Sep 19, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – There is a certain unchanging timelessness about history: no matter how it appears to change, it is identical to what went before. At first glance, the words and postures and players may seem to be different, but there is that remarkable similarity that is not accidental, but premeditated and well-executed. Guyana lives with that today and as was experienced before, it is the devastating death knell of a weak and divided people.
In 1795, the Treaty of Greenville resulted in illiterate Indian tribes in the Ohio Valley surrendering much of what are now the modern States of Indiana and Ohio, a total in square miles that is almost the equivalent of the area of Guyana. They were forced to relinquish their ancestral lands, rich farming, mining, and hunting grounds all because they came on the losing of what was claimed to be a “just and lawful war.” In return, for being parties to these treaties, the Indians were rewarded with the sum of $10,000 annually. They had to give up land almost the size of Guyana to greedy invaders, and $10,000 was considered fair and reasonable. As additional incentives, they were to be the beneficiaries, willingly or otherwise, of civility and Christianity.
This sounds eerily like what is the fate of Guyana today. The treaty (contract) is the same, with all the rapacious terms there as evidence. Of course, we got freedom of choice and democracy as our bonuses. Just like the Native Americans got civilisation and modernisation back then. And just as how there is the iron-clad convention of ‘the sacred nature of contracts, there was provision, more of a concoction, at the time, by those who cast covetous eyes on the riches of the poor, divided red race. It was under the Articles of Confederation, specifically the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance states in part: “The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed…” There is nothing on earth that can be more reassuring than “utmost good faith” and “lands and property never be taken” and “without their consent.” Yet that was precisely what happened, and under the cover of an ordinance that gave a gift to the Indians and then yanked it back from them.
For the same Article 3 provided this justification: “unless in just and lawful wars authorised by Congress.” The pivotal question is: who determines what is ‘just and lawful? What was supposedly ‘just and lawful wars’ were not decided by the losing Indians, but by the victorious invaders and dispossessors. The advanced armaments employed, the sophisticated machinery of war brought to bear, the racist drives of the incoming settlers, and the unequalled land lusts of the pioneers and homesteaders and warmongers extinguished the land rights of the Indians and snuffed out their way of life. They are presumably better for all of this, while they reflect on their fate on the reservations to which they have been cast out and are corralled.
Today, Guyanese are staring at the same fate as the Native Americans, the red race that now claws for a meager existence in the dust of out of sight reservations. We have been blessed with the doubtful gift of democracy, which is a cheap exchange for our land and oil, our forests and fishing grounds. We have been promised prosperity, just like the Indians, and no interference, yet we have neither say nor control of our own destinies. By the signed and sealed standards of today, it is all ‘just and lawful.’
Guyanese are being hemmed in by more and more outsiders, who flock here to get a share of our natural resources bonanza. A former minister spoke of 42,000 Haitians, he left out the tens of thousands of Venezuelans and Brazilians, and likely Africans and Asians and Cubans and other regionals.
And, like some treacherous Native American tribal leaders, Guyana has its leaders who fall for the deceptions of the exploiters and ravishers and sell their own people out. Guyanese now live under the yoke of history.
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