8th of August, 2020. Georgetown, Guyana, South America.Last updated: August 8, 2020 at 13:27 pm
The first peoples of Guyana, historically referred to as the “Amerindians” are now protesting against the use of the expression “Amerindian” and for the use of the expression “indigenous” when making references to Guyana’s first peoples.
The protest started after the newly formed PPP/C government, led by President Irfaan Ali, appointed its ministers. The new cabinet boasted a “Minister of Amerindian People’s Affairs.” The previous APNU/AFC administration, led by David Arthur Granger, had a ministry for the same purpose but had named it, “Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.” The first peoples of Guyana seemed satisfied with this reference and is demanding that the present government revert to the use of the term “Indigenous” when naming that ministry.
The definition of the word “Amerindian” can be troublesome. One online dictionary, lexico.com, defines the expression as, “A member of one of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.”
That definition would naturally include both North America (US and Canada) and South America as well as Central America. However, the indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada are not referred to as “Amerindians” but as “Native Indians,” “Natives” or “American Indian.”
On the other hand, the Cambridge Dictionary, one of the world’s most reputable dictionaries, defines the term Amerindian as “American Indian,” and then further defines “American Indian” as, “someone who belongs to one of the groups of people that originally lived in North America before the Europeans arrived.”
There is enough evidence to support the argument of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana that the word “Amerindian” is a misnomer given to the first peoples of Guyana when Christopher Columbus landed and erroneously thought he had arrived in North America. He then referred the natives as the “Amerindians.” The word “Amerindian” to reference the indigenous peoples of Guyana subsequently crystallized through textbooks and the educational system of Guyana, South America.
The Indigenous Peoples of Guyana collectively are now rejecting the label bestowed upon them by Christopher Columbus and, until they can find a more suitable name, prefer to be called the “Indigenous People” of Guyana.
Standing in solidarity with, and showing respect for, the first peoples of Guyana demands that we respect their wishes for self-reference and conform to suit such. Personally, I do not think a simple name change is too much of a demand – especially for the people who helped vote you into power.
Team Guyana, South America calls on the PPP/C government to respect the wishes of Guyana’s first people and rename the “Ministry of Amerindian Affairs” to “Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.”
We encourage all Guyanese to sign the change.org petition which request the government of Guyana to change the name of the said ministry to “Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs,” and to make all references and addresses to the first peoples of Guyana as “Indigenous.” See link below.