?Indigenous people have called on the Government to give them a one-time public holiday as they celebrated Amerindian Day last Wednesday. After dawn, the indigenous community held a ritual ceremony at the monument area of the Arima Savannah, where they paid tribute to their ancestors who were killed by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century. Following the ceremony, chief/ president of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Barat Fernandez led his people in a street procession through Arima. Spectators stopped to enquire about the celebration and many expressed interest in knowing about the history of the indigenous people.
In an interview, Fernandez said a public holiday should be given by the Government to honour the contribution of the Amerindians. "People are not aware of our history and that is why we need a public holiday. We can even have a one-off public holiday. People are working and busy and it's difficult to reach them so that they could support this. The indigenous heritage needs a public holiday or a one off, so the country can stop and recognise our indigenous past," Fernandez said. He said if a public holiday was given, the Carib community could organise a heritage day.
The Carib chief also said T&T could learn a lot from the legacy of the Amerindian people, as they practised conservation and respect for life. "We know that they practised conservation in the way they treated the forests. They did not destroy the forests. They hunted enough to feed themselves. They also had knowledge on the medicinal value of plants, as well as a strong, vibrant agricultural tradition," Fernandez said. He explained that people could also learn from the belief systems of the Amerindians, as they honoured their ancestors and showed respect for family life.
Preservation of history
Fernandez said some indigenous instruments were still being used within the Carib community today. "Some people have lost interest in some of the traditional utensils but we still use the couleve, a long woven basket to strain the bitter cassava," Fernandez said. Fernandez said the indigenous history was rich and needed to be preserved.