To heal the wounds inflicted by colonialism and violence, prevent their recurrence, and encourage the younger generation not to forget the sufferings of their ancestors, representatives of the indigenous peoples of these territories organize workshops, colloquiums, and conferences.
In Paris, in the National Assembly, a colloquium titled “Commission for the Establishment of Truth about the Indigenous Population of Guyana” was held, organized jointly by the left democratic and republican parliamentary group and the Louis Joinet Institute (IFJD).
As reported by AZERTAC, the colloquium provided detailed information about the IFJD report on the violence suffered by the indigenous population of Guyana during the period of French colonialism, as well as the book “Forward, Children of Guyana,” which discusses this violence. As part of the colloquium, the Moliko Alet+Po Association organized a photo exhibition of indigenous people who were victims of colonial violence.
The colloquium discussed the forced sending of 2,000 indigenous children to French Catholic boarding schools, which completely contradicted their lifestyle and values and aimed at eradicating their national identity. Various forms of violence by the colonizers against indigenous children in boarding schools called Homes were highlighted.
It was reported that meetings with former boarding school students were organized as part of the mission to Guyana, and their memories were recorded. Children forcibly separated from their parents and placed in boarding schools were forbidden to speak their native language, talk about their culture and traditions. The main goal of these French-created boarding schools was to distance indigenous children from their national roots and instill French culture in them. Sexual violence committed against children in boarding schools was also noted. Some former boarding school students confessed that they had been subjected to sexual violence repeatedly. French colonizers constantly degraded indigenous people, calling them savages and treating them like animals.
Regarding these children, torn from their families at a very early age, sometimes even before reaching 5 years old, strict rules were applied. Forced to live by these rules and subjected to punishment at a very early age, these children were forced to eat food alien to indigenous people. Physical violence was also regularly applied in boarding schools. Children were beaten with fists, sticks, kicked, and belted.
Initiated by the church, these Catholic boarding schools received support and funding from the French state since 1949. The words of one of the priests of this Catholic boarding school, Yves Barbot, clearly reflect the colonial goal: “To help the indigenous people develop, they should be completely isolated from their families and raised as orphans.” This idea clearly shows the desire to distance the indigenous people of Guyana from their roots. The eradication of the local population was carried out against them using radical methods such as murder, torture, slavery, and also indirect methods such as assimilative educational measures, destruction of traditional habitats, and repressive education aimed at forgetting indigenous languages. Under the guise of a “civilizational” aspiration to gradually deconstruct the lifestyle of indigenous peoples, this violence created a specific form of trauma inflicted on collective and individual identity.
At the event, it was noted that the collected testimonies of witnesses require the creation of a Truth Commission (CVR). This commission is the most suitable structure for assessing the severity and specificity of the violence committed against the local population. The Truth Commission can help prevent the recurrence of violence by adopting collective measures such as compensation, medical assistance, and restitution, establishing monuments to individuals and victims, or incorporating new chapters dedicated to episodes of repression into school textbooks.
The colloquium continued its work in a question and answer format.