The Wapichan people and our ancestors have occupied and used the whole area that we call Wapichan wiizi in the Southern part of Guyana for generations. The Wapichan territory in Guyana is located in the SW of the country and its western boundary lies along the Guyana Brazil border along the Takatu River.
In April 2017 our collective representative body known as the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) was legally recognised under the laws of Guyana. Our SRDC has many projects and initiatives ongoing to implement the vision set out in our Territorial Plan adopted by all our villages in 2012. One core project is to develop our own system for monitoring and watching over our Wapichan land and resources, which is training and supporting 17 monitors resident in all of our main villages and strategic settlements. Other work includes efforts to enable the transmission of traditional knowledge to our young people. Our elders are carrying the youths to special places and sharing legends about the land and our customary use of the forest, mountains, savannah and waters.
The SRDC is also leading our land talks and is appealing to the government to settle our land claim and title extension applications to the full satisfaction of all our Villages. We ask them to recognise our rights and to help us move our territorial plan forward. Let us work together to realise the vision of the Wapichan people for this beautiful land we call Wapichan wiizi.
Our vision is that in twenty-five years’ time our people, our communities and our lands will be like this:
We will continue to live together on our traditional lands as Wapichannao.
Wa wiizi wa’idowau ni'o: Owning our territory
The entire Wapichan wiizi (territory), as defined in our documents submitted to the Amerindian Lands Commission in 1967, will be legally recognised and secure.
Wapichannao will legally own and control all types of lands and waters, and all other resources within our territory. We will freely use our forest, farmlands, fishing grounds, hunting and gathering grounds, grazing lands and bush islands and share them among our villages.
Our rights to govern and care for Wapichan wiizi through our own institutions will be accepted by the government of Guyana and by outside agencies.
We will respect our elders and traditional leaders and our own institutions will be strong, so we can use and care for our lands wisely and stop outsiders from exploiting our resources.
Baokopa'o wa di'itinpan: we will stick to our decisions, agreements and rules.
Kaduzu kida: Customs
Wapichan kaduzu will be strong.
We will live communally and help each other through our traditional manor activities, including farming, building and other works.
We will value our traditions, including ant-stinging, healing ceremonies, cotton farming, weaving hammocks, making clay pots, using bow and arrows, building houses with traditional materials, cooking with renewable fire wood and eating traditional foods, such as cassava bread, farine, ground provisions, and pepper pot.
We will protect our sacred and sensitive places. Future generations will carry out our ceremonies and spiritual practices as our grandfathers did. Our marunaonao will provide healing and spiritual guidance for us and we will pass on their knowledge to our future generations.
Our people will speak Wapichan in the home. Our children will read and write in Wapichan and in English, and know our Wapichan history. Makushi people will also speak, read and write in their own language.
Our communities will have good primary and secondary schools, with Wapichan teachers. Our young people will be well-educated and will be strong future leaders of our communities.
The younger generation will know about and use our traditional knowledge and practices, such as bush medicine. We will have new people trained to carry on the role of marunao.
The school leavers who gain professional qualifications through higher education will use their knowledge to support development in their communities.
Our development will be guided by our culture, and benefit us. There will be no harmful development in Wapichan wiizi.
Our economy will be strong, with new markets for our products, providing jobs and a better standard of living for our people. Our children and elders will be well looked after. Our communities will be healthy and eat good food.
We will own and control community businesses and provide jobs for our people through farming, ranching, community tourism, crafts and other activities that are in harmony with our customs and traditional practices.