Colourful start to Etauchingpang

By Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
August 12, 2001

MEMBERS of the Wai Wai nation.
ETAUCHINGPANG, the first ever gathering of its kind locally, got off to a slow but colourful start yesterday, with a promise of better things to come in terms of cultural items and attendance as the evening wore on.

The event, coordinated by the Amerindian People's Association (APA) in an attempt to bring together the nine Amerindian nations from across the country, began with a ceremonial dance around the tarmac of the National Park on the northern fringes of the city. (Etauchingpang is an Arecuna word meaning `we celebrate'.)

Assembled by region and dressed in gear peculiar to their respective nations, the chorus line was led off by a mix of Arawaks, Caribs and Warraus of Region One (Barima/Waini), followed by the Akawaios and Arecunas of Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and the Patamonas of Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni).

A YOUNG member of the Wai Wai contingent.
Bringing up the rear was the largest contingent of all, comprising the Wapishanas, Macushis and Wai Wais, all of Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo.)

In the spirit of things, Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Kit Spencer, a teacher of Aishalton Village in the South Rupununi, invited all present to witness the opening ceremony to join in the fun and "dance like an Amerindian" to the catchy rhythms belted out by 'Scorpio', a band which hails from Region One.

This item was followed by a lively dance on stage by the Arecunas and Akawaios and a prayer dance done in dialect by the members of the same grouping.

ONE of the various aspects of traditional Wapishana attire.
In his welcome address, APA President, Mr. Lawrence Anselmo, who hails from Region Seven, noted that the occasion not only marked the organisation's 10th anniversary, but was also an attempt at showing their Guyanese brothers and sisters who live on the coast that the peoples of the hinterland also have a rich culture.

"We are here to show to you that we also have a rich culture and we'd like to share with you during the two days we're going to be here."

Aishalton Touchau (Chief), Mr. Tony James, who officially declared the event open, spoke of some of the difficulties encountered on the way to Georgetown.

Some, he said, had been travelling since July 16, while others were on the road for as long as a week.

Things were made even more complicated, he said, because of the excess rains this month, which prevented many of the participants from bringing the things they had initially intended to.

In one instance, he said, a group had to swim across a creek to be able to join one of the tractors which transported them to Lethem. Though they had to leave behind their food, craft and other items, he said this did not deter them from coming.

On the way from Lethem too, another group was also involved in an accident involving two trucks.

MORE Wapishana attire.
Thankfully, he said, before they left their villages in the deep south in Aishalton, they had asked their elders to guide them in their travels, hence their safe arrival without much casualty.

He said that while the Amerindians will not be able to share with their coastlander brothers and sisters all of the activities that take place in the hinterland, "I am quite sure that what you will be seeing here, that come next year you will want to see something more and bigger."

Among activities typical to the Amerindian that were showcased yesterday were basketry; tasso roasting; the roasting of fresh beef; kari and paiwari drinking; cotton spinning; and how to kindle a fire with the aid of only an arrow.

AT THE stall of the Arecunas.
Reserved for today are activities such as Cassava processing; the weaving of baby slings; the archery competition; the naming ceremony at which each chief from each community will be given a traditional name; and an honouring ceremony at which it is hoped to bestow merit upon some of the well-known Amerindian brothers and sisters.

Activities common to both days include the sale of food, drinks and craft; face painting and the display of art work of all kinds.

It is said that in all of Region Nine, 70 people made the journey to Georgetown.

Though only a few booths were up by 17:00 hrs, these were all seen to be doing brisk business, but more so in the food section which seemed to be constantly replenishing the various spicy fare on sale.