Mararunau- keeping their Indigenous language alive

DPI, GUYANA, Monday, August 21, 2017

Maruranau, is a small indigenous village located deep, south of the Rupununi, Region Nine. It has a population of over 800 persons all of whom are Wapisianas. It is surrounded by the majestic Kanuku Mountains which creates a mesmerizing view for your eyes, no matter how many times you have seen it.

It would take you approximately nine hours to reach the village from Georgetown. This includes almost one and a half hours flying from the Eugene F. Correira International Airport to Lethem and the remaining hours travelling overland.

It would take little over a day if the entire trip is by land. A journey that is so breathtaking, one blink and you would miss out on Mother Nature’s magnificence. The current Toshao/Leader of the village is Patrick Gomes. The Department of Public Information (DPI) sat with him and got an insight into the village.

Brief history

It was fascinating to learn that the current location of the village is not where it used to be 200 years ago. According to the Toshao, in October 1919 a decision was made by the then leader of the community and a catholic priest to relocate. This was due to the rising of the creek, from which the village got its name. The previous site of the village was approximately five miles away from its current location.

A Unique Village

The community is one that is unique in its own right because it has been able to do what over 90 percent of the other indigenous communities have failed to do. That is to preserve their culture, but more specifically their language.

“One of the things that make this village unique is that it is one of the villages that keep their Wapishana language very much alive. Every single person in the village speaks the language and that is something unique,” Toshao Patrick Gomes said.

You might question yourself as to why the preservation of language is something unique? Well, language is an integral part of a people’s culture and without one’s culture you are like a ship without a sail.

Being one of the few villages that speak their native language Gomes said that he cannot pinpoint exactly how the village has been able to keep their language alive. “I guess it’s the way the people are being taught. For example, this is one of the villages that is an academic village,” he highlighted.


Academic prowess

The village has a history of producing intellectuals. In October 1947, the first primary school was established in the village. Today there is a larger primary school with a nursery section added.

Another fascinating fact about Maruranau is that “most of the teachers are all from this village, both in the primary and nursery schools (teachers), are all from this village. No longer do we have coast landers coming to work in the village” the Toshao explained.

The majority of the teachers were trained at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE). According to Gomes, those who are not trained will soon be trained formally. However, he pointed out that many persons from the village are teachers who work in the region and on the coast, lecture at the University of Guyana, medics and even engineers.

Health Expansion

Maruranau currently has a single health post, that Toshao Gomes is planning to upgrade. He explained that “we are working to see how best we can develop this health post into a health hut so we can have more facilities and it can have more resources, not only health workers, but we can have a mid-wife and maybe even a medic in time to come, but we are working on that”.

Agriculture on the move

Like most indigenous villages, Maruranau villager’s livelihoods is mainly through subsistence farming and as is customary, their surplus produce is sold to earn extra cash. Nevertheless, over the years, there has been a new trend in the community that has great potential for economic development.

“I notice farmers start to increase the production of bananas. I was speaking with one farmer and he said he planted 800 banana trees(sukers)… he has to start looking for market outside and we have like three or four farmers who are now embarking on banana cultivation” an optimistic Gomes said.

Other crops include yams, plantains, potato, peppers and of course cassava which is used to make a number of indigenous dishes.

The Department of Information (DPI) is inviting you to visit the community – a visit that is sure to remain a memorable one.

By: Isaiah Braithwaite


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