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The Amerindians – Guyana’s Indigenous People

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Cover Photo: Amber Andrews

Published: 23rd of September, 2017 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: March 4, 2023 at 13:52 pm

This article is a draft. It will be updated from time to time.

The Amerindians are Guyana’s first or “indigenous” people, and as such, they enjoy certain rights and privileges which come with being the first people.

Historical evidence suggests that the Amerindians came from the continent of Asia “thousands of years ago.” And there are artefacts across Guyana which corroborate the theory of indigenous presence in Guyana thousands of years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

The word “Amerindian” is reportedly a misnomer given to Guyana’s first peoples by Christopher Columbus when he arrived on the shores of Guyana in 1498 and mistakenly thought he had reached North America. “Amer” comes from “American” so “Amerindian” was supposed to mean “American Indian.” Nevertheless, the nomenclature was retained and Guyana’s indigenous are distinguished from the indigenous of North America who are referred to as “Native Indians” of North America.

The Amerindians crossed an ice passage called “the Bering Straight” that connected Asia to North America. That ice passage later melted. They wandered around and some of them settled in what is now Guyana. The Amerindians had a nomad lifestyle of traveling, hunting, and fishing, and so, it is said that they came in search of food.

The Amerindians settled mostly in the forested regions of Guyana, and as such they maintained a primitive lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and small scale farming. Consequently, they developed very strong jungle survival skills, or it is something inherent to the nine tribes.

Although the Amerindians make up one race or ethnic group, that group is divided into nine tribes scattered across the ten administrative regions of Guyana. These include:

The Arawaks

The Arekunas

The Arekunas, also spelled Arecunas, are found in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, also called Region 7, of Guyana. In photo: Galina Edmund, a Guyanese Singer/Performer and medical student of the Arecuna Tribe of Indigenous Peoples.

The Caribs

The Macushi

The Patamonas

The Wapishanas

The Waraus

The Wai Wais

The Akawaios

During the colonization era of Guyana, the Amerindians maintained a primitive lifestyle in the forested regions of Guyana. Although the Amerindians generally were not colonized by the Dutch or British, certain historical records suggest that some were. The historical records of the Berbice Slave Revolt, for example, stated that some Amerindians were enslaved by the Dutch, and also that some were hired as mercenaries by the Dutch to fight against the Africans during the Revolt.

During the colonial era of Guyana, very few Amerindians ventured out into the industrialized world or pursued higher education. However, all of that has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and Amerindians now hold some of the highest offices, most recognized educational awards, own businesses, fly planes, practice medicine, work in the banking industry, and much more. Some prominent Amerindians of Guyana include:

  • Dr. Desrey Fox (now deceased) – Government minister who held a Doctorate from Rice University.
  • Lenox Shuman – commercial pilot, politician, and parliamentarian.

I will be updating this page later with more info on Guyana’s first people: the Amerindians. Check back for updates and be sure to join my mailing list (above) to be notified when I make updates or publish something new.

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