Veddas  or Wanniyalaetto of Sri Lanka

Cultural Survival of Sri Lanka partnership

Working with indigenous people of Lanka
Enviro-Lanka 92

Cultural Survival of Sri Lanka has spearheaded efforts to facilitate dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and its indigenous citizens. Above: Senior parliamentarians including Deputy Speaker Hon. Gamini Fonseka meet Wanniyalaeto elders under Cultural Survival auspices in December 1992.

Cultural Survival's almost single-handed role in spearheading efforts to commemorate the International Year has resulted in the creation of a National Committee for the International Year for the World's Indigenous People sponsored by the Ministry of Environment.

Cultural Survival continues to take the lead in planning and implementing measures designed to enhance public appreciation of indigenous culture and further the objectives of the United Nations-sponsored International Decade for the World's Indigenous People (1994-2004). Cultural Survival also participated in the inauguration of the International Year at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10-11 December, 1992, and was appointed to the International Committee for the Year.

Wannietto Trust

Cultural Survival's close affiliation with the island's indigenous forest dwellers or Wanniya-laeto, has led to its appointment to the board of the Government - sponsored Wannietto Trust created by Presidential Cabinet order "to protect and nurture Veddha Wannietto culture". Despite resistance from contrary interest, Cultural Survival has campaigned fearlessly to carry out the Trust's mandate and is presently lobbying for the creation of an indigenous self-managed Wanniya-laeto Heritage Sanctuary at Dambana.

Indigenous People and the Legal Landscape

Sri Lanka Government Minister G. L. Pieris, in his talk, Indigenous People and the Legal Landscape (the first of a series of lectures organized by the Cultural Survival Trust for the International Year of the World's Indigenous People at the Colombo Museum), which addressed different aspects of the rights of indigenous people stated as follows in 1993:

We must recognize there are certain things in traditional custom and law that may defy our understanding. We may not be able to understand because our experience has been wholly different and we must be reluctant to reject what we are incapable of understanding... It is absolutely essential that customary legal systems be protected...

I think that this is a very timely initiative because much that is wrong with contemporary civilization can, I think, be rectified by injecting (in) to our culture some of the elements that were so rich in our indigenous civilizations.

A Pre-census Survey of Indigenous Populations has now being conducted by Cultural Survival in association with the International Labour Organisation under the INDISCO programme, with the help of the Government of Sri Lanka. A map of puranagama (traditional) Lanka will also be published as a part of this programme.

See also these reports: