Suriname: Organisation of Indigenous People in Suriname (Organization Van Inheemsen in Suriname, OIS)

Source: Climate Alliance

Suriname, which was originally a Dutch colony, is a multi-ethnic, multicultural country with a population of over 400,000. The indigenous population is estimated at between 22,000 and 25,000. Among the most populous indigenous peoples count the Kari’ña, Lo-kono, Trio, Wayano and Akurio. The majority of the indigenous people lead a traditional life as farmers, fishermen and hunters. Moreover, they also have their own structures.

Due to the geographical location and linguistic isolation of Suriname, the processes and problems affecting the indigenous peoples are relatively unknown.

The existence of the indigenous population is not officially recognised. What’s more, they enjoy neither legal protection nor the legal status of ‘indigenous peoples’, whereby they are denied their traditional rights and have no claim to their land. Countless swathes of rainforest have been logged by foreign companies, which has led to the loss of indigenous living space and serious destruction of the environment.

At a national level, there are two indigenous organisations campaigning for the rights of the indigenous people: the Organisation of Indigenous People in Suriname (Organization Van Inheemsen in Suriname, OIS) and the Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname (VIDS).

The OIS was established in 1992 and represents the Wayana, Akurio, Wai-Wai, Okomojana, Sikijana, Katujana, Mawajana, Alamajana, Kari’a and Lokono. It is a member of COICA and also strives to involve the black Maroon community (descendants of escaped slaves) in their fight for the recognition of territories, control of natural resources and autonomous development.

Surinam is among the few Latin American countries to not yet have ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No. 169.

Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)