THE “ONE-OFF” PUBLIC HOLIDAY FOR THE FIRST PEOPLES – A JEWEL OF GREAT PRICE
The news of the decision by Cabinet to grant a ONE-OFF Public Holiday to be observed on October 13, 2017, is most welcome by the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, who have been lobbying for quite a long time for meaningful recognition.
Past Governments have taken incremental steps towards Recognition of the First Peoples, but this decision is a major one, that distinguishes itself, in that it will cause the national community to stop and focus attention on the First Peoples of this land. This “One-Off” Holiday serves to highlight the fact that the First Peoples have made their contribution to the development of this land, and continue to do so. We believe that our Vision for the future development of the First Peoples, will contribute to the development which is so often spoken about, in contributing to the economy, and at the same time, preserving and restoring the original culture of the First Peoples.
Since its inception in 1976, and with increasing frequency in 2017, the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community Museum has welcomed students from Pre-School to Tertiary level, all of whom are doing a “Project” on First Peoples History. While it is heartening that this important aspect of Trinidad & Tobago’s history is being recognised, it is equally disheartening that many of the Researchers say “I never knew this place existed. This explains the need to maintain the operation of the Museum, and the establishment of the First Peoples Heritage Village.
It is for reasons like this that the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community conducted a relentless campaign for a “one-Off” Public Holiday in recognition of the first Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. The purpose of the “one-Off” Holiday is to build a greater recognition of the existence of the descendants of the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. Even with the celebration of the Festival of Santa Rosa – the oldest continuously celebrated Festival in Trinidad and Tobago – which spans 230 years, and the Day of Recognition in October; it is a huge surprise for many that the Amerindian Heritage exists in Trinidad and Tobago.
A “Home-Coming” call is made to First Peoples descendants throughout Trinidad and Tobago, and to First Peoples descendants from other lands who reside here, to identify with the Vision and Mission of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community to make our presence in this multi-cultural society. There is no need to waver – it was the wise Principal Chief of the North Alabama Cherokee a wise Cherokee – Jim Pell – who had this to say:
“There is no such thing as ‘part-Cherokee.’ Either you’re Cherokee or you’re not. It isn’t the quantity of Cherokee blood in your veins that is important, but the quality of it . . . your pride in it. I have seen full-bloods who have virtually no idea of the great legacy entrusted to their care. Yet, I have seen people with as little as 1/500th blood quantum who inspire the spirits of their ancestors because they make being Cherokee a proud part of their everyday life.”
The same applies for the First Peoples descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. Consider what a Carib Chief from Dominica – Irvince Auguiste – had to say on his visit to Trinidad & Tobago in 1993:
“When I saw how big Arima is, how developed, modern and bustling, compared to our own Roseau; when I saw how many more people Arima has, almost as any Arimians as there are people n all of Dominica, y et, in the midst of all that there is a Carib Community. But they have no land like we have a 3,500 acre Territory, and they do not live together like we do. Still, still, there they are making cassava bread, weaving, performing smoke ceremonies, making traditional homes – scattered individuals in a modern city, keeping the ways of the ancestors alive. That group is an inspiration to us here in Dominica, for though people always say we will disappear, even when we have land, I can now see, looking at Trinidad, that we are very far from disappearing”.
So with that endorsement and motivation, let us have a great Ingathering of the First Peoples in Trinidad and Tobago. Come as Individuals, Groups and Organisations, and let us work together in the established Celebration of the Festivals, and island-wide activities for the national celebration of this highly prized “One-Off” Public Holiday – a JEWEL of great price!
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez
Santa Rosa First Peoples Community