PRESIDENT Paula Mae Weekes is calling on citizens to honour and support TT's First Peoples so that their sacrifices and experiences remain alive in the national consciousness.
In her message to the country to commemorate World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, Weekes said TT is home to a well-established and vibrant indigenous community.
“Although our First Peoples do not share some of the challenges faced by indigenous communities in other nations, they have long advocated for greater respect and recognition of their role in our history and current social landscape. Their efforts have resulted in a wider appreciation for the indigenous community, including the celebration of a one-off holiday in October 2017 and the re-interment of indigenous remains at the site of the Red House.”
The President said the celebratory day on Sunday is to promote the rights, dignity and protection of an estimated 476 million indigenous people across 90 countries. She added that nations should address the long-standing issues faced by their indigenous peoples, particularly in light of covid19. Access to information, healthcare and other essential services must be provided so that these vulnerable communities can withstand the spread of this virulent disease and avoid a repeat of their near-annihilation centuries ago.
She added that the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 to the “New World” brought about the rapid decline of indigenous civilisations from the ravages of disease, exploitation, and oppression. Referencing the UN, Weekes said indigenous peoples are nearly three times more likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.
“It is therefore critical for nations to address the long-standing issues faced by their indigenous peoples, particularly in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Indigenous peoples are our primary connections to the earliest periods of human history, having passed on many unique traditions and practices from generation to generation.”