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On August 9, 2022, Guyanese join the rest of the world to observe
International day of World’s Indigenous Peoples. The observance, which
is held on this date each year, is intended to raise awareness and
protect the rights of the world's indigenous population. This event also
recognises the achievements and contributions that indigenous people
make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.
Indigenous is derived from the Latin word indigena, meaning "sprung
from the land, native.” In Guyana, Indigenous peoples comprise some
9.16 per cent of the total population. There are currently nine distinct
tribes of Guyanese Indigenous Peoples: Arawaks, Wai Wai, Caribs,
Akawaio, Arecuna, Patamona, Wapixana, Macushi and Warao.
Archeological evidence proves, though, that no fewer than twelve tribes
once lived on these lands. Scientific evidence has also established that
Guyana’s Indigenous peoples have lived here for at least 12,000 years.
There are an estimated 476 million Indigenous Peoples in the world
living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the
world's population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They
speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000
languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. Indigenous peoples
continue to face threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being,
languages, ways of knowing, and access to the resources on which their
cultures depend. Indigenous rights have been set forth in international
law by the United Nations (UN), the International Labour Organization,
and the World Bank. In 2007, the UN issued a Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to guide member-state national
policies to the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their
rights to protect their cultures, identities, languages, ceremonies, and
access to employment, health, education and natural resources.
By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General
Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous
Peoples shall be observed on 9 August every year. The date marks the
day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on
Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights.