In a ceremony that was a feature program of CARIFESTA IX, Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez accepted the Chairmanship of the organization on behalf of the Santa Rosa Karina (Carib) Community. The Santa Rosa Caribs are currently the only indigenous descendant community in the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago officially recognized by the State Government.
In an impassioned acceptance speech, Chief Bharath Hernandez touted some gains for the local community but stressed the need for much more to be done for the Indigenous Peoples of Trinidad. Apparently anticipating the Chief’s challenge, the honorable Minister of Culture and Gender Affairs, Ms. Joan Yuille-Williams announced that a new Cabinet Committee had been established to address long standing issues for the community. Three members of the Santa Rosa Community were appointed on to this special committee, receiving their appointment letters at the event directly from Minister Yuille-Williams.
The ceremony was also attended by the honorable Minister of Amerindian Affairs of the Republic of Guyana, Mrs. Carolyn Rodrigues and the honorable Minister of Utilities & Environment, M.P. for Arima, Ms. Pennelope Beckles.
Indigenous member representatives of COIP were also on hand from Dominica, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Belize to pledge support of the new COIP Chairman. Representation within COIP is by country with the Secretariat usually rotated every three years to the next member country.
Roberto Mukaro Borrero (Boriken Taino) was honored as a special invited guest representing the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) at the ceremony. On behalf of the UCTP Borrero also pledged Taino support of COIP as he presented Chief Hernandez with a gift from his Boriken (Puerto Rico) homeland.
Noting the historic significance of the event, Borrero stated “this is a special moment for our region as we can see by the participation of Government and Indigenous representatives that our Peoples are beginning to be taken more seriously.”
The ceremony included speeches, special presentations, and a dynamic cultural performance featuring Karina and Arawak music and dance by the Surinamese delegation. With the local community attending in full force, the celebration continued into the evening with additional cultural presentations from local groups.
Another historic and precedent-setting event occurred during the momentous gathering as an official “Declaration of Unity” between the Santa Rosa Carib Community and the United Confederation of Taíno People was adopted on September 24, 2006.
“As we move forward in the region it is important that as Caribbean Indigenous Peoples we recognize and respect each other officially, Nation to Nation.” stated Borrero.
The Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples (COIP) was established in 1987 following the first Conference of Indigenous Peoples of the English Speaking Caribbean, held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.