Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has given the First Peoples (indigenous Islanders) the commitment that a monument will be erected in their honour at the Red House parliament building when it is completed at the end of 2018.
He added that the bones of their ancestors found at the Red House will also be handed over to the First Peoples in an official ceremony to be announced.
Rowley made the announcement at First Peoples holiday celebrations at the Arima Velodrome. He said the time had come to preserve T&T’s history, including the rich heritage of the First Peoples.
“The bones and artefacts found beneath that building (the Red House), that at the appropriate time towards the completion of that construction, before the Parliament returns or as we return to that building to continue our parliamentary sessions, an appropriate ceremony event will take place where those ancient bones would be restored at an appropriate location on the Red House site marking with respect,” Rowley said.
He added, “As the Parliament returns to be seated in that Red House, I give you the commitment that an appropriate monument would be established on that ground after appropriate consultation with those who are relevant to such development.”
The PM was referring in part to the April 2013 discovery of bones under the Red House during restoration work on the Parliament. Udecott officials subsequently confirmed that they were human remains of four people and archaeology experts claim the remains and certain artefacts were believed to be dating back to the time when Amerindians occupied the country.
In early 2014, then Speaker of the House Wade Mark had told the Parliament that results from DNA tests confirmed that the samples of bones discovered ,as well as the artefacts, belonged to people living in T&T and parts of Central America during the period AD 990 to AD 1400.
On the issue of First Peoples located in the southern part of T&T, Rowley yesterday said the Government plans to consult with them to find appropriate land for them. He said although he could not promise any financial support, Government would be supportive to their activities, including having a cultural and heritage village in Arima.
He said while there cannot be a permanent holiday to commemorate the First Peoples it would be more appropriate to have a day to recognise the First Peoples instead.
Referring to preserving the history of the First Peoples, he said a textbook is being put together to be added to the curriculum at the nation’s schools.
“My Government is making strides to ensuring that the history our First Peoples are accurately reflected in our schools through the publishing of the history of T&T which was mentioned by the Minister of Education, a voluminous text which will soon be available to all of T&T.”
As the Prime Minister made the commitment yesterday, Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez called on Government to establish a committee to develop the Cultural and Heritage Village.
“I make a special appeal to you to ensure that the vision of the Santa Rosa First Peoples community, to realise the establishment of a Heritage village is fulfilled. Strategic steps need to be taken that would lead to achieving this goal.
“I ask the Government to establish a committee from various arms of (T&T) private sector, NGOs that would bring their skills and resources to develop our Heritage village.” he said Bharath said what is clear is that the village, when completed, would have a twin role— the first to earn revenue for T&T and the second to preserve the history of the First Peoples.