Recently I had the pleasure of working with Faye, an indigenous leader from the Wapishana tribe in the South Rupununi in Guyana. She told me about the pollution caused by gold-mining in the head waters of four villages in her country. Faye told me that although the villagers knew that the pollution caused by the mining is not good for the communities, they were not able to prove this. By working in the Shared Resources Joint Solutions program and teaming up with other groups and organizations her community was not only able to build awareness about how the pollution was affecting their well-being, health and future. They also were able to prove how bad this pollution was because scientists were working with them. She even was able to reach the media because of her new network that now reached into the capital of her country. This is of course a wonderful story, of how cooperation, knowledge and awareness can shape policies and practices.
However, what made the most impression on me was when I asked her if there were any traditional stories about gold. She then told me that there are indeed stories about the Spirit of Gold.This Spirit of Gold is known to her people as the protector of the land. And if you removed the gold then you removed the Spirit that protects the land. So this is why indigenous tribes do not normally engage in gold mining, because by removing the gold their lands would no longer be protected.