The news of the advances of the indigenous community of Trinidad and Tobago, related to development of the 25-acre parcel of land at Arima granted by the Government, is quite encouraging.
As reported in this newspaper, water and electricity, two necessities to spur development, human and physical, are now firmly established at the site.
According to Chief of the First Peoples, Ricardo Hernandez, they are seeking to have Wi-Fi internet connection and other amenities to move the living project forward.
Amerindian peoples, left behind after hundreds of years of mass brutalisation, neglect and denial of their central place in this Caribbean society, are very much entitled to such facilities.
The fact is that while larger groups of citizens with more compelling voices and a listening ear in the right places have been able to persuade succeeding governments to allocate resources and privileges to their cause, it has taken 40 years of pleading before the Amerindian peoples could have been heard and their very legitimate requests met.
It must be the hope and expectation that it will not take another couple generations for the First Peoples site at Arima to be converted into something that the great spirits of their forefathers will be satisfied with. The national community must recognise the life and death struggles fought by the warrior chief Hyarima against the Spanish invaders to preserve the lives and culture of his people.
Among the ambitions of Chief Hernandez and the remaining Amerindians, sadly reduced to a few hundred in numbers but strong in moral authority to be here in this time and space, is to recreate a village in the likeness of those which were developed by their forefathers. The expectation must be that such an achievement will have a positive impact on the national psyche of all the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago.
A successful and thriving village community of the native peoples of the region will inform of the beginnings of Caribbean civilisation and those who mapped out our villages and towns. We only have to take notice of the Amerindian names of towns, villages, streets and monuments to understand how central the First Peoples were and continue to be.
The formation of such a vibrant and relevant village in Arima—an Amerindian word meaning “water”—will also allow for the continued and enhanced linkages amongst other communities in Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and in Belize in Central America and indigenous peoples of North and South America.
The reality is that while other ethnic and cultural groups across the region have received the recognition for contributing to Caribbean civilisation, there is a sure deficit in knowledge regarding the various tribes of Amerindian peoples and their long history of being here.
One major intention of Chief Hernandez is to establish a self-sustaining village in which agriculture, which was at the base of the Amerindian civilisation, will flourish and that the present generation will recreate around the original arts and crafts of their ancestors. An alive and functioning Amerindian village will extend the cultural and social boundaries of Trinidad and Tobago; so we can become a whole people.