Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 25th 2016 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, August 25, 2016
Do you think race is important in
T&T? Do you think different eth-
nicities have different values?
I believe race has played a huge role
in our history, our politics, and the
distribution of resources.
My grandfather used to say that
Independence never came for indige-
nous people. Indigenous knowledge
and labour was being exploited in
cocoa and coffee plantations for
decades. Our story was unrecorded.
It was easier to keep repeating the
story of the war-like, cannibal Carib
and the peaceful, farming Arawak
than it was to explore the richness of
a society populated by as many as a
dozen tribes. Our history has, of
course, led us to where we are today,
and if we can't even acknowledge
some parts of the story, we can't learn
all there is to learn from what we have
Indigenous descendants believe we
are connected to the land and that
every living thing is connected. So,
we take special care not to pollute our
environment. The land doesn't belong
to us. We are meant to exist in com-
munion with it.
We have all been raised to have
great respect for our elders. We have
special ceremonies and practices when
going out to hunt or if cutting down
a tree. Even when we collect leaves
from plants for medicine, we have a
little conversation with the plant, ask-
ing for permission, asking for assis-
tance and expressing gratitude.
Not everyone in Trinidad shares
these values. Catholicism and colo-
nialism tried to erase these values.
They shaped the story. We still haven't
fully embraced the richness of what
we have. Some people still think the
grass looks greener on the other side.
So subsistence living makes way for
How long have you/your family
had roots here (best estimate)? What
do you like and dislike about T&T
It would be hard for me to give you
an accurate estimate. My grandparents
grew up at the Missions in Caura and
Arima. My mother's father is of Black
Carib heritage from St Vincent.
Although you'd be hard pressed to
find records, we certainly had some
ancestors here before the colonisers.
We believe even when Trinidad was
joined to Venezuela, its geographical
location made it an important port.
If we know anything about port cities,
it's that there is always a mix of cul-
tures; some people get along and some
don't; there's always a lot of coming
and going, people leaving, people set-
tling down, sometimes a little law-
lessness, like the tide going in and
coming out without fail. Some things
Do you know about the beliefs
and lifestyles of T&T people of dif-
ferent ethnic heritages from your
It''s impossible to exist on this island
space and not be touched by the cul-
ture of T&T people of different ethnic
heritages. There is no such thing as
a pure indigene. We are all mixed.
When you have to fill in a form
asking you your race, what do you
On national forms I choose mixed
because I am of mixed heritage pri-
marily of Indigenous and African
descent. I have yet to come across
any form in T&T which has any ref-
erence to indigenous peoples.
How do you see your ethnic roots
& heritage? Is it important to how
you define yourself, or is it irrele-
vant, an accident of birth?
I identify myself as Trinbagonian
but a huge part of that identity derives
from my indigenous culture and her-
itage. I do not see these things as
mutually exclusive but rather hold
the firm belief that being Trinbag-
onian must necessarily refer to the
culture and history of indigenous
peoples who were here long before
the colonial powers arrived.
In that vein, when I think of Inde-
pendence Day, it reminds me largely
of the long colonial history of T&T,
and ultimately the decimation and
near destruction of my indigenous
forefathers. Prior to Columbus' arrival,
there existed several tribes of indige-
nous peoples, some of which still
exist today. Indigenous peoples there-
fore have a large role in what it means
to be Trinbagonian and should be
recognised as such.
Do you celebrate your ethnic her-
itage, ignore it as irrelevant, or have
mixed feelings about it?
My people have managed to pre-
serve ourselves and elements of our
culture (albeit little) throughout these
hundreds of years, and that is always
something for us to celebrate.
I hope more Trinbagonians would
recognise and respect our contribution
to culture and heritage which com-
prises of indigenous people and
recognise that we are still here. We
have a thriving community in Arima
known as the Santa Rosa First Peoples
and I support the call by Chief Ricardo
Bharath that recognition on a national
level through the establishment of a
holiday for Indigenous Peoples to cel-
ebrate their role in our country's his-
tory is essential.
Recently the Government made
an announcement regarding lands
which have been allocated for use by
the Santa Rosa First Peoples and to
completing the process so that access
may be granted. I anticipate that these
lands will finally be conveyed to our
group so that we can use same to
display our rich cultural heritage to
the wider national community.
Aleisha Holder. PHOTO COURTESY
ALEISHA HOLDER---an attorney-at-law of indigenous heritage
Land of many peoples...Looking back to go forward
MEET CRISTO ADONIS
Cristo Adonis has been Pyai
(shaman) of the First Peoples in T&T
for more than 40 years. His
interview was published in
yesterday's Guardian (Page A25-
A26). On Page A26, in error, a photo
of Chief Hernandez was used
instead of Cristo Adonis. We
apologise for the error, and thank
Cristo Adonis for his forthright and
thoughtful comments yesterday.
From Page B1
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