"The only positive thing is that today I can tell you my story in your language," observes a former resident. “We need to know this story, which has been concealed for a very long time, Kadina agrees. It should be taught in school. This "story" is that of hundreds of Native American children from Guyana, who were taken from their parents to be placed in Catholic boarding schools and converted to European mores and beliefs.
Clément Baudet and Alice Lefilleul explore this taboo colonial fact, with the testimony of three former residents, public figures in Guyana and witnesses of the excellent work of the journalist Hélène Ferrarini, author of Allons enfants de la Guyane. Educate, evangelize, colonize Amerindians in the Republic (Anacharsis, 2022), which laid the groundwork for this essential memory work.
In the early 1930s, the French Republic financed the creation of boarding schools run by the Church in French Guiana, a territory that had been colonized since the 17th century. The goal ? Evangelize populations seen as "primitive". "Kill the Native American in his soul, make his culture disappear," sums up Alexis Tiouka, ex-resident, now an activist for native rights. Raised by nuns and priests, the children were torn from their parents and their village by the gendarmes. Alexis Tiouka, Tawayakele Guillaume Kouyouri and Kadina Eléonore Johannès agreed to recount their ordeal in these boarding schools of forced assimilation, subjection to colonial power.
It is the story of children who support each other and who fight against this enterprise of uprooting; then of adults who seek in a painful and repressed memory to advance the rights of peoples and a culture threatened. In these "Indian homes", where the children are captive from early childhood to the baccalaureate, it is forbidden to speak the Kali'na mother tongue - to the point of forgetting it - the children are forced to go to mass and to to learn by heart prayers that they do not understand, they are cut off from nature, which is a part of themselves and the center of their culture and their knowledge.
Malnourished children suffer abuse. “Some preferred to disappear completely, to escape this system, this world where they no longer found themselves. At a time when activists are calling for the opening of a truth and reconciliation commission, a boarding school is still operating in Saint-Georges, on the border with Brazil.
To bring the listener this moving word, Arte Radio offers a slick achievement, signed Charlie Marcelet, where the natural settings, both metaphor and emblem of a biodiversity that resists, form a setting. The only defect of this very precious archival work, produced with the help of these birds flown out of their cage, is that it is too short.