ST. EUSTATIUS–Government Commissioner Alida Francis announced an immediate end to any further excavation of human remains from the Golden Rock burial ground site until the remains that have already been removed are properly dealt with and re-interred.
In its final report on the excavation project, the Statia Heritage Research Commission (SHRC) recommends a centralised administrative structure in cooperation with the relevant heritage entities, combined with regular interactive public information sessions for community involvement at all stages of heritage research.
SHRC also suggests the creation of a formal government heritage agency, thereby giving the public entity St. Eustatius greater responsibility and control. SHRC also recommends an official position as heritage inspector.
SHRC suggests university scholarships and local educational programmes, specifically for Statians to pursue heritage careers.
SHRC also recommends having the remains of ancestors reinterred at a dedicated memorial space in Statia.
“Within the next six months or so, we plan to recruit a heritage inspector to oversee implementation, including inspections of archaeological projects,” said Commissioner Francis.
“It has been a challenging, yet eye-opening journey,” said Francis about the past six months when the report was first commissioned. She said these months had “taught us a lot about ourselves as a people, about the importance of working in unison, and about opening our ears to the ancestors – as the African proverb says – so we can understand the language of spirits.”
The report was presented to the Central Committee of the Island Council, on Thursday, January 27, by SHRC Chair Jay Haviser and members Xiomara Balentina, Ishmael Berkel, Paul Spanner and Raimie Richardson.
“We will hear our ancestors’ cries through the findings of the commission and we will hear their pleas to protect the values of their souls, through the recommendations,” said Commissioner Francis.
The main reason for the public entity to establish the commission of “high-calibre” experts was to evaluate the matter pertaining to the Golden Rock burial ground – “where did the process go wrong? What could we have done differently?” Francis said.
The island government also wanted the commission to make recommendations and provide community and expert opinions regarding cultural heritage research practices in Statia, with recommendations for changes to conform with international standards.
Francis said she is “convinced” that the approach to archaeological work will be much improved and Statia will be a “shining example” for the rest of the Caribbean.
She thanked the commission for their expert work and thanked Balentina for fostering the dialogue on emancipation, and the protestors, who made sure that their voices and the voices of their ancestors were heard.
Francis welcomed and fully embraced the commission’s recommendations, which the island government will seek to implement as these are all considered relevant and necessary. However, she also called for patience. “The real work begins now, where sourcing of funding, planning, preparing and implementing the recommendations requires a collaborative approach.”
Bron: Daily Herald