My parents gave me that traditional name because they are two of the leaders of our tribe in #Guyana and are counted among those who resist assimilation into dominant non-#indigenous culture. They help to preserve and promote Lokono-Arawak traditions, culture and spirituality. As an indigenous person ‘spirituality’ is not the same as ‘religion’. You can join or leave any religion you choose, but you are born with a spirituality that chooses you. This is what keeps us connected to the seen and unseen natural world all around, outside and inside of us.
I was born in #Barbados at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, unlike my 4 siblings. They were all born on the 240 square mile Lokono-Arawak Pakuri Tribal territory in the interior of Guyana. My older sister died and was buried there as a baby. She was only three days old when she died.
My great-great grandmother was called Princess Marian by the English colonial society in Guyana, due to her father being the last in a long line of traditional Hereditary Chiefs in our Eagle Clan of the Lokono-Arawak tribe. Myself and my siblings are descendants of the last ruling family of our Clan in Guyana and though we do not consider ourselves to be ‘better’ than anyone else, we do have a greater responsibility to help our people than anyone else.
Unlike European hereditary rulers who rule by coercion, Lokono-Arawak hereditary rulers rule by persuasion. The power always rested in the people. If you did not lead well, the people just turned their backs on you and found someone better to lead them. The burden to lead the people well is on all our shoulders as direct descendants of our last Hereditary Chief Amorotahe Haubariria (Flying Harpy Eagle), and we must accept this sacred responsibility with pride and self-sacrifice, just as our ancestors did.
Great grandmother Princess Marian emigrated to Barbados in 1925 — died and was buried in Westbury Cemetery in 1928, where her grave site is the only known burial place of a Lokono-Arawak royal in the entire #Caribbean.
Knowing as much as I do about my people, from my parents and grandparents, I realised that what the Caribbean #history books still teach about my Lokono-Arawak people and our Kalinago-Carib and Taino-Arawak cousins, are quite erroneous and almost irrelevant to any genuine understanding of our indigenous Caribbean peoples. It seems to foster a greater ignorance–not any greater understanding–among non-indigenous peoples in the rest of modern-day Caribbean societies.
I personally attend an all-girls private Catholic school in Barbados (St. Ursula’s), and in first form when we were formally introduced to the subject of ‘the Arawaks and Caribs’, my then teacher pointed out that I looked ‘#Amerindian‘, so I informed her that I was, and of the Lokono-Arawak Tribe in particular.
That was when some of my classmates began to make fun of me. They eventually gave up when they realized that I was proud of who I am and nothing they said made me feel ashamed of myself. Some silly girls used to say that my people ‘need Jesus because my people were mostly naked and uncivilized heathen savages’. So I asked them if being naked was a ‘heathen’ practice why did God himself in the same Christian Bible make Adam and Eve naked–just like my ancestors–and Adam & Eve remained naked until they became sinners, only then did they begin to hide their nudity? Were Adam & Eve ‘heathens’ too?
I also explained to them that being ‘civilised’ has NOTHING to do with how you dress or what you own, being ‘civilised’ is how you treat other human beings, other life forms, and your environment. Columbus’s own observations about my Arawak ancestors were that he thought them the most peaceful, kind, loving and generous human beings he had ever met on the face of the Earth. History shows us it was Europeans wearing clothes and owning Bibles like Columbus that murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women & children of my people and stole all our lands in the Caribbean. Who are the real ‘uncivilised heathen savages’?
The sad thing is, these same ignorant girls who were making fun of me and my ancestors, themselves had indigenous mostly naked ancestors back in Africa. I hope to never become like them and end up through the ‘mis-education system’, assimilated and moving as far from my true self as a hawk is from the moon.
It is the spiritually disconnected who no longer know where they have come from and do not know where they are going. They are the ones destroying our world in their short-sighted blindness and insatiable greed for material possessions. They are no longer aware of their place in the great web of life and the sacred interconnections of all living things.
Instead of walking respectfully on Mother Earth — they stomp on her with arrogance.
Originally published at www.sunheadmag.com on December 2, 2015.