rupertee
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Rupertee

Rupertee is a satellite community of Annai Village, located in the North Rupununi Savannah, approximately 120km from the town of Lethem. The village is nestled in the foothills of the Pakarima Mountains and is bisected by the Georgetown – Lethem road. As a part of the Annai Amerindian land title the community is administered under the Annai District Council. The community however, has an independent council that manages the day to day affairs of the people.

History

The Rupertee settlement was started by Roberto Andrews and his family. Roberto, who originally migrated from Brazil and worked for the D’Aguiar Ranch in Aranaputa as a vaquero, first moved to Prouyankiri, now called Kwatamang, south east of the current location of the community. After a year Roberto decided to build his house in the location now called Rupertee. Overtime other families followed Roberto especially from Aranaputa following the reclassification of the ranch to State Land and their inability to pay the annual leaset rates instituted by the Government. The name Rupertee has its origins in the Makushi words rapo (bamboo) and tei (savannah). The bamboo called rapoye’  grows in abundance at the ‘bush mouth’ of Rupertee linking the savannah and forest. It is claimed that this bamboo was used historically to make arrows, which would be poisoned with curare for hunting.

Culture – tribal composition, language, religious, beliefs

With a population of 358 persons, the community has a predominately Makushi heritage. Other tribes residing in the community include Arawak, and Wapishana and, Patamona. The cultural norms of the community are predominantly Makushi following the old tradition of identifying children by their maternal heritage. The lives of many Rupertee residents still follow traditional subsistence activities of farming, hunting and fishing. Many of the practices seen today are centered on the preparation of cassava products either directly or indirectly. The language of the community is Makushi though there is a challenge to keep it going in the younger generation due to the influence of outside communication and the education system. Many in the community are Christians though many still have their beliefs in Kanaima and traditional medicinal cures by the piaiman.

Social and economic characteristics

The cohesion of the community is promoted by the Village Council through activities like community self-help and sports. The other smaller groups in the community also assist in promoting economic development and enhancing the livelihoods of fellow community members. Access to education – nursery to secondary – helps to improve the standard of living for community members. Rupertee’s main economic interest lies in farming and tourism. Villagers sell their produce at a biweekly market and the community has established a craft centre for tourist that sells local craft especially to the visitors of the closeby resort of Rock View Lodge. Other members of the community find employment in shops, the public services and the local resorts.

Challenges and opportunities

The Georgetown – Lethem road, which bisects the community, can  impact the people on a number of levels. Increases in development, community population and access by outsiders coming through the road generate a high risk of competition for resources if not regulated in general. Increased population is also highlighting the lack of adequate land for farming and can potentially cause conflict as people move to access land. Limited job opportunities in the district see more young people using the road as an avenue of escape, leaving for better opportunities and lifestyles. However, some may end up in the gold mines where negative habits are learned like drugs and alcohol. These are most common destroyer of the young once in the mining areas. The community in turn suffers as a result especially when these young people returns with attitude and transformed lifestyle, which are not necessarily acceptable to the community.

While the road can present its challenges for the community it also brings opportunities like the development of small business enterprises, which can access outside markets. There are also educational and training opportunities, like the Bina Hill Institute, that can improve the skills of community members to improve leadership and resource management. The community has a keen interest in transferring its traditional skills in areas of craft making which help maintain the culture as well as generate income for individuals. The community is also interested in promoting tourism, which can encourage the conservation and sustainable management of resources in the community.

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