Products for Sale
Earrings - Owl Eye
Fridge magnet in different designs
Necklace (80cm approx)
Photo frame plain 20x15cm
Photo frame with motif 20x19cm
About The Wichi
The Wichi Indians are one of the largest groups of indigenous people who live mainly between the two rivers Bermejo and Pilcomayo. The Pilcomayo forms the border between Argentina and Paraguay.
Since the arrival in 1910 of British missionaries to help and support the Wichi in their struggle to continue living on their traditional lands, many Wichi have become Christians and now form part of the large Anglican Diocese of Northern Argentina. (See the book 'Under an Algarrobo Tree' for more information)
Until the Sixties, medical and educational care was provided by missionaries with very little change in the basic sustenance of the people, through hunting, fishing, and gathering forest fruits, with occasional seasonal work in the huge sugar-cane estates to the south of their area.
The sugar estates are now highly mechanised. Drastic changes have confronted the Wichi people in the past forty years. Ecological changes mean that many fewer ocean-fish journey fifteen hundred miles upstream to spawn and native lands are being destroyed by the reduction of the forest.
"Naturally we want to avoid suffering, but we live in a world crushed, broken and torn. May we understand the privilege of serving Christ as we pour ourselves out for others."
Alejandro Deane, affectionately known as “Alec” grew up in the bustling city of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. He left his familiar surroundings and moved to Northern Argentina where he has been working for 30 years alongside the Wichi people. The Wichi are traditionally hunter gathering forest dwellers, indigenous to the tropical lowlands of Northern Argentina and Bolivia. Alec has been involved in several successful initiatives with the Wichi people over the years and set up Siwok Crafts enabling the Wichi to carve beautiful hard wood items. He also set up the Siwok Foundation charitable Trust in Argentina. Alec remains a passionate advocate for the rights of this indigenous group. He is also using his expertise in agriculture to develop a garden project with local Wichi, many of whom are also woodcarvers producing the Siwok Crafts.
Alec's Garden Project - Overview
Alec’s Garden Project came about after a young Wichi girl died of protein deficiency. Wichi families have traditionally grown a few crops to supplement their diet, but this has proved more difficult in recent times. Vast areas of Chaco land have been cleared so that commercial farms can grow crops such as beans and cotton. The environmental changes caused by this deforestation means that there are higher summer temperatures and more frequent droughts and flooding.
A local Wichi family participating in the Garden Project / Landito and plants.
Alec, who has a background in agriculture, felt sure that the situation for Wichi families could be improved, if they had some support and learnt good gardening techniques. Thus the “Yachuyaj wo” (Wichi word for Gardener) project was born. The secret to good harvests is incorporating drip irrigation and providing good seed. Alec’s vision is that the Wichi can live sustainably and with dignity in their own lands, neither depending on donations nor having to migrate in search of work. Both the garden project and Siwok Crafts help enable this vision to be fulfilled.
Gran Chaco of South America
Siwok Crafts has a strong link with ASOCIANA, the Anglican social programme of the Diocese of Northern Argentina. ASOCIANA deals with the question of land rights for the indian communities and with health issues, marketing of honey to stimulate the rural economy, literacy and educational matters, and community development.
Siwok Crafts Ltd
SIWOK Crafts Ltd exists to promote the sale of crafts produced by the Wichi people.
The Wichi still live at a simple level but more craftsmen are continually encouraged to develop their carving skills The leading village (which has doubled in size), now has an upgraded primary and a growing secondary school. The mortality rate has also reduced through child care and nourishment.
The craft work has expanded into other villages as more people develop their skills and produce a widening range of articles. Our support, through promoting sales, encourages Wichi people to support themselves. People in the UK and elsewhere have helped to expand the market.
SIWOK Crafts Ltd is recognised by BAFTS (The British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers) as being a Fair Trade supplier and an approved importer . We supply retail outlets at realistic prices. Thanks also to the many voluntary sellers, our profits are returned to support the medical, social and church work in the Chaco area where the goods are produced.
In addition to the crafts we also sell some books which provide more information about the Wichi, including one by the late Bishop Bill Flagg (See "News" for obituary) who was a great encouragement to Alec Deane. Bill's vision was to widen the market throughout the UK, in order to improve the Wichi way of life while preserving their culture and restoring their dignity. His vision to sell increasing quantities of Wichi woodcraft in the UK expanded on his retirement. Five volunteers continue to seek to develop the sales of the wooden cravings via Siwok Crafts Ltd , which was formed and is owned by a Charitable Trust. Computerised systems have been installed and interlinked, with storage extended and organised. Ordering and serious marketing are undertaken with only essential costs taken from the sales revenue.
What happens to that revenue? Firstly, the Wichi are paid fairly for their work at source by Alec when he travels fortnightly to Misión Chaqueña to purchase the crafts. Secondly, surplus monies are sent via a registered charity to help the Wichi people of the Chaco. Some of these donations have gone through Asociana, some to the Siwok Foundation established by Alec to help the Wichi in Misión Chaqueña.
The goodwill that exists from Bill Flagg's time, when sale and return boxes were the main point of sale, continues and we appreciate volunteers who sell crafts for us in their locality (local church, work places, among friends, etc). We are seeking more people willing to help sell the crafts!
We seek to expand sales to the retail trade, particularly shops which major on Fair Trade. If you know of any shops selling wooden crafts who might be interested in Siwok do please let us know.