One of the signs of the changing times in our dear old motherland, is the insistence on controlling what we are “called”. The Bard of Avon might have asked “what’s in a name” on the assumption that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but today some firmly reject his advise. Take the people who were here before Columbus “discovered” them in 1492.
Since he was looking for India via a sea route and figured he’d succeeded in his mission, he dubbed the people he saw as “Indians”. The name stuck even though it was quickly realised that the land wasn’t India but a “New World”. Remember that famous British poem, “There was an Indian”? But others disingenuously genuflected to the reality by distinguishing them as “American Indians”, which was shortened to “Amerindians”. This was the name the colonials accepted – as well as the PNC government that succeeded them – and was popularised by the “Amerindian Act” that purported to give official recognition to their land claims..
Over in the US, after protests over the retention of the “Indian” misnomer, the powers-that-be called them “Native Americans” to recognise their first presence. Other groups, especially in South America insisted they be called “Indigenous Peoples” – which is a synonym for “native” – which was deemed offensive because of centuries of colonial use of the term as synonymous for “uncivilised”. Like in “the natives” are getting restless, we have to send in the troops!
When the PPP took office, they quickly moved to amend the Amerindian Act to give effect to the land rights through titling. During the debate in Parliament, several supporters demanded the name be changed to “Indigenous Peoples Act”, to recognise how they defined themselves. The PPP retained “Amerindian” – even as they created an eponymous Ministry.
With the change of government in 2015, the PNC-coalition quickly changed the Ministry to “Indigenous Peoples”. One would’ve thought “Indigenous” was OK, since according to the dictionary it means, “naturally existing in a place or country rather than arriving from another place”. So it was with some surprise your Eyewitness was informed that in their just-concluded familiarisation meetings, the representations of the Indigenous Peoples requested they be designated “First Peoples”!
He wonders why the new name? Interestingly, the Chronicle in its editorial “A land for all Guyanese, wherever” claimed African-Guyanese “can rightly lay claim to having indigenized the Land”. Your Eyewitness is now even more confused. He checked his dictionary and saw that “indigenise” means
“to cause to have indigenous characteristics: adapt to indigenous conditions or practices,” and “to cause to be chiefly of an indigenous personnel.”
African Guyanese returned Guyana to “bush”? That’s offensive, Chronic!!
Back in the day when Jagdeo was President, some folks thoug he was smoking some of that Mahaica-grown ganja, when he implicitly threatened to increase Guyana’s rate of deforestation unless we got paid!! Especially the PNC and AFC opposition. But the man had a point. Forests act as “carbon sinks” – that is, they sequester carbon out of the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide, where they act to increase global warming.
The critics were taken aback when Norway manned-up and paid US$250 million for our contribution to fighting climate change!! But what’s happened since?? After all our rate of deforestation is still very low?? Well an official from government’s Climate Change Unit has claimed that BECAUSE of our low deforestation we’re not getting any money!! What has changed??
Just the man defining the problem! Jagdeo let on that Guyana might just ramp up our deforestation – which would not just reduce our “carbon sink” but actually ADD carbon dioxide into the atmosphere!!
We needs folks with chutzpah at the (green) helm!!
Your Eyewitness was astounded that 192 countries – practically the entire UN!! – will be coming to Guyana for a Civil Aviation Conference. To a country with one international airline?
Oi vey!! Better not have that NY Times reporter hear about this!!