Approximately 160 young Catholics from 14 indigenous communities expressed a desire to learn their native languages better at the second Indigenous Youth Convention, December 16–19 in Kumu, Central Rupununi.
The four-day convention, aimed to affirm indigenous youth in their culture, identity and spirituality, involved participants from Central and South Rupununi—a region located south-west of Guyana bordering the Brazilian Amazon.
This year’s theme was Indigenous Youth—Earth’s Future—Preserve Our Culture and Spirituality.
A Catholic Standard article from convention participants Silverius Perry and Jesuit seminarian Joel Thompson said that the activities were organised around four mutually reinforcing and interrelated themes: Identity (individual and communal), Culture, Spirituality and Environment.
The report stated Perry led a reflection on personal identity which explored ways of answering the important and perennial question, ‘Who am I?’ He also presented on the importance of an educational system, which affirms culture and language.
A presentation on Laudato Si by Thompson “highlighted how the strands of culture, the environment and spirituality are interwoven in the encyclical and how it specially mentions indigenous peoples,” the report said.
Other activities included Eucharistic Adoration; a concert showcasing cultural dances, songs, stories and poems; a campfire, during which the youths baked bread; a film, The Mission—a British feature about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in South America during the 18th century; and a reflective walk to Kumu Falls.
“The majestic Kumu Falls provided a suitable setting for what many participants felt was the highlight of the convention, namely listening to indigenous stories and cultural nuggets of wisdom from Guy Fredericks of Nappi and Osma Joseph, an elder of Kumu.”
Fredericks acknowledged the presence of a culture which “has a great respect for and sensitivity to nature” and urged those present to be proud of being indigenous and continuously ask elders for their stories.
The report also included a reflection from one participant, Tricia Albert, on what she gained from the convention: “I liked the session on ‘Who am I?’ My first choice was that I am a child of God, created in His image and likeness….We spoke a lot about preserving our culture and environment and this leads to one thing—our identity. When we know who we are and accept the way we are then we would care more. We are part of nature and a lack of respect like not burning savannah properly leads to destruction and pollution. Pollution leads to climate change which leads to health issues and death. I also like the idea that the stories we hear influence who we become.”