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Supporting their right to be

Published: 
Friday, October 13, 2017

Mabrika! Welcome!

This year we join with the First Peoples of this land in what has been declared a “one-off” holiday in their honour today.

While we annually celebrate many of the peoples who have come to this land long after the First Peoples and we pay homage to their cultures on such public holidays, we have only now reached the point of recognising what some advertisements describe as “the first one-off” First Peoples holiday.

Imagine the first of the first-and-last holiday of the peoples whose land we all now occupy!

Celebrate the First Peoples

This land, Cairi (told us as Kairi) has been the home and domain of the First Peoples for more than 5000 years.

The Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, remains as the only organised area of Amerindian survival in this land. Several smaller groups of Amerindian descent can be found in other areas across the land.

In 1990, only 27 years ago, this organised community of First Peoples was formally recognised by Government. In 2015, the Community was granted a lease for 30 years in the first instance, of 25 acres of land for the establishment of an Indigenous Heritage Village.

After being robbed of all the land of Cairi by the “discoverers” and colonisers and after surviving the genocidal elimination of almost their entire civilization, the only remaining organised community of First Peoples was “granted” a piece of their land for a “generous” period of 30 years.

The declaration of a holiday for these peoples by those who now occupy their land only compounds the “gift” of piece of land to the First Peoples. What irony!

Having “discovered” and colonised this land, the Spanish explorers set about the “civilizing” and “Christianising” of the Nepouyo, Loco no, Taino, Karina and Wairau ancestral tribes.

Using their encomiendas, the Spanish conquerors were rewarded the “gift”of some indigenous people. The Missions were tasked with eliminating the indigenous belief systems and culture. The conquistadors proceeded with bible in one hand and sword in the other.

The process of bringing “civilisation” to these peoples was really their systematic elimination which did not achieve total annihilation only because of the staunch resistance and defence of their very lives and heritage.

Support their right to be

The First Peoples, like those who were brought to their land later by the occupying colonisers, as chattel and other forced labour for their estates and factories, have only survived because they have cherished their Right-to-be.

It is the fight for this right to exist as a people that has ensured their presence today in this land and in all the lands snatched by conquering explorers and empire builders.

The story of our First Peoples is sadly so like that of the indigenous peoples of North and South America nearest to us and the other continents of the globe.

Despite the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, First Peoples continue to fight for their hereditary and other rights as nations; not to be reduced to curios or quaint reminders of a “savage” past in museums.

Our Constitution does not recognise the indigenous peoples of this land and their rights as human beings are not guaranteed.

The Right-To-Be of indigenous peoples includes hereditary rights to sovereignty, to the protection of their heritage and culture as well as to determine their affairs.

The resistance and mere survival of the First Peoples of this land tells us that indigenous rights cannot be forfeited or eliminated, but must be respected and affirmed.

This “one-off” heritage holiday must be a commitment to continuing support for and solidarity with the First Peoples and for the affirmation of their rights in our Constitution and law and to give full respect and recognition of the proud heritage of our indigenous peoples.

Asserting and guaranteeing their rights is an integral part of guaranteeing the rights of all others who make up this society in this land–Cairi.

Clyde Weatherhead