Stephen Campbell remembered as resilient Amerindian leader

As Amerindian Heritage Month festivities continue, Guyana on Wednesday celebrated the life and works of the late Stephen Campbell, Guyana’s first indigenous parliamentarian, at the Sophia Exhibition Centre.

Born in the Region One community of Moruca on December 26, 1897, Campbell ardently pursued equitable opportunities for Amerindians.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Sarah Browne, M.P

He will also be remembered for his fight to guarantee Amerindians were recognised for their communal land rights.

Stephen Campbell became the first Amerindian to contest the General Elections in British Guiana. He served as a member of the Legislative Council from September 10, 1957, until May 1961. 

Legal Officer of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the delegates of the Miss Amerindian Heritage Pageant 2022 and the Legal Officer of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs

At Wednesday’s event, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Sarah Browne noted, “today, in the year 2022, 125 years later, we are gathered under this benab to reflect on his life and work and celebrate his achievements especially being the first Amerindian member of the parliament in Guyanese history.”

Browne underlined that Campbell’s legacy can motivate everyone to strive for excellence in various areas of interest.

Students of the Hinterland Scholarship Programme during the short play

She noted the developmental projects and programmes led by Amerindian Affairs Minister, Pauline Sukhai under the PPP/C Government.

“These developments have significantly contributed to the lives of our people. And, of which, I am sure that like many of us would have been Stephen Campbell’s motive for becoming a politician,” she noted.

To honour the achievements of the late Amerindian legislator, a short play was enacted by students of the Hinterland Scholarship Programme which portrayed the life and works of the late Indigenous leader.

The play ‘Stephen Campbell: A Man of the Soil’ was written by Denzel St Hill. It highlighted how Campbell never let doubters restrict his potential, which made him the first indigenous politician to be elected to the British Guiana Legislative Council, now known as Parliament.

A section of the gathering at Stephen Campbell’s event

It also revealed the achievements Campbell accomplished in his final days which ensured that Amerindians had the legal title of land and rights of occupancy when Guyana won its independence on May 26, 1966, and they were reflected in the Independence Laws.

The month of September was chosen to recognise the national contribution of the indigenous man since he was elected to the council on September 10, 1957. 

The official portrait of the late Stephen Campbell was unveiled by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Ryan Tularam and Sarah Browne.

The portrait which was done by Courtney Douglas will be hung at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

This year, Amerindian Heritage Month is celebrated under the theme ‘Celebrating our traditional culture while building a One Guyana’. 

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana, Yesim Oruc, delegates of the Miss Amerindian Heritage Pageant 2022, Miss Guyana Teen Scholarship 2022 Mya Saunders, members of parliament, and members of the diplomatic community also attended the event.

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