04 July 2011

Amerindian Heritage Festival in Trinidad: Argument Erupts in Public between Two Groups

First published in The Trinidad Express
By Rickie Ramdass
15 October 2010
An argument between two groups over which one represented indigenous people erupted in Arima yesterday.

Representatives of the two groups argued during the Amerindian Heritage Festival celebrations that they were the original representative body of indigenous people in this country with the other being fakes.

The groups—The Santa Rosa Carib Community and The Partners for First People Development—had gathered at the park to perform a smoke ceremony in celebration of the victory of Nepuyo warrior Hyarima over Spanish invaders in this country in 1637.

Kendel Reyes, one of the members of the Partners for First People Development, accused the other group of denying indigenous people of non-Catholic belief entry into the group.

"Our group is about all people who have indigenous blood regardless of how you look or your religious persuasion. The Santa Rosa Carib Community is a Catholic mission and their present chief and president Ricardo Bharath (Hernandez) has decreeded that if you are not Catholic you cannot be a member of the Santa Rosa Carib Community.

"The Government (in 1980), through its wisdom or non-wisdom has seen it fit to recognise only the Santa Rosa mission as the representative body of peoples with indigenous blood. But the Santa Rosa Community does not represent all people with indigenous blood but only those who belong to the Catholic faith," he said.

He said it was also the tradition of the indigenous people to perform their ceremonies before 6 a.m., and this was not being done by the opposing group. His group, he said, had performed the smoke ceremony to the spirits at 5.30 a.m., while 7 a.m., was given by the other group as the time to perform the ceremony.

Hernandez however, accused the Partners for First People Development of perpetuating that there was a division in his group in order to gain control of it.

"As far as I am aware, there is no division in the Santa Rosa Carib Community. The Santa Rosa Carib Community existed since the 1700s. There is a small group of people who came on the scene just a few years ago and they are trying to make a division because they want control of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, and they will say all sort of things and do all sorts of thing to give the impression that there is a divide, but as far as I am concerned, there is no division."

Hernandez said a person's religion was not relevant if they chose to join the group. He said members of the group would meet every last Sunday of each month to attend meetings and if anyone with indigenous blood wished to join they could do so.

Also, please see Max Forte's 2002 interview:

INTERVIEW with Roger Belix, on Partners for First Peoples Development in Trinidad and Tobago 

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