I am from the Indigenous village of Chenapau, the only Indigenous village on the Upper Potaro River and close to the Kaieteur Falls.
From time immemorial, my ancestors have been traversing this wonderful waterfall and never encountered any man-made barriers preventing humans from visiting it from the top. For us, Kaieteur is a sacred. In our Indigenous Patamuna nation language we pronounce this marvellous fall Kayik Tuwak meaning ‘Old Man Falls’, not ‘Kaieteur Falls’; we don’t know anything by that name. We have a rich history, heritage and culture related to this sacred waterfall.
Editor, during my visits to Kayik Tuwak this year, I noticed two man-made barriers built from wood to prevent humans from visiting key areas on top of the waterfall. This is considered the viewing area for tourists due to its pristine beauty; it is also considered the best they have ever seen. The overhanging rock is the best spot for photos too. All the above-mentioned areas are now deemed prohibited. What a sad situation.
I spoke to one of the park wardens about whose idea this was. “Management”, was his reply. It is said the reason for such a barricade was to prevent people from committing suicide by jumping off the falls. Somehow I believe that the present management doesn’t have godly love for nature. I wonder how the Kaieteur National Park Management will treat Prince Harry when he visits. What about Johnson’s view, Scout’s View and Rainbow View? All of these viewing areas have high drop-offs but still people are allowed to go there without any barricades being in place. It is time for the management to wake up and stop day-dreaming.
Here are some of the things they must pay attention to: The deplorable guest house walls that are falling apart; leaking toilets; a lack of proper cooking utensils. The trails also need cleaning and must have safe walking paths for the elderly and the incapacitated.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to read the management plan for Kaieteur National Park and the village of Chenapau. To my surprise, it was not strong enough for meaningful participation in decision-making. Having us employed as boat captains, tourist guides, administrative clerks and senior wardens is not enough. I strongly recommend that the village takes part in the decision-making process, such as having members from Chenapau village sit on the Board of Directors. For me, that is what I call meaningful participation in decision-making.
Former Toshao of Chenapau