Indigenous Heritage 2020: The story of Elka and Christianity

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Our next video represents the historical stories that can be told about a people. In this case it is the impact one man can have on his community. The story is of Elka of the Wai Wai. Elka was a great Wai Wai Chief of recent history who changed the spiritual course of his community. Called to be a Piaiman or shaman, Elka spent many years training to hone his craft. He was believed to be a very powerful Piaiman, but the coming of missionaries to Kanashen changed his spiritual beliefs. By the time this conversion happened Elka was the Chief of his village. While at the beginning of his conversion many disagreed and laughed at him, before long many of the villagers followed him into the Christian faith when he did not die from forsaking the old spirits.

In the making of this video, as part of the Darwin Initiative Traditional Knowledge in Conservation project, a village Elder Maripa assisted the trainees in drafting the story for filming. He was casted to play the older version of Elka in the video. At one point in the filming, he laughingly said he had spent more time being Elka on film, then Elka himself. The community researchers were able to find a photograph of Chief Elka to include in the video to honour his memory.

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Rebecca Xavier
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Rebecca Xavier is a proud Amerindian woman, a descendant of the Wapishana nation. She has a sound primary school education, followed by experiences in the Wowetta Youth Environmental Club, and then further education at the Bina Hill Institute, Annai where she trained in ICT, agriculture, basic maths, English and leadership skills. She is fluent in Wapishana, Makushi and English, and has worked for the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), a local Indigenous community-based organization, in different roles over the last twelve years.