Indigenous Heritage 2020: Traditional fishing in Katoka Village, Central Rupununi

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Are you looking for some tasty fish for your tuma? Then Katoka is the place to go!

Katoka is an Indigenous village located on the right bank of the Rupununi River. The name Katoka is said to have been derived from a jaguar that was seen by a fisherman at the mouth of the creek where he was fishing.  The jaguar looked as white as cotton. With such a rare sight, the fisherman abandoned his fishing plans and ran back to the village. Reaching the settlement, he told the villagers that he saw a jaguar looking like ‘cotton’. The Makushi word for ‘cotton’ is kato’ka. Pronunciation changed over time and the name ‘Katoka’ was eventually adopted for the village and creek.

Seeing jaguars on fishing trips is still a relatively frequent sight. As in other Indigenous communities, traditional fishing remains an essential practice in Katoka, transmitted by teaching from father to son, elder to youngster, or if that chain is broken, from friend to friend. The knowledge passed on includes the making of traditional fishing tools like bows and arrows, weaving traps like Kanaru and spring rod, understanding the fishing seasons, knowing the best locations for fishing and which gear should be used.

Today we features the participatory training video on traditional fishing from community researchers of Katoka as part of the Darwin Initiative Traditional Knowledge in Conservation Project. In this video you see a family’s day out fishing, demonstrating some of their fishing practices including the making of a traditional fish dish. Interesting anecdote in the making of this video; to ensure they had fish for filming, the community researchers woke at 4:00 am to go fishing, captured some fish and kept them tied up until the whole team returned to complete capturing footage for the video!

Deirdre Jafferally
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Deirdre Jafferally has 17 years’ experience working in community based wildlife management and conservation. Deirdre first started working at the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Guyana in the area of environmental monitoring. Recently, Deirdre has focused her interest in community resource management and Indigenous knowledge in the pursuit of a PhD exploring the implications of socio-ecological changes on Indigenous knowledge and practices, and its impact on forest conservation. She holds a BSc in Biology and MES in Sustainable Development and Ecological Monitoring.