• Indigenous peoples in 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.
  • Peoples

    5 per cent of the population of French Guiana, or around 10,000 persons, are indigenous peoples
  • Rights

    2007: France adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Land rights

    8 per cent of the area of French Guiana is recognised as Areas of Collective Land Use Rights, concessions and transfers, and give the indigenous peoples only a simple right to use of the land

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.



UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted


France has ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but not 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 per cent 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 per cent of the population, or around 10,000 people.

The interior of the country, or 90 per cent of the landmass, is covered by dense equatorial forest that is only accessible by plane or canoe along the Maroni River from the west, or the Oyapock River from the south-east.

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.


Language of indigenous peoples French Guiana

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 struggle of French Guiana’s indigenous peoples relates to the consequences of illegal gold mining, which affects natural habitats and the local populations who depend on those habitats. Especially, the Guiana Amazonian Park (PAG) experiences an increase in illegal gold mining sites.

Wild game is increasingly rare, the forest and river environment is polluted and destroyed and the local populations experience significant health problems and related social consequences, such as insecurity, illegal trafficking, prostitution, violence, etc.

Another struggle relates to the forced evangelisation of the indigenous populations of South America, which has grown considerably in scale in French Guiana during recent years. The practices promoted run counter to respect for traditional, particularly shamanic, beliefs and are encouraging changes in the traditional way of life of the Amerindians, 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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About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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