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The tribes in Guyana


The first inhabitants of Guyana were the Amerindians. The various Amerindians tribes found in Guyana are the Caribs, Arawaks, Akawois, Warrous, Macushis, Wapisianas, Arecunas, Patamonas and Wai-Wais.

1. The Carib: this tribe was by far the most numerous and powerful through the entire period of Dutch occupation in Guyana. They were known as the warriors of the native inhabitants. Their numbers had become reduced and they were in some instances they were industrious cultivators of the soil. The Caribs surpassed all other tribes in personal bravery, they were strong enough to control the waterway of the Orinoco, and they permanently occupied the lower portion of the bank Orinoco as far as Barima. In the interior the Caribs were found on the upper Essequibo, the Mazaruni, the upper Cuyuni, the Pomeroon and the Barima and they

moved freely through the forest.amerindians in canoe

2. The Akawois: this tribe was next in importance to the Caribs. This tribe was found was found in the lower Essequibo, the upper Cuyuni, the Demerara and the Pomeroon. This tribe was nomadic in its habits, and was to be found scattered throughout the Dutch colonies of Essequibo, Berbice and Surinam.  This tribe was described as the most pugnacious of all the Amerindian tribes.

3. The Arawaks: this tribe was next in importance to the Akawois. They were described as the best humored Indians of America, being both very just and generous-minded people. They inhabited the region between Corentyne and the Waini Rivers.  Almost 200 years later this tribe by an English writer as “of all the tribes this tribe is the most docile, cleanly and the best stature and personal appearance” but at same time as being “immortal, fickle and inconstant and possessing none of the warlike spirit of the Caribs and Akawois. They were employed by the Dutch at the Post of Moruka normally in the salting industry and in the recapturing of runaway slaves.  In 1771 it was reported by the Spanish Governor of Guyana (east of Orinoco) that the Arawaks for many years had been united to the Dutch and incorporated in their colonies both in relations and other ties. When the British took over the Arawaks sought employment as laborers, particularly in the plantations up the rivers but they were hesitant to work among the slaves on the coast. The Arawaks were looked upon as the aristocracy of the Amerindian tribes and superior to all of them in the scale of civilization. 

4. The Warrous: this tribe inhabited the swampy morasses and islands in the mouth of the Orinoco, as well as the lower reaches of the Barima. Due to the ill-treatment they received from the Spaniards they migrated in large numbers to the Barima district which they regarded as Dutch territory. They remained in this area until the British took over. This tribe had none of the war like characteristics as the Caribs and Akawois. They were mainly boat builders, expert fishermen and amphibious in their mode of life. The women were skilful in the manufacture of baskets and hammocks which they make from the eetay palm. The Warrous made excellent bread from the pith of this palm. This was the Warrous principal way of subsistence. With the British government this tribe became more industrious and contributed more labour to the sugar plantation than any other Amerindian tribe in British Guiana.

amerindians paddling in guyana

 5. The Macushis and Wapisianas: these tribes  drifted from Brazil to Guyana at the beginning of  the eighteenth century.  They crossed in the area  of the Ireng River and settled in the North part of  the Rupununi savannahs. Later on the Wapisians  began to migrate to the south of the Kanuku  Mountains. It is believed that they did this to avoid  the slave raiding Amerindian tribes who came from  Rio Negro and Rio Branco regions of Brazil.  During  the 18th and 19th century there is evidence that  the Macushis and Wapisians erected defenses  against these raids. It is also possible that the  Wapisianas moved away from the Macushis  because they had become enemies.

6. The Arecunas: this tribe was located in the upper regions of the Caroni and Paragu Rivers of Venezuela. This tribe was forced to resettle to other areas by the Spanish Capuchin missions found on the Orinoco. Some of these people escaped to Guyana to avoid this forced movement and established villages in the upper regions of the Cuyuni and Mazaruni Rivers.

7. The Patamonas: not much is known about the history of this tribe who probably resided in the Pakaraima mountain region for a very long time. Early contact was made between this tribe and the Europeans in the early nineteenth century and they were described as mountaineers.

8. The Wai-Wais: this tribe was first found in the village which can be found in the Acarai Mountains and their presence was noted by Robert Schomburgk in 1843. They moved and settled in the extreme south of the Rupununi savannahs. This tribes arrival to Guyanese soil was due to pressure from the Portuguese in the Rio-Branco region or from some other powerful Amerindian tribe.


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