Veddas  or Wanniyalaetto of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's Coastal Veddas

Coastal Vedda elder, Palchenai
Coastal Vedda elder, Palchenai
East Coastal Veddahs
Coastal Veddas, such as these of Panichankerny, speak Tamil yet still cherish their ancestral identity as hunter-gatherers.

In June 1994-95 the Cultural Survival Trust undertook an on-the-spot survey to determine where coastal Vedda hamlets are located and approximate populations. CST volunteers walked 85 kilometres from Mutur to Valaichchenai, speaking in Tamil with local coastal Vedda villagers who provided estimates of their numbers in these villages:

Village Estimated Population in 1995
Mutur vicinity no figure but a substantial number of Veddas live here
Mavadichchenai 25 individuals
Kathiraveli 25 "
Palchenai 25 "
Vakarai 100-200
Panichankerny 300
Mankerny 444 Vedda households

Other known Vedda hamlets on the East Coast (mostly north of Batticaloa):

  1. Verugal
  2. Kayungkerny
  3. Kaluwankerny
  4. Talaway
  5. Periya Saukad & Sinna Saukad
  6. Modera Kaludawalay
  7. Tettantivu
  8. Settipalayam
  9. Mangkadu
  10. Nakareni
  11. Refugee camps in Pettaley near Valaichchenai

In June 2002 a contingent of 40 Veddas walked on the Pada Yatra foot pilgrimage with Patrick Harrigan from Mutur to Kataragama. The conditions had not changed significantly since the survey of 1994.

Most of the Veddas were herded into coastal Refugee Camps in Government controlled regions during the late 80's and early 90's. The largest camp is Mankerny. These Vedda folk populated the interior as well as the coast from Mutur to as far south as Valaichchenai. Today they have been displaced from their ancestral hamlets. They still gather honey when possible but no longer hunt because their guns were confiscated in the 1980's by the Government.

Coastal Veddas say they would like to return to their ancestral hamlets and traditional livelihoods, but cannot do so because they would lose benefits that are available to them in settled areas. Any rehabilitation programme must first take these factors into consideration.