Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Guyana Challenges Indigenous Definitions

The Government of Guyana Attacks Ideas of Amerindians as "Indigenous":

Thanks to Fergus MacKay, the following information bulletin is presented here, dealing with how the Government of Guyana, in its proposed revision of the Amerindian Act, refuses to class Amerindians as "indigenous," arguing that all Guyanese are indigenous. In the following posting, a commentary produced by the Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana, condemning this approach, will be attached.

The following was sent by Fergus MacKay:

Information from booklet prepared by the Government Information Agency (GINA) and distributed to Indigenous Communities in Guyana.

Title of Booklet.
The New Amerindian Act.
What it will do for Amerindians.
Answers to your questions.

Why is it still called the “Amerindian Act” and not the “Indigenous Peoples Act?”

“Indigenous Peoples” is a very wide term that means different things to different people. Everybody has a right under international law to define themselves as “indigenous.” In addition, the Government looked at many international definitions and found that some of them include not only Amerindians but also other sections of the Guyanese community.

Some people suggest that we define “indigenous” so it only applies to Amerindians but then it means that other Guyanese would no longer be able to call themselves indigenous and this would breach the principle set by international law.

All people have a right to call themselves “indigenous peoples” if they want. Indeed, earlier this year a French delegation made a presentation to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva as the Indigenous Peoples of France.

Fergus MacKay
Coordinator, Legal and Human Rights Programme
Forest Peoples Programme
Ph/Fax: 31-20-419-1746

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