Transcript of an interview with Desrey Fox
LOCATION: Georgetown, Guyana
Well, I came from the upper Mazarin district; from a little village called Waramadong that's populated with four hundred and twenty Akawayos. Basically, it's a traditional Amerindian society and the political structure, the organisation is like having a Chief and a series of council members which would man parts of the little village and would give advice as to what should happen within the village.
Actually for educational purposes in the first place because I was selected to do a period of two years training at the Georgetown nursing school. I nursed at Georgetown for three and a half years and decided to quit because I passed through a bit of hardships there trying to adapt myself in terms of the rules and regulations of the whole idea of coming to work on time and trying to abide by the rules and so on and I thought there was also a bit of discrimination, so I became disinterested in nursing and left and I got married after that.
And after that, I realised to myself personally, I had failed my people. I should have returned to work for them and that I didn't do and because of that as soon as an advertisement came out saying that they wanted researchers particularly archive researchers at the University of Guyana, I applied and immediately I was accepted after just a short interview and this was on the 1st of March, 1977 and since then, I am still at the University of Guyana, but in 1984, I started to do some studies and I did a first degree in Sociology and I graduated two years ago.
As I said, I realised that I had failed them and while I was studying at the university too and maybe prior to that, I realised that my culture was different to the culture on the course and that sort of urged me to look inside of me because growing up in an Amerindian community, I took my culture for granted and I didn't see eating and waking up and walking and saying things in a different way was different from anybody else and I realised that I was different and from then on, I started to whip up consciousness within myself and said that "there is an Amerindian culture. I ought to be proud about it and so on and because of this, I was sort of urged to work again hard and compensate my people for the loss they had experienced through me just leaving the nursing profession and deciding to go on my own and that being so, I was very much interested.
I got into research into the languages and I started off doing research into the Akawi and the Aracuna languages(??) Just about three months after, we produced a small dictionary with a linguistic introduction as well as the historical introduction the Akawayo peoples.
That to myself was an achievement and I had felt that I had done something at that point; some kind of leeway to sort of tell my people that I had not forgotten them; that I was going to work of them.
Basically I feel richer with the experience because at first I thought that everybody was just discriminating against me, but I realised that people are different in terms of culture and that culture also changes so by adapting myself on the course, I was able to merge what I learned on the course with my own Amerindian experience. Having whipped up my consciousness, I now start to utilise from both cultures, what was important for me and if only because of that, I feel that there is a way where both cultures could compromise and that I could still look back into my Amerindian culture and still feel proud about it and be interested in my Amerindian people.
I think sometimes, we tend to see it a little wrong, I mean my own people too. After they have been introduced to this modern, contemporary education on the course and the whole kind of life on the course, they tend to go aside with the dominant culture and leave their own culture alone and try to develop that way, but then you realise that you are neither here nor there.
The dominant culture has not integrated you, does not really want you either. You're a misfit also in your traditional culture so what I feel Amerindians should do is the whole idea of making use of both sides of the culture and making yourself richer and whipping up consciousness. Consciousness is very important I feel for future Amerindian development.
The whole idea of militancy; the whole idea of having an idea of what you want for the future in terms of development and progress. I think that it's very important as far as I see, especially in the light of the new kind of spirit that is now brewing within the Caribbean and in the South and North American people. We as indigenous peoples, should get together and do something about our plight because the whole Indian question is a problematic question in the South.
O.K. I think we should get ourselves organised and get in touch with organisations like the Caribbean Organisation Of Indigenous Peoples, World Council Of Indigenous Peoples and some other brother organisations like the Mezquito organisation in Nicaragua and really get ourselves together and talk about what the Amerindian people want in the future, what they want for their progress.
For example, we finds links in Belize - the Garifuna of Belize. I was just there a couple of weeks ago. I thought that I was there before; the familiarity was there and every time I met the Garifunas, they were just accepting me as though I was there before. One particular experience strikes me here when I went to visit the spiritual church and the priestess, when she shook my hand said "O.K., we've been waiting for you a long time and now you're here and I felt as though there was a sort of vibration
through my entire body. I felt like I was there too. I was so familiar and that the people who were there were recognising me as a symbol of their ancestry and roots.
I think there is a lack of education and learning about each other and the learning should be reciprocal. Coastal people should make an effort to know about the Amerindians, as well as the Amerindians should know about the Coastal people. In that way, both sides can sort of respect each other and come up with some kind of agreeable terms.
Yes, I think we should. I think both sides should know that because we know your folk songs, your choruses, your religious songs whatever and you have not done that in terms of the Amerindians. Maybe it's also the Amerindians' fault. We tend to be very mystical about ourselves too and we are very conservative and secretive about what we do.
So because of that we have not talked about who we are, basically to the Guyanese society. What overwhelmed me at the conferences that I have attended is the whole idea of meeting other Amerindians and more importantly not just ordinary Amerindians. I never knew they had Black Caribs for example in St. Vincent. When I heard the term "Black Caribs", I wanted to know what they were talking about and the Garifunas in Belize are also Black Caribs. The St. Vincent Black Caribs also were very interesting.