Guyana: Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana (Asociación de Pueblos Amerindios de Guyana, APA)
Approximately 7,000 Wapishana, 15,000 Arawak, 5,000 Akawaio, 5,000 Patamona, 7,000 Makushi and some 200 Waiwai dwell in Guyana. The majority live in groups in the coastal regions, while some dwell inland. The peoples dwelling along the coast are the Caribe, Awarak and Warao. Seven tribes dwell inland, namely the Akawaio, Arekuna, Barima River Caribe, Macusi, Patamona, Waiwai, and Wapisiana.
Although recognition of the indigenous territories was one of the conditions with which the former British colony gained its independence in 1966, it has barely been fulfilled so far. Of the 111,000 square kilometres claimed by the indigenous peoples, around just 16,000 square kilometres have been allocated in land titles so far. The indigenous peoples are primarily threatened by the assignment of concessions to multinational companies for logging and the exploitation of natural resources. To date, the government has not been deterred from making untouched areas of forest of high biological diversity available for economic purposes despite these being intended for the establishment of national parks. As the state considers all raw materials located beneath the earth’s surface to be their property, the affected communities are not given a voice in the assignment of concessions. Violent clashes are commonplace.
The Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana (Asociación de Pueblos Amerindios de Guyana, APA) calls for clarification of the question of indigenous land rights and demarcation of indigenous territories before the concessions can be assigned. The indigenous peoples consider the existing government practices to be a violation of human rights; a threat to their cultural integrity and means of survival.
Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)