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First People I

Published: 
Friday, October 13, 2017
The challenge with history is that it cannot be rewritten or even reimagined. We can make guesses but, given the many factors that shape it, trying to find the right answer to any question starting with ‘What if…’ is virtually impossible.

The challenge with history is that it cannot be rewritten or even reimagined. We can make guesses but, given the many factors that shape it, trying to find the right answer to any question starting with ‘What if…’ is virtually impossible.

This applies to our islands, too. What if the Spaniards, through Christopher Columbus, had never “discovered” the Americas? What would things look like now? The fact is, no one will ever know.

There is no doubt many wrong things were perpetrated by the conquistadores, effectively crushing or wiping out indigenous populations across the Americas and the Caribbean. Just like other colonial rulers who did awful things like enslave people from Africa and offering appalling conditions to indentured labourers from India.

What is important is that we understand history’s many facets and perspectives. It’s true that mainstream history tends to be primarily shaped by the winners or rulers of the time.

Over the past decades, though, especially in the Americas, this has been positively reverted, with a much better understanding of what happened, moving away from simplistic definitions of winners and losers.

However, any attempt to turn back the clock or try to wipe out history, including the removal of statues, is a futile exercise.

One thing is for certain—we ought to celebrate and cherish all of our history and all our peoples, whilst acknowledging the many wrongdoings, beginning with the first people. Keeping their history, traditions and heritage alive and vibrant is something we should all do, and together.

Today we celebrate our history in Kalina, Chaima, Arawak or Chaguane. But we should be equally proud to celebrate many other languages like our Hindi, Yoruba, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and, yes, English.

The same goes for our stories from many cultures, our varied culinary heritage, which borrowed and mixed from each other along the way.

First People II

The more perceptive of our readers will have noticed a slight change to our masthead on the front page today.

Although we can’t be fully certain of the names Amerindians gave to the islands now known as Trinidad and Tobago, scholars tend to accept that credible options are Cairi for Trinidad and Urupaina for Tobago (although Tobago itself may be another acceptable name and a simple variation of the local Carib word “tavaco,” related to tobacco plants).

This is our small way to acknowledge the rich tapestry of life in Trinidad and Tobago—or Cairi and Urupaina—and to thank the First People and their descendants for their part in shaping our nation.

First People III

There is no question that marking and celebrating the First People’s part in our history—and present—is worthwhile.

Especially at challenging economic times, though, placing two pubic holidays barely a week apart from each other was not a great idea. This newspaper does not want to be seen as killjoys but we do ourselves no good by adding to our productivity woes.

Whilst we enjoy 15 public holidays this year (including the one-off First People’s day but excluding Carnival) our US friends have only 10 federal holidays to deal with. Their lower number of days off may be no good for liming but is definitely better for the country’s productivity.