Amerindian Heritage Month 2017Amerindian Heritage Month 2017 opened on Friday with much flare at the Indigenous Heritage Village at Sophia; and the rich culture, food and music of Guyana’s Amerindians were on full display.However, neither President David Granger nor Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was present at the Friday launch, having sent in excuses stating that they were ‘busy’.A section of the gathering at the launching of Amerindian Heritage MonthIndigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock has, however, reiterated Government’s support for the Indigenous peoples. During his feature address, he pointed out that the President had consented to the National Toshaos Conference (NTC) request for a plot of land. The request for a Secretariat for the NTC was made to President Granger by Indigenous leaders last year at the National Toshaos Conference. It is understood that the Secretariat will be constructed in the Compound of the Sophia Exhibition Centre.NTC Chairman, Joel Fredericks, had said the Secretariat would be “a place where we (NTC) can have our headquarters functioning; a place where the Indigenous peoples can come and lay their issues, they can find some help and support there”.Fredericks had expressed expectations that construction of the NTC Secretariat would commence shortly. He said the President had committed to supporting the venture. “We have some resources at hand, what we can start with; and his Excellency (has) also (committed) to giving some support,” Fredericks stated.“It is expected that that building, which will be known as the Secretariat, will help the communities to realise their dreams. It will be a place of action. No longer complaints and gyaff, but action. And Government is committed to give its support,” Allicock said.Allicock also paid tribute to renowned artist and archaeologist George Simon. Widely regarded as one of the leading artists of his generation and the founder of the Lokono Artists Group, Simon was present at the launch.Heritage festivalAt Friday’s ceremony, a number of Indigenous organisations took to the podium to reflect on the significance of Heritage Month. Representatives came from groups such as the Amerindian People’s Association (APA), The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG), Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), and National Amerindian Development Foundation (NADF).The St Cuthbert’s Cultural Group was in action, thrilling crowds with their cultural presentation. The Surama Culture Group, from whence Minister Allicock hails, also joined in on the action.Trailing this opening ceremony will be the art/craft and food exhibitions, the Heritage sports, reflection on the life and work of the first Indigenous Parliamentarian, Steven Campbell; the Heritage dinner at Lions Club; and the much anticipated Miss Indigenous Heritage Pageant, showcasing elegance, beauty and culture.The Indigenous Peoples Affairs Ministry launched the annual Heritage Festival at the Umana Yana earlier last month under the theme “Guyana’s first peoples; sustaining a rich cultural environment”. The launch was done in the spirit of International Day of World Indigenous Peoples.Minister within the Indigenous Peoples Affairs Ministry, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, had highlighted the struggles of Indigenous peoples in their fight for equal rights, not confined to Guyana but rather on an international scale.“In many countries, (including) in our South American continent, many Indigenous peoples still suffer injustices simply because they are the first peoples, and they want to be recognised as such. Many are advocating and literally fighting for their lives, for their lands; and some of the most outspoken; some of the bravest, have died for this cause,” the Minister lamented.She had also reflected on her 2016 visit to Ecuador, where Indigenous women had gathered to discuss the concerns of Indigenous peoples and the way forward, and said she was amazed at the indignities that fellow Indigenous peoples had to suffer in this modern day and age.“I realised then how far advanced Guyana was as a nation in the treatment of Indigenous peoples,” she noted.Amerindian Heritage Month 2017 is geared at celebrating Guyana’s first peoples by reflecting on their contributions; and to protect, pursue and promote Indigenous heritage while trying to recapture lost traditions.This year’s calendar of activities was also unveiled at the launch, showing that it will kick-start with a ceremonial launch and cultural extravaganza on September 1, 2017 at the Sophia Exhibition Centre in Georgetown.Ovid Williams had presented an overview of the cultural aspect of the month’s celebrations.