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Amerindians want say in T&T census

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Spokesman for First Nations of Trinidad and Tobago, Rabina Shar, at Sunday’s meeting. Photos: Rishi Ragoonath

Descendants of this country’s first inhabitants say Government has slighted them in its 2011 census campaign and are calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to rectify this oversight. Rabina Shar, spokesman for the organisation, First Nations of Trinidad and Tobago, has penned a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar registering concern over the state’s exclusion of the aboriginal people in the national census.

“The census does not say Amerindian people so it has left us out completely from the entitlement of the lands.   “Generally we feel that as people of the first nation and considering that this is first nation year (in the United Nations) we feel it is time that we are recognised,” Shar said. He said it seemed history was repeating itself because the aboriginals also were ignored and in addition were treated callously by the European settlers.

“We are the first nation and everybody come late. We want to be respected by all in society,” Shar said.
On Sunday, members of various aboriginal tribes, including the elders of south western peninsular, the Carib Queen’s grandson of Arima, Waroa/Warahoon people from Siparia and Erin, gathered at San Fernando Hill, Circular Road, San Fernando, to discuss the census and formally launch the First Nations of T&T organisation.

At this meeting it was agreed that the organisation would approach the Prime Minister with its concerns.
The First Nations, Shar said, was the first people of a country, people who inhabited the land before it was settled. Apart from having the Amerindians recognised by the state in the national census, Shar said, the organisation was seeking entitlement to its holy grounds. “The San Fernando Hill, which we call Nabarima, is the sanctuary of Haburi, our progenitor or the first one from where life sprang.

“We believe he fled Venezuela and came to Nabarima (the Spirit of the Waves) for protection from the Shaman Wauta. It is a scared place to us. We want access to do our rituals,” he said. “We have been living here for the past 7,000 years. We want to organise and approach the Government for recognition and lay claim to scared sites,” Shar said.


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