Inception and early years: The SVG Indian Heritage Foundation was formed at a chance gathering of a few Vincentians of Indian origin at Indian Bay on August 16, 2005 when family members visited the Baptiste home. Present were Lenroy Thomas, Lucel Jenks Thomas, Deniston Bacchus, Denzil Bacchus and members of the Baptiste family including Osley Baptiste, Elvira Baptiste, Anna Insanali and Veda Scully.
Destiny must have brought the group together on that historic occasion as no one had planned to meet there on that eventful day for that purpose. When I brought up the idea of forming an Indian organization, everyone present exploded with the same desire for this to be a reality. The formation of an organization to advance the cause of the East Indians in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) must have been on the hearts of many Indo-Vincentians over the years. Several people may have thought about the idea and considered the advantages of having such an organization formed. I have been told that attempts were made as early as the 1960s by people such as Mr. Donnelly Bacchus and later by Mr. Osley Baptiste to establish an entity with focus on the Indians of SVG.
The formation of the Indo-Vincentian organization in North America must also be given credit for its work in its effort to bring the Indians of SVG together in North America. However, it was only until August 16, 2005 at 6:00 pm that firm actions were taken to establish an organization for the Indians of SVG and those in the Diaspora. The impromptu meeting at Indian Bay later got structured and the name “SVG Indian Heritage Foundation” was proposed. We later had a ‘brain-storming” session where we discussed what should be the purpose of the Foundation. Many ideas were put forward including: the apparent lack of a strong identity of Vincentian children overseas; the history of the Indians in SVG; genealogy; efforts to start Indian Associations in the past; cultural affiliation and exchanges with regional Indian organizations; establishing Indo-Vincentians chapters overseas; the Hindu religion; the exchange of information etc.
One of the most significant ideas that came out of the meeting was that the new organization should place great emphasis on the sharing of pertinent information such as our history and genealogy among Indians both in SVG and in the Diaspora. The meeting agreed to take action to have the name of the new organization registered as a “not-for-profit” entity. It was agreed that the formation of the organization should be published and a suitable venue should be sorted for a general meeting. An advertisement was therefore placed in the Searchlight newspaper, which brought attention to the formation of the group. A few months later I was contacted by the editor of the Searchlight newspaper who wanted to feature the different cultural groups of SVG in the Searchlight issue during the week in which National Heroes Day (March 14) was celebrated. On that occasion therefore an article about the East Indians of SVG was featured in the Searchlight of March 17, 2006 which generated a stir in the minds of the people of SVG and abroad and created a huge response by several members of the Indian community and also initiated wider National discussion. A subsequent article invited the public`s “…ideas, suggestions and contributions”.
Interest was therefore generated in SVG and in the Diaspora and later a lecture was presented by Vincentian Indian historian, Dr. Arnold Thomas at the UWI on June 1, 2006. Additional members of the Indian community became involved and after further outdoor activities at Argyle and informal meetings an official meeting was held at the Pitani Resort, Argyle on July 20, 2006 where the first formal Executive of the SVG Indian Heritage Foundation was elected. The SVGIHF therefore began its task of representing and catering for the needs of the Indo-Vincentian community.
The passing of an Act on March 26, 2007 by the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to recognize June 1st as Indian Arrival Day and October 7 as SVG Indian Heritage Day was one of the most significant accomplishment of the SVGIHF. However, of interest also are the other important events of the Foundation`s early years.