First Published: 3rd of March, 2021.
Today, 3rd of March, we join in celebrating World Wildlife Day 2021 under the theme “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet” with the focus more on “Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested and forest-adjacent areas.” – United Nations.
Our “kanoko” is an important place for us and is part of our identity as Wapichannao, and it is the home of many of our ancestor spirits. It is like a huge library of knowledge – a place where we can learn vital life skills.
By using the forest, we learn to respect it and live in harmony with its animals and plants. When we are in the forest, we feel alert and connected to the place. Forests keep the air clean and provide pure water for our creeks and fishing grounds.
Our hunting and multiplying grounds in the forests provide wild meat such as bichi and bakuru (bushhogs), wurada (land turtle), kodoi (tapir) and koshara (bush deer). The bush supplies us with wild fruits, medicines, spirit charm plants and materials for crafts and building.
Our ancestral forests sustain a vital reserve of farming land along the bush mouth and deeper in the bush along creeks, in the foothills and in mountain valleys where rich soils are found.
The South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) in collaboration with the Sustainable Wildlife Management – Programme Guyana, implemented several initiatives to help raise awareness to villagers and the rest of the world to maintain and use our wildlife sustainably.
We would like to share some Customary laws from the Wapichan people with all of you:
For Gathering: do not cut-extract all, only harvest what you need.
Harvest mature plants and leave young shoots to grow.
Don’t waste construction and craft materials.
Don’t harvest lumber and craft materials during moonlit nights.
Seek the advice of knowledgeable people before taking materials.
Don’t cut bountiful bush fruit trees and palms; climb or use a shakararibai’u (long pole).
Only catch fish that can be eaten.
Clean fish on the creek banks and not into the water otherwise the kopau dokozu (fish grandfathers) will see the offal of their children in the water and will grieve for them.
This tends to make them angry and they may harm us.
Share fish catches equally.
Dismantle fish traps after use.
Do not interfere with sensitive sites like akaa ki-kiizai and kadorar.
Leave an offering of a small fish to the fish grandfather on the creek bank.
Avoid crossing creeks at sacred and sensitive sites.
Women with monthly flow must not enter rivers, creeks, lakes and springs.
Do not punish hunting grounds (do not over-hunt).
Only kill what you need and share surplus meat with family and neighbours.
Share meat equally among all members of a hunting group.
Aona puzuyana dusodu kidao wunui : do not kill young game animals.
Aonaa pu baiya’o naa kaudani’o wuni, wa kazu tina’a naa : do not shoot pregnant game.
Do not kill bichu kuo (theleader of the bush hogs).
Do not kill sowai (the grandfather of the deer).
Strive to make clean kills and don’t leave wounded animals to be tormented.
Avoid waste and use all useful parts of animals.
Hunters must know the right spirit charms for hunting.
Decorative animals in the bush and the savannahs, like wiitawaru (marmoset) and tamanowa (giant anteaters) must not be troubled.
Farms are to be cut only to the size that a family can look after properly (do not waste).
Consult with a marunao before opening new farms in maiden bush or places with tapiknao (spirit owners).
When a new farm is cleared, burnt and cleaned, sprinkle the farm with a drink of cachiz (red potatoes).
When harvesting cassava, the stems are always placed into the soil, and the leaves are bundled in a clean area to rot.
Never burn cassava leaves (causes severe body pains).
Fields shall be left to fallow after several harvests.
Credits: The South Rupununi District Council of Guyana, South America.