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. We have lived in harmony with our environment through our close spiritual attachment and respect for the land. Beliefs and practices on caring for the land have been passed down to us by our foreparents and these values continue to be embedded in our way of life up until today.
Our foreparents began work for the full recognition of our territory in the nineteenth century, yet only pieces of our land were recognised in the 1930s. In 1967 a group of our leaders came together to present a written request for legal title to all of our lands in Wapichan wiizi in submissions and letters presented to the Amerindian Lands Commission. Some further land titles were received in 1991, but still did not cover the full extent of our lands.
Work started in 2000 to map our traditional occupation and use of the land using our own mappers who worked closely with our communities and holders of traditional knowledge. This was followed in 2005-06 by a community-based research project to document our traditional practices and our ways of caring for our land and resources. On completion of that work, our District Toshaos Councils (DTCs) agreed in December 2007 to develop an outline plan for caring for our territory. This latest work has been carried out by our people in large part in response to a request made by the President of Guyana in 2004 asking our leaders to show how we intend to use, care for and develop our lands.
With the increasing presence of external developments in Wapichan wiizi and the growing pressures coming from mining, logging, roads and other activities, we are more determined than ever to finally have our lands secured and to put this plan to work for the benefit of our future generations, Guyana and the world.
We appeal to the government, international agencies and allies in Guyana and beyond to support us in our efforts . We ask them to recognise our rights and to help us move this plan forward. Let us work together to realise the vision of the Wapichan people for this beautiful land we call Wapichan wiizi.