French Guiana

Indigenous peoples in French Guiana

French Guiana is an overseas department and region of France in South America. Although France has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, French Guiana’s 10,000 indigenous inhabitants are facing a number of challenges, especially in relation to illegal gold mining affecting the natural habitats and the local populations who depend on those habitats.

France has not ratified ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. France only recognises Areas of Collective Land Use Rights, concessions and transfers, which cover 8% of the area of French Guiana and give only a simple right to use of the land.

Indigenous peoples in French Guiana

French Guiana has 244,118 inhabitants. Indigenous peoples account for 5% of the population, that is to say 10,000 people.

The Pahikweneh, the Lokono, and the Téleuyu peoples live along the coast between Saint Laurent du Maroni and Saint Georges de l’Oyapock. The Wayampi and the Teko peoples live in the Upper Oyapock, and the Wayana peoples, plus a few Teko and Apalaï, in the Upper Maroni. Their traditional practices of fishing, hunting, gathering, and slash-and-burn agriculture have become increasingly difficult due to numerous regulations and mining activities.

France has recognised regional languages since 1992, and there has been academic provision for mother-tongue teachers since 1998.

Main challenges of French Guiana’s indigenous peoples

One of the main struggles of indigenous peoples in French Guiana relates to the consequences of illegal gold mining, which affects natural habitats and the local populations that depend on those habitats. Especially, the Guiana Amazonian Park (PAG) has experienced an increase in illegal gold mining sites in recent years.

Wild game is increasingly rare, as forest and river environments are being polluted and destroyed, and the local populations experience significant health problems and related social consequences, such as insecurity, illegal trafficking, prostitution, and violence, among other issues.

Another struggle relates to the forced evangelisation of the indigenous populations of South America, which has considerably grown in scale in French Guiana during recent years. The evangelisation practices promote different values rather than the respect for traditional, particularly shamanic, beliefs and they encourage changes in the traditional way of life of the Amerindians, as for example, to stop drinking the traditional drink cachiri and to no longer practise their artisanal and ceremonial activities.

Representatives of French Guiana’s indigenous organisations, associations and networks continue to make their voices heard and denounce the recurrent problems affecting indigenous men and women in the country.

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Om IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - er en global menneskerettigheds-organisation, der er dedikeret til at fremme, beskytte og forsvare oprindelige folks rettigheder.

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