French Guiana: Federation of Indigenous Organizations of French Guiana (Fédération des Organisations Autochtones de Guyane, FOAG)
Six indigenous peoples dwell in French Guiana: the Kali’na, Pahikweneh, Lokono, Wayana, Wayapi and Teko. It is difficult to determine the exact number of indigenous people, as the French government refuses to allow a census out of respect for the ethnic minorities.
Indigenous organisations – including the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of French Guiana (FOAG) – estimate the total number of indigenous people at approximately 19,000, which constitutes around 10% of French Guiana’s entire population (206,000).
French Guiana has been an overseas département of France (département d’outre-mer, DOM) since 1946, and is thus an integral part of the French Republic. It is therefore subject to French and European law. According to the French constitution, all inhabitants have French citizenship, whereby there is no mention of ethnic minorities. The monolingualism specified in the French constitution complicates implementation not only of multilingual, but also multicultural policy in French Guiana.
The indigenous peoples call for recognition of their status as a ‘people’ in addition to enforcement of their territorial rights. Further goals include the defence of their culture and environment as well as continuity of their traditional socio-economic activities. The indigenous inhabitants of French Guiana are currently pursuing their aims together with the Maroon community, the descendants of escaped black slaves. These two groups have joined forces within the FOAG.
Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)