Preservation of cultural traditions vital to national patrimony – Min.  Norton

─ Guyana observes International Mother Languages Day

DPI, Guyana, Friday, February 22, 2019

In the fast, emerging pace of globalization, the government is determined to maintain the cultures and traditions of all its peoples, said Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton.

Minister Norton was addressing a forum at the Umana Yana, in observance of International Mother Languages Day and International Year of Indigenous Languages on Thursday evening.

The event was facilitated by the Ministry of Indigenous peoples’ Affairs in collaboration with the University of Guyana.

“We cannot do it alone, so I want to encourage each of you to work with us – to take concerted action to preserve and promote the languages that are Indigenous to Guyana. The Government of Guyana has provided avenues for this to be done, through channels of communications,” Minister Norton said.

According to the minister, one such channel to promote and preserve the Indigenous languages is the establishment of community radio stations at Orealla, Bartica, Lethem, Aishalton and Mahdia. as well as the incorporation of first languages into school curricula. A number of villages also benefitted from Information Communication Technology (ICT) Hubs.

“Preserving Guyana’s traditional knowledge, languages and practices, is preserving a part of what makes us a nation with rich cultural heritage – it is a part of the national partonomy which we must pass to the generations to come. The effects of colonization took its tool and eventually, much of what was indigenous, faded, however, we cannot allow the language and culture to die.”

Minister Norton underscored that fact that Guyanese children must know their languages, and anticipated hearing suggestions from citizens on the way forward in this regard. “We want our youths to be able to converse in their Indigenous languages anywhere they go, they must be able to express themselves in their own languages.”

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 an International Year of Indigenous Languages. The resolution aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of Indigenous languages not only in Guyana but across the world.

It seeks also to establish a link between language, development, peace, and reconciliation. This will contribute to empowerment and capacity building within the Indigenous communities which will encourage effective participation in the decision-making process at the regional and national level.

This event also saw persons giving tributes and testimonies in their Lokono (Arawak) and Makushi Languages. Founder and member of the Makushi Research Unit, Vanda Radzik and Laura George of the Amerindian Peoples’ Association also did presentations on ‘keeping Indigenous cultures alive through languages.’  A melody of Guyanese folk songs was also performed by Gavin Mendonca.

Synieka Thorne

Images: Giovannie Gajie