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The Kalinagos are Dominica’s indigenous people (Photo via Dominica News Online)

BELIZE CITY – The Caribbean’s indigenous people have urged that they be given a seat at the political table so as to safeguard their rights to their ancestral lands and resources, as they wrapped up an historic University of the West Indies conference of indigenous peoples here over the Labour Day weekend.

The call for political representation for the minority first peoples of the region is one of a slew of recommendations on health, education, gender, sustainable livelihoods, land rights and access to justice, drafted after three days of deliberations by the leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples from six CARICOM nations. Host country Belize is home to more than 50,000 Maya and Garifuna peoples, roughly one-tenth of the population.

The conference, organised by UWI IMPACT Justice, a Canadian-funded project to improve access to justice in the Caribbean, has been hailed as a rare, unique and historic gathering of the region’s indigenous peoples and a recognition of the need to redress centuries of degradation and discrimination.

“The Indigenous People should have a seat at the table,” Louis Patrick Hill, a representative of Dominica’s Kalinago chief, who is a former senator in the US Virgin Islands legislature. “They have very little representation at the levels of government because of the political party system that exists in most of the Caribbean and Latin American countries, and because the indigenous peoples are a minority in those countries we find that the political representation is almost not there.”

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