21 July 2013

First People’s integral part of TT.

First People’s integral part of TT.
By Corey Connelly
T&T's Newsday | Sunday, July 21 2013

Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez was not even a teenager when he first experienced the healing power of the First People’s.

Bharath-Hernandez, 58, Chief of the Santa Rosa First People’s Community, recalled that as a young boy, growing up in Calvary Hill, Arima, he had seen his late maternal great grandfather, Jacinto Hernandez, an elderly descendant of the tribe, perform a ritual on his sister, Diane Rudolfo, which he said, left him dumbfounded.

My sister had bitten off a small part of a rubber slipper and pushed it into her nose and this affected her ability to breathe,” he told Sunday Newsday in an interview at the Carib Centre, Paul Mitchell Street, Arima.

Bharath-Hernandez recalled that his frightened mother, Elsie Rita Hernandez, had attempted to use a clip to extract the piece of rubber but instead of removing it, pushed the rubber further into his sister’s nostril.

My sister ended up at the Arima Hospital and was told by the doctors that surgery may have had to be performed,” he said.

But they were skeptical because they would have had to get permission from her father who was at work, so it was my grandmother who suggested to my mother that they take her to see our great grandfather.

Bharath-Hernandez recalled that his great grandfather quickly performed an ancient prayer ritual on his sister, which, he claimed, saved her life.

He (great grandfather) put his hands on her head and said prayers of the religious tradition,” he said. “While saying the prayers, he said she would sneeze three times before the piece of rubber came out. And the third time she sneezed, it really came out.”

Bharath-Hernandez, who was possibly about ten at the time, said the experience stuck with him, so much so that he had resolved, even at that tender age, to devote his life to preserving the heritage of the country’s indigenous peoples.

The Santa Rosa Chief recalled fond memories of his life on Calvary Hill, traditionally believed to be the home of the indigenous peoples.

Apart from experiencing the abilities of his great grandfather, whom he learnt, also healed persons with various complaints, ranging from snake bites to ailments about the body, Bharath-Hernandez recalled seeing his grandparents and other relatives preparing busily for the Santa Rosa Carib Festival. The event now forms part of the annual Arima Fest celebrations in August.

As a child these things attract you because it meant time away from home and the children in the area were all part of the activity,” said Bharath-Hernandez.

We would all go to the church (nearby Santa Rosa RC Church at the foot of Calvary Hill) to help them and we would be scolded if we did something wrong. It had an enduring effect on me and I continued where others did not have the drive to do so.”

But, decades later, the desire to effect change for his people has, for the most part, been an uphill battle, he says.

Sometimes, it appears as though it is a lesson in futility but then something comes and re-inspires you to keep on,” Bharath-Hernandez said. “I would have left a long time ago but then something comes to encourage you.”

As head of the Santa Rosa First People’s Community, a position he assumed during the 1980’s, Bharath-Hernandez has been lobbying aggressively for “meaningful recognition” for his people for more than three decades.

Bharath-Hernandez said his family business, which produces indigenous foods such as cassava breads, ferine and related items, for sale, locally, is evidence of his desire to preserve aspects of the heritage.

The Carib Centre, established during the 1970’s alongside his home on Paul Mitchell Street, also bears testimony of the community’s efforts to preserve its ancestry, he said.

The centre, which can be regarded as a museum, contains instruments, writings and artifacts relevant to the First Peoples and remains a must-go destination for many visiting the eastern borough.

However, mild-mannered Bharath-Hernandez lamented that many in the society, including past governments, have not valued the contribution of the First People’s in shaping Trinidad and Tobago’s historical landscape.

We are not a club or a parang association,” he said, alluding to the feeling that the community was simply about acquiring funding from the Government and other organisations.

The feeling by some that descendants of the First People’s, locally, were largely “watered down” versions of the indigenous inhabitants, have also contributed to the failure of the authorities to comprehensively address their concerns over the years, Bharath-Hernandez believes.

But look at the Metie People in Canada. They are an indigenous group of mixed blood line and they enjoy protection under the constitution of Canada,” he argued.

In his latest battle, Bharath-Hernandez, supported by other members of the community, is urging the Government to develop a portion of the Red House, Port-of-Spain, into a national heritage site following the discovery of bones and artifacts of the indigenous people, several weeks ago.

Last Saturday, the group visited the Red House, where they performed the first of a two-part Purublaka ceremony to appease the spirits of the indigenous peoples whose remains are buried at the site. The second phase of the ritual is expected to be performed in October by a Shaman, preferably from one of the neighbouring countries in which there are First Peoples inhabitants.

Bharath-Hernandez, who served as a PNM councillor on the Arima Borough Council for some 18 years, regarded the find at the Red House as significant.

It is not only about remembering those whose spirits lie there but also those who still live here and do not have their rightful place,” he told Sunday Newsday.

According to Bharath-Hernandez, descendants of the First Peoples in this country have long been viewed as “another cultural minority group,” when, in fact, they should enjoy “inherent rights” with respect to land titles. “These rights are supported by the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples which 144 countries voted for and Trinidad and Tobago is one of them,” he said.

The First Peoples, Bharath-Hernandez said, had initially been granted some 1,300 acres of land through a then Treaty by the Spanish Government.

But somehow, they lost their lands under the British. That, to me, is a legal issue,” he said.

Bharath-Hernandez said since that period in the country’s history, descendants of the First People’s survived in scattered, unorganised communities in areas such as Caura, Tacarigua, Arouca, Lopinot, La Pastora, Santa Cruz, Maracas/St Joseph, Tamana and San Rafael.

The father of three estimates there are about 10,000 descendants of First Peoples living in the country. However, he claimed the community in Santa Rosa, Arima, was by far the most structured.

Nevertheless, Bharath-Hernandez said the community, a registered body which now falls within the purview of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration, is not without its challenges.

Although there are about 700 First People’s descendants in Arima and its environs, the Chief lamented that only about 120 participate actively in ceremonies and rituals.

He said these are usually limited to the Santa Rosa Carib Festival and the Heritage Day event in October, both of which receive government assistance.

Attributing the shortfall in participation to the fact that many descendants have different occupations and responsibilities, Bharath-Hernandez said many of the young people were also integrated heavily into the wider society and, as a result, were not focused on the indigenous aspect of their heritage.

He admits, “There is hardly anybody that lives the indigenous heritage to its fullest because things have changed. That has gone from us a long time. But there are still those who still practice aspects of the spirituality.

Bharath-Hernandez said the most popular ritual was perhaps the smoke ceremony in which tobacco, herbs, leaves and other items are used during prayer sessions.

Different items are used depending on what is being prayed for,” he said.

The former Deputy Arima Mayor said, however, that a “significant portion” of young descendants still want to know more about their heritage.

As such, he believes the 25-acre plot of land, which First People’s descendants have received (five acres from the PNM and the other 20-acres from the People’s Partnership Government), along the Blanchisseuse Road, Arima, holds the key to their future.

It would mean that they (young descendants) can become involved in something to create a greater awareness. For now, there is nothing to hold on to and see returns,” he said, adding that the land, located in a forest reserve area, was being surveyed.

Bharath-Hernandez said the land has been earmarked for the construction of a full-fledged Amerindian Village, which would contain a cassava factory, craft museum, home for the Carib Queen, guest house, among other amenities.

Saying he expects that a major part of the project should be realised in three years time, Bharath-Hernandez said a master development plan for the Amerindian Village still had to be drawn up.

That is a very costly exercise,” he said.

Bharath-Hernandez insisted that the community was not interested in hand-outs.

All we are asking for are the basics - infrastructure, access to the site and some start-up funding,” he said, adding that there are plans to access funding from other sources. Bharath-Hernandez said when completed the Amerindian village would benefit the entire country.

While it is not a tourism project, it is going to have a tourism component,” he said. “This can be a major aspect of divestment as it relates to preserving the culture. It would not be a URP or a CEPEP that could be taken away.”

"The Sidelining of Trinidad's Indigenous People."

By Tony Fraser
Caribbean Intelligence
Amerindian group at Trinidad's Red House
Trinidad's Amerindians seeking a heritage site
The fast-disappearing Amerindian community in Trinidad is petitioning for the national Parliament, housed in the history-rich “Red House”, to be moved.
Instead, they say, the area in downtown Port of Spain should become a heritage site dedicated to their ancestors buried under the building more than 1,700 years ago.
This community – approximately 1,000 to 1,500 descendants of mixed blood – are, thankfully, willing to compromise, but want some recognition as the first people of Trinidad.
“If that be asking too much to remove the ‘seat of power’ to allow a shrine to be built here to commemorate our ancestors, then in the restored building, there must be a recognition of our ancestors buried under the building,” said the chief of the Carib community, Ricardo Bharat-Hernandez.
The chief, the Carib Queen and a small group of the First Peoples of the Community of Arima were recently allowed access to the compound of the Red House.
The seat of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament is now undergoing major reconstruction. During this work, archaeological artefacts and human bones were discovered in March.
“What was found so far is a small amount of pottery, but it fits the period of AD 0 to AD 350,” said University of the West Indies (UWI) archaeologist, Peter Harris.
“While we haven’t got the whole story yet, I’m sure that if things were found so closely together in a place, they’re likely to be related. 
“We’re a long way from knowing what village or what was there on that site, but we do know the bones found are almost certainly Amerindian.”
Chief Bharat-Hernandez told Caribbean Intelligence© that the small group of Amerindian descendants who went on to the Red House compound “communicated with the ancestors in the prayer and ceremonial ritual known as the Purublaka”.  
Ancient battleground
Archaeologists believe the site could have been a battleground between two tribes, in what was then a forested area. 
“The Community wishes to assert their rights to revitalise their cultural traditions and to maintain protect and develop this archaeological site and the remains found therein,” Chief Bharat-Hernandez said.
He sent a letter to the Speaker of the House, Wade Mark, seeking to establish their rights as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.
Article 11 of the UN Declaration states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalise their cultural traditions and customs.
This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.”
Chief Bharat-Hernandez pointed out to the Speaker that the Declaration requires that “states shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.”
Whether such claims would extend to a country’s seat of parliament is another matter.
But the Carib community are sure to press their claims for space and recognition as renovations at the 106-year old Red House continue.
Red hot Red House
Historically, the Red House is no stranger to controversy.
The present building was reconstructed in 1907, four years after the original building was burnt to the ground by residents of Port of Spain in protest at an attempt by the Legislative Council of the day to place water meters in homes as a means of charging water rates.
In the 1930s, the period of the country’s Labour Riots, it was a focal point of protest by trade union agitator Uriah “Buzz” Butler and a large group of Grenadian-born workers in the oilfields of south Trinidad, who engaged in a Hunger March to the city.
In 1990, at a sitting of the national Parliament, the Red House was the target of a group of Black Muslim insurrectionists under Imam Yasin Abu Bakr.
Having bombed the next-door police headquarters, the Muslimeen group stormed and took over the Red House, in effect the Parliament chamber, in their attempt to stage a coup.
Prime Minister ANR Robinson, several members of his cabinet and members of the opposition were held hostage in the building for six days before the group surrendered to the armed forces besieging the building.
The Muslimeen, having negotiated what they believed was an amnesty given by the President of the Republic, surrendered only to face lengthy national and appeal court hearings.  
Raze the Red House
Today, the Amerindian population wants to level the Red House, or at least to see it recognised for different reasons.
But those ambitions of the Amerindian population long pre-date the archaeological find of a few months ago.  
For many decades, the Amerindian community in Arima, a town 17 miles east of the capital which hosts a statue of 17th Century Amerindian warrior chief Hyarima, has petitioned successive governments for a 25-acre plot of land of its own.
“The intention is to re-create a model Amerindian village, to establish a cassava factory [cassava being a staple of the Amerindian diet] and to develop it as a tourist venture for the community to be self-sufficient; we don’t want hand-outs from the State,” said Chief Bharath-Hernandez, proclaiming the pride of his ancestral community.
Dominica’s Kalinago
He likens the idea to the Amerindian community in Dominica, which belongs to the Kalinago people of that nation.
The chief says that establishing the village community has the potential to encourage the young people of Amerindian descent to aspire to knowledge of their ancestral cultural patterns. 
He notes that, at present, there is little that keeps them attached to the way of life of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
But Chief Bharath-Hernandez told Caribbean Intelligence© that, while there are far larger Amerindian communities in Dominica and Guyana with descendants who have stronger blood ties to the past, the smaller Trinidad community has still “preserved quite a lot of the rituals and ceremonies of our forefathers”.
Outside Arima, in the deep south-west of Trinidad, towns and villages such as Cedros, Icacos, Siparia and Erin all derive their names from the First Peoples. Communities of Amerindian descent have been claiming sites such as the San Fernando Hill, once named Naparima, and also want to establish them as heritage sites.
“We have been living here for the past 7,000 years,” Rabina Shar, leader of the group in south Trinidad, said in January 2011 in a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. 
“We want to organise and approach the government for recognition and lay claim to sacred sites.”
He noted in his letter that the national census had failed to recognise and categorise the indigenous peoples.  
“We are the first nation and everybody [else] come late. We want to be respected by all in society.”
Indigenous background
The United Nations 2009 report State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples paints a frightening picture of the condition of indigenous peoples today.
“The situation of indigenous peoples in many parts of the world continues to be critical: indigenous peoples face systemic discrimination and exclusion from political and economic power; they continue to be over-represented among the poorest, the illiterate, the destitute; they are displaced by wars and environmental disasters; the weapon of rape and sexual humiliation is also turned against indigenous women for the ethnic cleansing and demoralisation of indigenous communities; indigenous peoples are dispossessed of their ancestral lands and deprived of their resources for survival, both physical and cultural; they are even robbed of their very right to life. In more modern versions of market exploitation, indigenous peoples see their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions marketed and patented without their consent or participation.”

15 July 2013

Red House upgrade to be completed by 2016.

Red House upgrade to be completed by 2016.
By TAUREEF MOHAMMED | Triniad & Tobago Guardian Online | Monday, July 15, 2013.

The expected completion date for restoration works on the Red House has been pushed back to January 2016, the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott) has stated. In February, based on information from Udecott, the T&T Guardian reported that the restoration project would be completed by the first quarter of 2015. The project was initially expected to be completed by December 2014, the T&T Guardian report stated.

According to Udecott, the discovery of human bones and project management issues caused delays. In April, the human bones, which date between 430 AD and 1390 AD, were discovered during excavation work on the building located on Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. “Work has slowed considerably due to the recent discovery of the bones. We had to pause because the area is critical to people in T&T,” a source from Udecott said.

At present, an archaeological team is working in the area where the bones were discovered, while work in the surrounding areas continues, the source said. Describing the work being done on the iconic building as “preliminary,” the Udecott source said the “real” restoration work hasn’t started. The Udecott official said designs are currently being formulated by a historical architect.

After the designs are completed tenders for the restoration work would go out, the source said. According to an e-mail from Udecott, work under Udecott’s tenure began in 2005 and has cost the company $84,180,037.04 so far. Restoration works on the “home of the Parliament” started under the National Insurance Property Development Company (Nipdec) more than ten years ago, according to newspaper reports.

In 2011, the People’s Partnership Government announced that taxpayers had spent $200 million over an eight-year period on the restoration of the historic building. Based on information on Nipdec’s Web site, the “full-scale” restoration was expected to cost $100 million over a five-year period. In October 2011, the Parliament moved to the International Waterfront Centre on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, to clear the way for restoration work.

Preliminary works done on the building include construction of an underground plant room at the western side of the compound, construction of a temporary roof above the South Chamber and the South Link, dilapidation surveys, demolition of modern-era construction elements, asbestos removal and excavation of the foundation.

Restoration Update

• Stollmeyer’s Castle: expected completion—December 2013; 90 per cent complete
• Whitehall: scope of works being developed
• President’s House: expected completion—2015; preliminary work to start in August
• Red House: expected completion—January 2016; preliminary work ongoing.'


Although work has recently slowed, the restoration of Stollmeyer’s Castle is expected be completed by December of this year. The building is one of the Magnificent Seven and is located at Queen’s Park Savannah West, Port-of-Spain. According to an e-mail from Udecott, restoration work began in January 2008 and is now 90 per cent complete. In an interview, a source from Udecott said work on the building has slowed because the company was awaiting funding from the Office of the Prime Minister.

“The funding is expected any time now. Once we receive that funding, work should be completed within three months,” the source said. The contractor is doing remedial work which involves correcting minor defects in and around the building, the source said. The historic building, originally called Killarney, was initially earmarked to be used as a “protocol house” for visiting dignitaries.

However, according to the source, the use of the historic building has not been finalised, but the Office of the President has expressed interest in it. The Udecott source said the scope of works for Whitehall is still being developed and restoration work has not started.
“Once the scope of works is finalised, a budget will be determined and then the project will go out for tender.”

Meanwhile, restoration work on President’s House, which falls under the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, is expected to be completed in the latter part of 2015, according to Zanim Ali, director of construction at the ministry. Asked if any work has been done on the building located on Circular Road, St Ann’s, he said: “No work has been done except for a temporary roof over the collapsed part.”

Ali said he is “hoping” that preliminary work, which involves building a temporary roof over the structure, would begin in August. The tendering process for the complete restoration, he said, would begin in November. According to a T&T Guardian report in March, Ali said work was earmarked to begin in May. Ali said the layout of the President’s House has been finalised but needs to be validated by President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona.

The initial design of the restored building, which was completed in 2007, had to be changed due to the collapse of part of the building in May 2010, he said. The designs are now being finalised, he added.

Office of the President

Stollmeyer’s Castle and Whitehall have been earmarked by the Cabinet and President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona as prospective locations for the Office of the President. In a telephone interview, Napier Tillai, executive director to the President, said Cabinet has been in discussions with the President on the issue of the location of the Office of the President.

“Two possible locations came up—Stollmeyer’s Castle and Whitehall—but no decision has been made and discussions are still ongoing.” At present, Tillai said, the Office of the President is located at Circular Road, St Ann’s. In March, Minister of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, Dr Roodal Moonilal, described Whitehall as a good facility for the Office of the President.

First People wants Govt to relocate Parliament.

First People wants Govt to relocate Parliament.
By COREY CONNELLY | Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday Sunday, July 14 2013

Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar, second from left, and President of the Santa Rosa First Peoples' Indigenous Community, Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, second from right, along with other members of the First People descendants, leave the Red House in Port-of-Spain, after performing a Purablaka ceremony to 'appease' the spirits of their ancestors, yesterday.

Members of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Indigenous Community have asked the Government to consider relocating the seat of Parliament in Port-of-Spain as a mark of reverence to the remains of their ancestral spirits, says Carib Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez.

However, he said if this is not possible, some attempt should be made during the current re- construction exercise to preserve the remains of the First People’s ancestors, at the site of the Red House, for descendants as well as members of the international community.

Bharath-Hernandez expressed hope that the Red House could further be developed as a heritage site “for the remains that are found there.

“The bones must be dealt with in a special way,” he said.

Bharath-Hernandez was among a group of First Peoples’ descendants who performed what he called a “Purablaka” spiritual ceremony at the Red House, yesterday, “in the name of the departed.”

He said the one-hour long ceremony marked the first phase of a two-part ritual, which is expected to be performed “more extensively” by a Shaman of High Priest of the community in October.

Bharath-Hernandez said the person is likely to be sourced from the mainlands of Venezuela or Suriname.

Acknowledging that the Government has been more sensitive to matters involving the indigenous peoples, the Carib Chief said, however, that the process of drawing greater national attention to their plight was “going slowly.”

“It is not going at a pace we would like and deserve some more meaningful attention,” he said.

Bharath-Hernandez said the Government has already given the First Peoples’ a 25-acre plot of land, along the Blanchisseuse Road, Arima, for the development of an indigenous Amerindian village.

Saying that the land was being surveyed, Bharath-Hernandez said issues relating to comprehensive development plan and cost of the project, still needed to be addressed.

“We do not want handouts from the Government,” he said.

“What we want is an industry so that the people can benefit from it. Not a little bit here and there.”

When completed, Bharath-Hernandez said, the village will contain a cassava and craft factories. Tours are also expected to be conducted at the site.

“All activities will be geared towards sustainable development,” he added.

Asked about the response of the community’s descendants to the First People’s, Bharath- Hernandez said: “It is not as solid as we would like it to be, but once they have something they could identify (Amerindian village) we expect that we would get returns. People feel more empowered when they can identify with something.”

Trinidad and Tobago Organization of Indigenous People: Facebook

Trinidad and Tobago Organization of Indigenous People: Facebook

"The T.T.O.I.P. is a new organization working in conjunction with other indigenous groups in Trinidad and Tobago to preserve the heritage of our First People. We look to seek the economical, cultural, social, and political rights of Indigenous people, especially the young generation.

For we can not know where we are going, if we do not know where we come from."

Suriname expresa su apoyo a la Revolución Bolivariana.

Suriname expresa su apoyo a la Revolución Bolivariana.
Posted by Yois Coellar | MPPRE / La Radio del Sur | Sábado, junio 15th, 2013

"Movimientos sociales, culturales e indígenas de la República de Suriname realizaron varias actividades en manifestación de solidaridad con el Gobierno Bolivariano, expresando su total apoyo a Nicolás Maduro, como Presidente constitucional de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela.

"La jornada inició en horas de la tarde y se extendió hasta entrada la noche, contando con una asistencia de más de ochenta personas.

"Stanley Hubert Liauw Angie, representante de la tribu Caribe, expresó: “nosotros los indígenas Caribes de Suriname vamos a continuar nuestro apoyo al presidente Nicolás Maduro y a defender la Revolución Bolivariana”. Seguidamente, Edward Sweedo, representante de los indígenas Arawak recordó al Comandante Supremo, Hugo Chávez, como defensor de los derechos indígenas; ratificó que el movimiento social al cual representa continuará apoyando su legado.

"Adicionalmente, Nadia Ravales del Movimiento de Solidaridad Cuba-Suriname, hizo un llamado a un minuto de silencio en honor al líder eterno –venezolano, latinoamericano, mundial-, recordando las coincidencias históricas: los tres meses del triunfo del Presidente Maduro, y la conmemoración de los nacimientos del líder cubano Antonio Maceo, y del combatiente Che Guevara.

"Olga Díaz Martínez, embajadora de la República Bolivariana en la República de Suriname, agradeció la demostración de integración del pueblo de Suriname. Explicó a los asistentes los acontecimientos sucedidos previos a las elecciones presidenciales del 14 de abril, así como los hechos de violencia generados por la derecha antidemocrática venezolana durante y después del 15-A cuando fueron asesinados 11 personas."

14 July 2013

Carib Community gets access to Red House

Carib Community gets access to Red House.
By Camille Bethel | Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jul 13, 2013 at 9:48 PM ECT

"Members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community were granted access to the Red House in Port of Spain to perform one of their requested rituals yesterday afternoon.

"Speaking with the media following what was described as a simple ritual in the name of the departed, Carib Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez said they were happy they were granted the request.

“What we did today was what we had requested—that we do one of two rituals today. It was a simple ritual and it was a ritual really in the name of the departed, it was not to the departed. When someone dies you have certain prayers and rituals that you do and because of the find and we do not know at the time of death, if the rituals were done.

“More than that, because they have unearthed the bones and remains of the ancestors we who are alive felt it necessary to do that ritual. So we have performed that simple ritual and there is just one part of another one that we hope to do in the month of October under the guidance of the shamans and the (priests) who still practise these rituals in other places,” he said.

"Hernandez said the shamans who are expected to carry out the other ritual will have to be found on the mainland of Venezuela and Suriname in time for the Heritage Celebrations in October.

“They will conduct the all-night rituals in the name of the ancestors,” he added.

"Last week the Carib Community called a media briefing outlining several requests to the 25-member Cabinet-appointed committee for the site at the Red House where bones and artefacts of their ancestors were found back in April.

"He said he believes that the find at the Red House is a cry for recognition of the descendents of the indigenous people locally as recognised by the United Nations.

"Hernandez admitted that 20 or 30 years ago they may have had “great resistance” against a ceremony like that.

“So we can perform these ceremonies and it gives us a sense of pride, a sense of knowing that that aspect of your culture, your heritage that you grew up with, you can now practise and can be on par with any other culture in this country rather than being stifled,” he said"

13 July 2013

First Peoples group may take Red House case to UN.

First Peoples group may take Red House case to UN.
By JULIEN NEAVES | Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Saturday, July 13 2013

LOCAL indigenous peoples group “Partners for First Peoples” says if Government does not agree to make the Red House a national historical site, they will take their case to the United Nations.

“Here is a Government that is taking a sacred site, and depriving the first peoples of their claim to it,” said one of the group leaders, Roger Belix.

First Peoples groups believe that skeletal remains, cultural and historical artifacts unearthed on March 26 last during excavation work at the Red House, which is to undergo restoration works, were that of their ancestors.

At a press conference on Tuesday the various groups called on Government to turn the Red House into a national historical site, and consider the permanent removal of Parliament, which has been housed temporarily at the International Waterfront Centre, since October, 2011.

Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration, Clifton De Coteau, had described the request as “a very tall order”, but reported that he would meet next week with Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez of the Santa Rosa First People’s Indigenous Community.

Yesterday Belix noted that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was “quite clear on burial sites of indigenous peoples that they should be protected and returned.”

Partners for First Peoples was one of the groups that had been engaging with the Red House Cultural Heritage Team, a Cabinet-appointed committee to manage aspects of the historical find.

Meantime, members of the Santa Rosa First People’s Indigenous Community plan to perform today, a spiritual ritual at the Red House in Port-of-Spain to “appease the spirits” of bones disturbed during works at the Red House site.

12 July 2013


By JULIEN NEAVES | Trinidad & Tobago's Newsday | Friday, July 12 2013

MEMBERS of the Santa Rosa First People’s Indigenous Community will be performing a spiritual ritual tomorrow at the Red House in Port-of-Spain to “appease the spirits” of bones disturbed during works at the site, Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez disclosed yesterday.

He explained it is the belief of the indigenous peoples that when bones are disturbed, a special ritual has to be performed “to give peace to the spirit of those killed there”.

About seven people, including himself, will participate in the simple ceremony which will involve smoke as a medium of prayer and will take place at about 2 pm. They will also sanctify the site as a sacred burial area.

In October, they plan to hold an all-night ceremony called a “Purablaka”, similar to a wake. It will start from 6 pm with the ceremonial painting of people, go through various phases with different music, prayers and chants, and end the next morning with a procession around the building and a visit to a river or the sea for ritual baths and cleansing. About 30 or 40 people are expected to participate in that ceremony, Hernandez reported in a telephone interview with Newsday.

He said approval for tomorrow’s ceremony was given by officials of the House Cultural Heritage Team, a Cabinet-appointed committee to manage aspects of the historical find.

On March 26, 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 First People believe the remains and artifacts are from their ancestors.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the community called on Government to turn the Red House into a national historical site and consider the permanent removal of Parliament, which has been housed temporarily at the International Waterfront Centre since October 2011.

Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration, Clifton De Coteau, described the request as “a very tall order”. Speaking with the Newsday, in a brief telephone interview, he noted the Red House is a heritage site for many reasons, including that it is the Parliament building.

“And there is a lot of history on that site where the building is situated,” he added. On possibly converting it to a national historical site, De Coteau explained that because the site is on the parliamentary property, the Red House Cultural Heritage Team will assume responsibility for it. Heritage sites fall under his ministry while the buildings are under the purview of the restoration unit of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure.

“So that we’ll all have to talk but first of all, I’ll have to talk to Chief Bharath,” he said.

He planned to meet with the Chief of the First People some time next week. Hernandez reported yesterday the community has sent a formal letter to the Red House Cultural Heritage Team, chaired by House Speaker Wade Mark, with the suggestion about the Red House. They have received an acknowledgment and the assurance of a reply. Questioned whether he believed Government would convert the Red House to a national historical site Hernandez replied, “I would want to believe so. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be. Not 100 percent sure of (the) position of those in authority. But we will do all in our power to see that it is made as such.”

Mark yesterday told Newsday he had not received the correspondence, adding he had only recently returned from “another place” — serving as Acting President in the absence of President Anthony Carmona. He noted the request would be reviewed by the committee and at the appropriate time a statement issued.

09 July 2013


Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jul 9, 2013 at 10:47 PM ECT

A conflict between science and culture.

The discovery of Amerindian remains at the Red House has triggered the formulation of a special team of archaeologists and experts.

The indigenous community that's laying claim to the dead is concerned their traditions may be sidelined in the process.