The group met on what they claimed is sacred ground where they said their ancestors were buried in Banwari Trace, Penal. The ceremony, according to the Waraos also marked the beginning of a new era and not the end of the world, as some predicted would have happened yesterday following the end of the Mayan calendar.
Chief Elder Lawrence Lloyd Gervais said the history of the Warao has been swept under the carpet. Waraos and other indigenous tribes from Rio Claro, Arima and other districts assembled at the holy grounds forming a circle and offering prayers to their various gods and ancestors.
Elder Rabina Shar, said under the United Nation-declaration on the rights of indigenous people he wants the Warao to be recognised as a sovereign nation within Trinidad. “But this is a new sovereign nation we want the people of Trinidad and Tobago to recognise us as we are the first sovereign nation. And that our sovereignty would be recognised constitutionally,” Shar said.
The Elder said his group has only been getting the runaround as it tries to get recognition. “They are making more excuses to get away from the fact that we are the sovereign nation .and we need to be registered as that. We need constitutional recognition,” Shar said.
Shar said the cradle of the Warao civilisation is at the Naparima Hills where their first father had two children. At those hills the children were taught the foundation and tradition of the Warao.
“This is not something written in a paper that a Judge or a lawyer could talk about. It is something that we live and respect in our hearts as a people,” Shar said.
He said the Warao religion was taken over and indigenous people were divided. Shar claimed that attempts are being made to take away the sacred grounds which is part of their history. He said their sacred grounds was to be transformed into a national heritage site. But the group insists this land is holy and their ancestors’ bones lie buried beneath. “They can’t make this what they want it to be...no heritage site,” Shar said.
In this new era — according to Warao traditional beliefs — he said the Warao, in addition to being recognised, want their holy sites across the country to be returned to them so the Elders can start projects to educate the youngsters, to keep the tribe together and ensure continuity.
Shar explained that yesterday’s prayer ceremony is performed every 494 years to mark the end of eras of time. Young and old participated yesterday in the prayers. A bundle of pieces of wood was placed in the centre of the circle and a fire was lit. Pieces of dried tobacco leaves were placed in the fire by each member together with honey and rice.
Also present was Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Clifton de Coteau who said he is in full support of the group and added that on Thursday in Tobago, during the weekly meeting, Cabinet approved lands in Santa Rosa to be set aside for use by indigenous peoples.