Indigenous leader calls for better ‘tour’ regulations to protect Guyana’s heritage sites

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Kid James, a Coordinator of the South Rupununi District Council and former Indigenous leader of Aishalton Village, is calling on the authorities to develop regulations for tour guides and to sensitise them on the preservation of Guyana’s heritage sites.

His call came following allegations that a local expedition group that recently climbed the Kanuku Mountains wrote their names on some of the rocks at Schomberg’s Peak. But the News Room understands that the group only did so after they received permission from the locals who guided them on the trek.

“Sometimes, what you would have is just tour operators who would go in and carry these tourists into these places with little information to communities or even to the leadership,” James told the News Room during a recent interview.

James is concerned, noting that even after hundreds of years, persons still do not understand and respect the indigenous culture.

Kid James

The Kanuku Mountains was deemed one of five priority sites for protection in 1999; it is valuable in preserving Guyana’s natural and cultural heritage. For years, the indigenous villages have depended on its resources for their livelihood.

“This is an area of concern because, in terms of tourism, you would want to make sure that the package that you have is one that is of value, it is in its natural form and if that [defacing] is going to happen, you are just devaluing whatever we have, not only culturally but in terms of how we sell our products,” James explained.

As such, he is calling for stricter regulations for tourists visiting the area and other tourism sites.

“We need to be a lot more vigilant in terms of when others would want to come and experience the natural environment and cultural sites,” James said.

Meanwhile, when asked about the issue, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond told the News Room that more sensitisation on the preservation of indigenous culture is needed.

“When we saw the pictures posted [of names on the rocks], we asked them to pull it down right away and to issue an immediate apology.

“They really were very reticent about it. They didn’t realize… it is about the education for people to really understand the value of what we have, that those rocks are thousands of years old, they are sacred to the Amerindian people and that kind of education is what we need to put out there,” Minister Walrond c contended.

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