The Amerindians in 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
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
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.
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.