FRENCH GUIANA: 'BEFORE A 'RECONCILIATION' IS THINKABLE, YOU MUST ADMIT YOUR CRIMES'
By Christine Prat
PARIS -- This year, for several months already, Natives of French Guiana have organized protests and strikes that ultimately forced the authorities and the media to notice them and report about them. The Indigenous Movement in French Guiana started long before, but it is only when the protests and strikes began to disturb the quiet life of settlers and authorities that they were forced to talk about it outside Guiana. Of course, the response of the French Government is totally inadequate. However, the existence of Indigenous Peoples "in France" has become visible. On October 14th, 2017, Christophe Pierre aka Yanuwana Tapoka, was among the speakers invited by the CSIA-nitassinan for their 37th Annual Day of Solidarity. You will find below my translation of Yanuwana's speech. The title was chosen by me, from his words, the responsibility for the choice is entirely mine.
"Greetings to you all. My name is Christophe Pierre in the language of the colonialists, Yanuwana Tapoka in my mother tong.
To begin with, I think it is necessary to give a description, a short vision, of the situation and history of French Guiana, which is currently, in legal terms, a French 'département' [county], a French region like any other. What is French Guiana? French Guiana is in South America, it is a French Amazonian territory. It is 50% of the biological diversity of Europe, 80% of the biological diversity of France. It is about 300,000 inhabitants, including a handful of Native Americans who survived colonization; a handful: if we really have to give numbers, it's between ten to fifteen thousand, according to the last information. As compared to those ten to fifteen thousand, it is nowadays estimated that at the time when the colonialists arrived, there were 25 to 30 Peoples, now there are only six over. Among those six Peoples, there are the Kali'na, the Palikuyene and the Lokono, who live along the coast, and inside, there are the Teko, the Wayãpi and the Wayana. Problems are different, power relationships are different according to the geographical situation of the peoples, but the struggle is practically the same, since the 1980's.