Indigenous peoples in French Guiana

The indigenous peoples of Guiana, the Amerindians, number between 3,500 and 7,000 people. 

  • The Palikur (between 600 and 1,000 speakers) live in the coastal region (Macouria) and at the mouth of the Oyapoque River, close to the border with Brazil.
  • The Lokono (Arawak) population, with 150-200 speakers, is settled around the outskirts of the capital, Cayena, and Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni.
  • The Kali’na (between 2,000 and 4,000 speakers) are found to the west (Awala-Yalimapo, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni) along the coast towards Kourou. 
  • The Wayana (200-900 speakers) live in the south of the department (Antecume-Pata, Elaé, Twenke, in the upper Maroni).
  • The Teko or Emerillon, with 200-400 speakers and the Wayampi (400-600 speakers) are found in the upper Oyapoque.

The indigenous peoples in French Guiana have maintained a common way of life based on subsistence activities: hunting, fishing and slash-and-burn agriculture. 

Many of them, particularly those living along the coast, have become westernized but maintain strong links with their culture of origin.

Geography

80 percent of French Guiana's 250,109 population (2013) live along its 320-km-long Atlantic coast. Around 40 % of the population are Creole, 40% are from Brazil, Suriname, Haiti, and the French Antilles, 8 % are European, and 5 % are Asian (Hmong, Javanese, Vietnamese, Chinese etc.). 

The interior (90 percent of the territory) is covered by dense tropical forest and is only accessible by boat along the Maroni (separating Surinam from Guyana), Mana, Sinnamary, Approuague and Oyapoque (separating Guiana from Brazil) rivers. 

The interior of the country is mainly inhabited by communities of Bushinenges (of African descent), who numbers 4000 and Amerindians. 

Since 2007, 33,900 km2 of Amazonian forest (located upon the communes of Camopi, Maripasoula, Papaïchton, Saint-Élie and Saül) was protected as the Guiana Amazonian Park, one of the nine national parks of France. 

Legislation 

French Guiana is an overseas department and region of France on the north Atlantic coast of South America and thus part of the European Union. 

France has not ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Convention 169 of the ILO, but voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. 

France does not recognise collective rights for any groups within its territory in French Guiana, but in 1987 it recognized areas of special use rights (Zones de Droits d'Usage) for the Amerindian population. 

In 2010, an advisory council for the Amerindian and Bushinenges population (Conseil consultatif des populations amérindiennes et bushinenges de Guyane) was established to take on a consultative role with regards to projects that may impact on their culture. 

Read more about indigenous peoples in French Guyana here (extract from The Indigenous World 2014)