Wapishana Writers' Workshops and Literacy Tutor Training

The Wapishana people of Guyana are an Amerindian group in the southern region of the former British Guyana. The Wapishana population is scattered throughout approximately 15 savannah villages with some spillover into Brazil.

Literacy TutorsThe Wapishana Literacy Association and SIL collaborated to conduct Writers' Workshops and Tutor Training Seminars. The association, consisting of more than 40 members, was formed when a prominent Wapishana teacher recognized the importance of promoting and developing his indigenous language and of maintaining Wapishana culture and certain indigenous rights. They named their association "Wapichan Wadauniinao Ati'o" (Wapishana for Our Descendents).


Student with babyMost Wapishana children speak only their own language, Wapichan Paradan ('wapichan words'), in the home prior to and even after entering school. The schools they attend traditionally have been taught in English, the official language of Guyana. Wapishana culture and daily life is not print-oriented in either language. The goal of the members of the language and literacy association is that their people will be able to read and write Wapishana with further transition into English.


wapishanaParticipants in the writers' workshops wrote and produced a variety of shell books and original literature pieces in the Wapishana language. Among those are stories such as "How the Snake Lost Its Feet", "When Humans Became Monkeys" and "When I was Bitten by a Rattlesnake".

Participants of the literacy tutor training returned to their villages to teach adults how to read in their own language. The tutors used the literature pieces produced in the writers' workshop plus a Wapishana primer and a teacher's manual as instructional materials. The primer contains 42 lessons and teaches the reading and writing of all the sounds of the Wapishana language.

Country: Guyana, South America
Language group: Wapishana
Population: 12,000 in Brazil and Guyana