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The Amerindians in Guyana

Amerindians of Guyana

There were many more Amerindian nations in the pre-colonial period than those that exist today. These include the Trios, Tarumas, Miyonggongs, Piyanogottos, Atorads, Taurepang, and Kamarakoto among others. Many of these groups became extinct or fled Guyana for a number of reasons; some died from illnesses contracted through European contact, some were exterminated by warring enemy nations, some fled to neighboring lands during the era of tribal wars, and others migrated to Brazil at the behest of European missionaries. A great many also left because they resented colonial rule that allowed 'free nation' status to some and categorize others as slaves. The so-called "free nations" were the Arawaks, Akawaios, Caribs and Warraus and the Dutch colonizers permitted them to enslave all other Amerindians groups.

It was by this route that the first slave plantations operated during early colonization. Amerindians were immediately accessible and by establishing a system to enslave them, and using their own people to make this possible, the Dutch were able to institute a structure that would last for generations.

Later, after enslaved Africans became the choice of labor for the plantations, Amerindians provided invaluable assistance to the Dutch by helping to quell slave revolts and by recapturing runaway slaves. The also maintained security in the interior and contributed to making Guyana possible be defining the geographical boundaries we know today.

The population of Amerindians in Guyana stands at approximately 70,000. However, this figure is difficult to verify because members of the various communities travel frequently between neighboring countries and also create satellite communities close to and far from established villages.

Guyanese Amerindians can be categorized linguistically and anthropologically into three main human and language groups which are Arawakan, Criban and Warrauan. Each of these nations has its own langue and they are defined linguistically by the same categories. They also occupy relatively well-defined separate ecological niches that have influenced their distinct cultures.

Amerindians, today, live semi-traditional lifestyles in communal settlements that are no longer nomadic.  They live in territories that are politically defined and in many cases on titled land that they own as a group.  The political structures of these communities are linked to the local government system and village chiefs and their councilors are elected to serve for five years.

Guyana has some of the most educated Amerindians in the region and many now leave their communities to purse higher education at the university of Guyana and Cyril Potter College of Education.  In addition, the Hinterland Scholarship, initiated by the government, provides the opportunity for Amerindian children to attend some of the top secondary schools in Georgetown.

The Amerindian presence has been the longest one in Guyana and, therefore, as the indigenous people, they have helped to forge a nation out of an untamed land to create the foundation of what is now Guyana.  As the communities interact more and more with other cultures they will redefined themselves and find new roles in this multicultural and pluralistic society.

Guyana Amerindians


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