In earlier post-colonial days, such as in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Guyanese were taught through the education system that there are “9 Amerindian Tribes” across Guyana. However, modern views, coupled by demands from the first peoples of Guyana, compel us to revise this heading substituting “tribe” with “nation” and “Amerindians” with “Indigenous.”
Anil Roberts, Principal Regional Development Officer (PRDO) and Head of Community Development and Governance at the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs explains that the word “tribe” has a demeaning connotation since it is a European terminology which subtly suggests people in a very uncivilized and sometimes savage setting. Furthermore, “Amerindians” is a misnomer given to the first peoples of Guyana since it was given to them when Christopher Columbus mistakenly thought he had arrived at the shores of the United States, when in fact he had arrived in Guyana, and dubbed the natives “Amerindians” which derives from “American” and “Indians.”
To correct these injustices, the indigenous peoples have petitioned for better nomenclature such as “indigenous” and “nations.” Each nation of Indigenous people have their own language, which, although bearing some similarities, are still distinct from each other.
With that being said, let’s go right ahead to examine the nine nations of indigenous peoples spread out across the length and breath of Guyana, South America, and who arrived here on foot long before the Europeans with more advanced technology ever dreamed to set foot on these shores.
The Wai Wais
The Wai Wai Nation of Indigenous peoples are most concentrated in the Deep South Rupununi Savannahs in a village called Masakanari Village and alos known as “Gunns Village.” The village is also called “Wai Wai Country” because it is home to the Wai Wai Nation of Indigenous peoples.