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Caribbean Indigenous peoples to ask CDB for help with language preservation

Last Updated on Saturday, 1 July 2023, 12:49 by Denis Chabrol

COIP Chairman Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez

The Caribbean Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (COIP) plans to ask the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to fund a project to preserve and promote the use of Indigenous languages, according to COIP Chairman Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez.

He said the proposal could be formulated and submitted to the Barbados-headquartered regional bank within the next three months, after the COIP and its affiliates decide which languages, most likely the Caribs and the Arawaks, to focus on.

Mr Bharath-Hernandez. said the organisation planned to tap into the training expertise of Indigenous Indians in Guyana and Suriname to retrieve the languages where they have been lost.

“They still speak the language and that there are people who teach the language so we are hoping to develop a programme around that where we can bring these teachers and do some sessions, some programmes in an effort to restore that aspect of the culture,” he told Demerara Waves at the end of the recently concluded 53rd annual meeting of the CDB’s Board of Governors in St Lucia.

Mr Bharath-Hernandez said the revival and preservation of the Indigenous languages was among a number of ideas discussed at the CDB forum for Indigenous peoples. COIP, he said, would craft a language proposal for submission to the bank. “The Caribbean organisation, in consultation and collaboration with its members, will come up with a concrete plan of action and that would be presented as a proposal to the Bank in respect of the language retrieval and when they receive that and they give their consent, well then I think it’s just a matter of implementing what we have submitted,” said Mr Bahrath-Hernandez who is also Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples of Trinidad. They are known as the  Nepoya tribe which is a mixture of the Carib, Arawak and the Warraus, he said.

He said there were no specific timelines for these projects, but the CDB promised to collaborate with Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean virtually to issue statements on August 9- the United Nations-designated International Day for Indigenous Peoples.

Meanwhile, the CDB’s Vice President of Operations, Mr. Isaac Solomon applauded Indigenous Peoples for being major stewards of cultural diversity in the region despite situations that threaten the preservation of their traditions and way of life, and highlighted actions the CDB had taken to promote Mayan women’s economic empowerment in Belize through capacity building, community scholarship, and intellectual property protection of indigenous content, through its Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund.

He also pointed out the need to put greater investment in the protection of assets and resources, which includes languages, cultural practices, and approaches to living and respecting Indigenous People’s interaction with Mother Earth and the positive impact these actions can have on climate change.
“These are inextricably linked to our past and are highly relevant to us today, and what we can accomplish going forward. There are so many benefits for our countries if there is high respect for our lands, our water, and the rights of indigenous people to be consulted and involved in climate policy and climate action,” Mr. Solomon was quoted as saying in a CDB statement.
As one of the immediate activities following the Forum, CDB will provide proposal writing training for community leaders with the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency and an online course on community engagement that includes a module on Protocols for Engaging Indigenous Peoples.
The CDB and the International Trade Centre are also launching the She Trades Caribbean Hub to help create market opportunities for indigenous and other groups of women. Other programmes ongoing and activities include the Bank’s flagship poverty reduction programme, the BNTF, which invests in community-led development, and the Building Resilience and Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change and Disaster Risks in the Kalinago Territory project that is supported by Global Affairs Canada.
“Despite a long track record of working in indigenous communities, we want to engage more, document the lessons and use them to shape responses driven by data, while encouraging more development institutions to do the same,” Mr. Solomon concluded.
Representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Dominica, Guyana, Belize, and St Vincent and the Grenadines participated in the CDB Indigenous Peoples Forum.

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July 2023