Indigenous Suriname has already gained international attention. The Organization of Indigenous Suriname entered the film project in the United Nations Caribbean Population Awards in the non-media category. For their work in this film, they won $10,000. They will use the money to further their work on Indigenous rights.

Additionally, the film was broadcast four times on Suriname television in August of 2008. Since that time, public health workers from North and South America have tried to expand their work in assessing the health impacts of mercury on Suriname tribes. They have met some resistance from the Suriname government.

The next film…

We are still in post production for the third (and hopefully full-length documentary) film. This film will combine the stories of Maroon and Indigenous communities of the interior. Currently we are working on continuing translation and fundraising for this film.

What Can You/We Do?

We had a screening of “Indigenous Suriname” at Walla Walla University last week to honor Earth Day. After the presentation we had a question from someone in the audience: “What can I do about the problem?” The specific problem they were referring to (I think) was the mercury problem from the community of Apetina, Suriname (among many others). This is a community where every single one of the members tested (about 90% of the village) have mercury levels in their body that are very high.

What was our answer? We said that we don’t know. Actually, just thinking that there is a solution is a cultural assumption (we can fix anything). There may not be a solution. It’s a very complex issue and definitely doesn’t have a single solution. There may be things we can do to help those that already have mercury poisoning, but there is no way to get it out of the body immediately.

One of the audience members offered that education can help. That’s true. Lots of education needs to happen, both in first world countries (about our greed for gold and other elements) and in developing countries (education in general and more specifically education about gold mining practices).

But education alone won’t solve it. As a human race, we need to stop being greedy. As an individual living in the United States of America, I am contributing to a society that uses too many resources for each person. What can I do? I can make sure the resources I’m using are being used for a cause.

It’s up to each person to figure out where they fit into the solution to the problem. What I tried to do, is give a community in Suriname a voice. We’ll all have to work together to find a solution.


I think a lot about how interconnected we all are to each other on this planet. Perhaps it is common knowledge (if that exists…) to know that our resources are connected. But we are connected by threads far more diverse, as well. We are animals. We are humans. We are communities. We are governments. We are economies. And when a majority system intersects with a minority, what happens next? Is it necessary for the majority to become the only norm and the minority to change/assimilate/disappear?

In Suriname I was impressed with the diversity—of people, of animals, of plants…of life. And yet, it seemed that the diversity I so valued is at the root of the issue for Suriname and its people. There is a tentative blend of cultures and lifestyles that are inherently at odds with each other. The majority culture of the outside is pushing for individualistic, western ideals. This pressure can be seen on how property rights, wealth, and government intersect with everyday life. Those on the inside—the people of the interior—want to maintain their communal/group value systems and governments. But when the majority meets the minority all too often only one can survive. I don’t think this is a case of who wins and who loses. I think we all lose when we lose diversity—we lose resources, culture, life.

So, what does this diversity have to do with being interconnected? My trip to Suriname causes me to ask myself, what role do I play in this dilemma? How does my lifestyle impact the lifestyles of indigenous and Maroon tribes? How does my desire for consuming threaten their lives and culture? The answers to these questions are complex, unsettling…and interconnected.