ‘nations’ or ethnicities. Recent archaeological remains of the inhabitants have dated the history of the First Peoples of Trinidad to approximately 5,000 B.C. The first major archaeological remains of the inhabitants of this island and the region have dated the Banwarie man, to approx. 7,000 years. The Banwarie man/woman is so named after remnants of bones and other Amerindian artefacts were discovered within recent years in Banwarie Trace, Penal, thus establishing the fact that human settlements existed in Kairi/Trinidad possibly longer than any other island of the Caribbean. Banwarie Trace is an area that borders the current site of the highway construction between the Mon Desir and Debe section of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway.
It is estimated that when the island was visited by the sea captain Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498, there were approximately 40,000 natives (Vinding 2003) on the island. Other researchers estimated higher figures of population, as much as 200,000. Columbus writing in his ship’s logs in August, 1498 – the logs being the only existing, documented factual evidence of the presence of these first Peoples of Kairi – described the Island, its cultivated lands, its peoples, their attire and the cordial welcome that his sailors received from them. Kairi was populated then and in circa 1500s by ethnic First Peoples or Amerindian groupings such as Kalinago (Carib), Lokono (later renamed Carib and Arawak), Carifuna, Wapishana, Chaguanes, Cairi, Warao, Nepuyo, Shebaio and Taino
Given this history of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago, as documented by Christopher Columbus and his successors, it is clear that theirs was a superior civilisation in terms of their mannerisms, attire, treatment of their guests, their highly developed cuisine and beverages. To experience this life style, one’s philosophy and culture indeed had to be of a highly developed quality.
By the 1600s the Spaniards had enslaved the inhabitants in Trinidad and placed them in Spanish style settlements called ‘encomiendas’. Under this system significant acreages of Amerindian lands were misappropriated from the natives and given to the conquering or upper class Spaniards. They were forced to work for their colonial masters under harsh, dehumanising conditions, deculturalised and hispanised into the Roman Catholic, Christian religion. These natives were not used to the rigid lifestyle of the Spanish encomienda system imposed on them. While under Spanish “protection” a significant number of the indigenous population perished.
Oral and written history refers to several confrontations, two of which were major. One, on October 14, 1637, involved the sacking and burning of the Spanish Capital of St Joseph (San Jose) by the Nepuyo Chief Hierreima (Hyarima).He was enslaved in an encomienda. ‘He ran away, killed two Spaniards and thereafter dedicated his life to killing the rest’. He solicited the help of the Dutch who were already camping in Tobago and were looking for an opportunity to destabilise the Spaniards.
By 1885 the lands on which the tribes lived were confiscated for new French Creole settlers who were arriving to settle under the 1883 Cedula of Population agreement. Tribes from the encomiendas of Caura, Tacarigua and Arouca were herded and moved to Arima on a 1000 -acre ‘Mission’ under the control of the Roman Catholic Church. British Governor Ralph Woodford subsequently added 320 acres to the previous 1000 acre parcel. By 1828 the Amerindian community in Arima owned 1320 acres, all controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. By 1850, under new legislation of Governor Lord Harris they had lost all. The marginalisation and miscegenation continued.
The award of a 25 acre parcel to the Santa Rosa Community, after almost 165 years, for the development of a Model Amerindian Village can hardly be considered any justifiable compensation or restitution for what they initially owned and controlled. Nonetheless it is a major leap towards full recognition by the State of its moral responsibility to this Community.
Conceptual Vision for the development of the Village.
The Conceptual Vision for the development of the Village states that it is to be:
A physical space that is continuously used for the regeneration of Knowledge, re-establishment of first People’s values, behavioural patterns and traditions for the on-going development of sustainable living systems, protecting the environment, sharing the natural resources with the rest of the population and living in harmony with neighbours and nature. The land is therefore appropriately placed within the Forest Reserve
The Conceptual Mission is:
To establish and maintain a spiritual space and physical place that would conserve, preserve and sustain the cultural legacies of the peoples of the First Nations in Kairi (Trinidad) while consolidating their Community.
In this regard the Santa Rosa First Peoples (Carib) community proposes to consolidate all descendants of First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago; to work proactively with all communities, individuals and interest groups – locally, regionally and internationally – who share the common interests of these indigenous traditions, philosophies and belief systems.
Planning Principles for the development of The Master Plan for the establishment of the site and facilities for an integrated Amerindian Village and Living Museum
Out of the Community’s Conceptual Vision and Mission a set of planning principles have been articulated for the development of the Model Amerindian Village. These planning principles were to guide the developers and the Santa Rosa Community to undertake the following:
- Create a holistic, model Amerindian village and living museum that reflects good neighbourly behaviour through community engagement.
The Vision, Mission and Planning Principles would guide, among other things, the establishment of sustainable, multidisciplinary living systems (Agriculture and food-processing and preservation practises, natural resources, manufacturing, housing, water and energy) based on the concept of indigenous philosophies and traditions, their self-governing policies, strategies, techniques, performative traditions, education and training programmes and institutions with moral and ethical standards for the sharing of the natural resources.
The justification for this specific development is based on historical facts, both oral and written. It delineates their unique philosophy of life from the Pre-Columbian, Amerindian Administration, It continues into the Saga of the miscegenation and alienation of all native peoples from Kairi resulting in their inheritance of loss of the whole country and then the last straw, the loss of 1320 acres in Arima allocated for their sole use.
The Plan speaks of the need for the Santa Rosa community to take responsibility for their current and future development. It justifies this by citing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which if implemented will correct the Distorted History of the First Peoples.
The Plan is justified on the grounds that there is the need to develop a Space for All Aspects of the Spiritual and Cultural Traditions of the First Peoples of Kairi. These will include but not be restricted to the following projects to be incorporated into the Programme for the establishment of the Model Amerindian Village:
- The identification and acquisition of adequate acreage of land under the jurisdiction and control of the First Peoples – . It will include but not be restricted to acreages for the following:
- Agriculture – The establishment of plots for the growing of cocoa, coffee, fruit trees, banana, cassava and other root crops
- Agro-processing of the produce of the above
- The establishment of nature trails among the tree and root crops cultivation;
- Handicraft and other artisanal crafts centre
- A bird-watching post especially for the Colibri or Humming Bird (The Colibri is one of the sacred birds of the First Peoples. One bird watching site already exists at Arima, the other a Colibri watching project is in the Maracas Valley, but on a small scale)
- A cafeteria, snack and gift shop selling the products of the agro- processing units and the other projects within the village
- A guest house and a spiritual centre (where guest and members can come and pray, meditate and commune with the universal consciousness).
- An audio visual Library and archive containing:
- The Memories of those elders of the first peoples throughout the country and possibly the Caribbean and South America who used to visit Trinidad. To be recorded in audio- visual medium for replay.
- Copies of all documents (originals and copies}, hard and electronic, for storage in several mediums and at several sites; the Centre, NALIS and the National Archives of T&T.
- A teaching cum learning centre for the inculcation and transference of the languages, education and training of crafts, skills and sculptures (wood sculptures, boats, paddles, grain sifters and previously taught and practised by First Peoples in Kairi/Cairi
iii. A Museum of artefacts
- An appropriate theatre for related public performances of First Peoples Rituals and Festivals.
- Appropriate office cum living quarters for selected important members of the Community
- Appropriate landscaping and maintenance of the Village.
vii. An administrative complex cum research centre to undertake;
- a) Continuous development and continuous sourcing of financial and human resources/funding for the conceptualisation, operations and maintenance of the physical plant and equipment.
- b) The continuous preparation of projects required within the village, their detailed planning and phased implementation of such specific projects identified above to be undertaken with the guidance and supervision of the First Peoples Nation of Kairi.
viii. The Research Centre will include research on but not be limited to:
- The research, writing and publication of the factual history of the First Nation Peoples of Kairi and thereafter their inclusion into all historic, educational and literary aspects of the education system of the country.
- The preparation of a Dictionary of the languages of the First Peoples of Kairi.
- The collections of all writings (including colonial writings) on the First Peoples of Cairi and those from neighbouring countries which referred to The First Peoples Nation of Kairi.
- The documentation, both in literature, paintings, artisanal works, sculpture and videography an all aspects the rituals and festivals of the first Peoples of Cairi.
- The research and documentation of herbs, plants and other ingredients and products of medicinal value of first Peoples that constituted natural/herbal medicines for marketable purposes.
- The undertaking of research, identification and documentation of the various major sacred/energy/power spots of the various tribes (Nepuyo, Lokono, Warao, Carifuna and Shebaio) throughout the country and the preparation of outline briefs for their physical and spiritual reactivation and establishment into sacred places/spots/ Parks of Trinidad and Tobago e.g. Aripo, Arima, Anaparima Hill (San Fernando Hill) Tamana, Maracas, Caura, Tacarigua, Siparia etc. This must be a programme incorporated within the realm of our natural heritage and be an integral part of the Natural Trust of T&T.
- The established and integrated preparation and processing area for (all of) the foods that formed parts of the diets of the First Peoples will prepare and process First Peoples’ food recipes and actual daily preparations of snack meals (such as tapas- paimes, pones, pastels, arepas, farine, cassava breads including juices and other beverages), pastries and other condiments for sale.
xii. The official recognition of the First Peoples of Kairi as an indispensable, incontestable fact of Trinidad and Tobago’s existence and history and hence their inclusion into all aspect of the growth and development of the socio economic, spiritual and sovereign nation of Kairi/Trinidad and Tobago. .
All of these are aligned with the broad goals of national development.