Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday | Tuesday, October 8 2013
AS indigenous groups plan to return to the Red House next week to pray for the peace of the ancestors they believe are buried there, no decision has yet been taken on declaring part, or all of the original seat of Parliament a heritage site.
Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Indigenous Community informed Newsday his group, along with the Partners for First Peoples and the Warao indigenous groups, met about a month ago with the Red House Cultural Heritage Team chaired by House Speaker, Wade Mark.
On March 26 last, a number of skeletal remains, cultural and historical artifacts were discovered during initial excavation work as part of the restoration of the Red House. The bones date from 430 AD to 1390 AD.
The Red House Cultural Heritage Team, which includes Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith and representatives of the National Trust, was appointed by Cabinet to manage aspects of the historical find.
The First Peoples groups believe the remains and artifacts are from their ancestors, and have written the team asking that the Red House be declared a heritage site.
Hernandez reported that the proposal was discussed at their meeting with the team and certain aspects were agreed upon, such as the treatment of the remains — they should be reburied and not exposed or displayed though the cultural artifacts can be — and that an insignia of the First Peoples would be included in the renovation.
He also reported that no decision had been taken on whether part or all of the Red House would be declared a heritage site.
They were informed that the process should be completed by the end of the year, and there were still more tests to be done.
He said, speaking for the Santa Rosa group, certain things were kept “secret” from them, recalling that when they asked to see remains they were told they are “well taken care off”’. “While on one hand we are talking, we still feel as First People we should play a more integral role in what is happening there,” he said.
The team informed them that they will contact them again when they are ready. Hernandez said as descendants of First People according to the United Nations declaration they have a right as it relates to the remains of ancestors but “we are not really given that opportunity fully, (it) still seems as the property of someone else”. “We are hoping at the end of it we will be satisfied,” he added.
He noted that they that they plan to write the Red House Cultural Heritage Team and the police today to request permission to hold a spiritual ceremony on October 17 at 5pm at the Red House. The ceremony is part of the 13th annual First Peoples Heritage Week which will be held from October 11 to 19.