Message from the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community on the occasion today of the 45th anniversary of the republic of TT
RICARDO BHARATH HERNANDEZ
“THE ORDER of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was installed as Trinidad and Tobago’s new highest national award in 2008, replacing the Trinity Cross for Distinguished and Outstanding Service to Trinidad and Tobago. The design of the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago acknowledges the contribution of the first inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago, embodied in the crest surmounting the medallion.”
This is of great significance to the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community. It was recognised by the government in 1990 as representative of the indigenous peoples of TT, that is, direct descendants of “the first inhabitants.”
In the design of the highest national award, the First Peoples are recognised as having contributed to the development of this nation. This is reflected in the pre-eminence of the First Peoples as portrayed in the crest: “The Waves and Constellation in the Crest acknowledge that Trinidad and Tobago consists of people from all over the world, and their descendants, bringing social and cultural attributes to produce a special talented people with a great potential.”
We are proud to be part of this Caribbean civilisation. We embrace our republican status which we interpret to mean “a return to sovereignty,” that is, the time before the colonisers encountered the First Peoples of this land.
When the rejuvenation of the First Peoples began in TT, as in other parts of the world, many of the elders who started the journey in this new dispensation have now passed on to the great beyond without seeing the fruits of their labour.
We, too, are grateful for the foundation which they laid, and today we see great visions of hope that another generation will not pass without reaching the finishing line. We make a public commitment to redouble our efforts to contribute to the development of our nation in these challenging times.
Many people have asked what happened to the indigenous people at the time of independence in 1962. The answer is that the indigenous community was so dominated by the colonisers and their new culture, that their leaders at that time were seen as just “insignificant symbols of a people,” stripped of authority, with no real community.
The leaders of the independence movement did not place the indigenous peoples with pre-eminence as a special sector of the population. Even the Republican Constitution in 1976 did not correct this wrong that contributed to the invisibility of the First Peoples.
However, since then, as we continue to advocate, successive governments have taken encouraging steps towards increased visibility and meaningful recognition of the First Peoples.
It was Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who, in response to a question asked at a public forum, gave the assurance that “since the First Peoples are becoming more visible, we will have to treat them as such.”
On this 45th anniversary of republican status, we call on all ethnicities to join with us in bringing our great potential to the strengthening of this land we all love. We must work together to deal intelligently with the many challenges faced by our nation, including the scourge of the covid19 pandemic. In the absence of a healthy population, our wealth is at stake.
May the Great Spirit Tamushi Adayali Wachinichi and those of our ancient ancestors continue to bless us all and guide us towards unity and peace in this land Kairi – Trinidad and Tobago.
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez is the chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community