The last indigenous people of Sri Lanka


The newly opened Wild glamping Gal Oya, where visitors can stay in luxury tents in the forests around Rathgula, already does: 13 staff, including the hotel chef, are Vedda from Rathugala, while the hotel’s organic farm employs some several others. “Some of these young people used to leave for jobs, but they work here now,” said Gunabandilaaththo, who also guides hotel guests on hikes and sometimes takes visitors to Danigala, their home. origin. “People come from Colombo – and they are excited to get to know our culture and walk our mountains with us.”.

Vedda staff members, most of whom are in their 20s, hold cooking sessions for guests, preparing dishes from their culinary traditions like smoked meat, wood-fired cassava roots and roast beef. finger millet. Indeed, although many young Veddas know little about their heritage and traditions, the love for their cuisine remains strong. Many still go for days in the jungle for food, sleep in caves, fish and hunt wild animals to cook on the fire. They bring back wild meat, honey and wild tubers.

“I always cook our food for my children and grandchildren,” said Dayawathi, whose mother is Vedda and father is Sinhalese. She makes breakfast curries made with corn, winged beans, squash and black-eyed peas, very different from the creamy vegetable curries made with coconut milk found in most homes. islanders. While most Sri Lankan dishes are loaded with spices, Dayawathi said she doesn’t add any spices. “Instead, we smash green chilies and make a paste out of them, which we eat with helapa, which is a traditional sweet, steamed finger millet paste wrapped in leaves.”

“For lunch, sometimes we add a piece of smoked meat to the same curry,” Gunabandilaaththo added, explaining that they also preserve smoked wild meat in honey poured into a gourd. “I mostly eat steamed jackfruit and wild meat, and I’ve never been to the doctor,” he said.

However, as the second leader of the Rathugala Veddas, Gunabandilaaththo understand that they need recognition and support. Not only does Sri Lanka lack specific laws to protect its indigenous peoples, but government actions continue to prevent them from accessing their traditional hunting grounds – and a United Nations human rights study of 2017 highlighted that The Veddas are economically and politically marginalized.


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