Abeng Central

News and background stories on maroon communities in the Americas.

Suriname Maroons

Suriname is home to six Maroon nations, counting an estimated 100.000 people altogether.

They are the Saamaka (also spelled ‘Saramacca’), Ndjuka (also known as the Okanisi or Aukaners), Matawai, Kwiinti (also spelled ‘Kwinti’), Paamaka (also spelled ‘Paramacca’), and Aluku (also known as the Boni).

Papa Tobu, an Aluku elder and village leader, photographed by Diana Baird N’Diaye in Komontibo, French Guiana, 1991.

Papa Tobu, an Aluku elder and village leader, photographed by Diana Baird N’Diaye in Komontibo, French Guiana, 1991.

About half of all Surinamese Maroons live in their community’s legal territory in the interior. The other half live either in other regions of the country, or abroad.

Each community’s legal territory is bounded by mountains, rivers, watersheds and forests.

The Saamaka, Matawai and Kwiinti are in the central part of Suriname, mostly along the upper reaches of the River Suriname and the River Saramaka.

The eastern part of Suriname is home to the Ndyuka and Paamaka. Their territory shares a border river (the River Marowijne) with French Guyana.

The eastern part of Suriname was once also home  to the Aluku, but most of them moved to French Guyana at the end of the eighteenth century and have stayed there ever since. These Aluku are French citizens.

In the past twenty years, many Ndyuka, Paamaka and Saamaka have sought out the trail of the Aluku and have also taken up residence in French Guyana, frequently doing so illegally – this has happened as a result of a civil war in Suriname, which has particularly affected the eastern part of the country.

MAROONS IN SURINAME :HOW MANY AND WHERE

Below is an excerpt from an article written by anthropologist Richard Price. You can find the full article here: Richard Price.

Libation at the annual 'Day of the Maroons'-delebration (photo courtesy Waterkant.net)

Libation at the annual ‘Day of the Maroons’-celebration (photo  Waterkant.net)

In the literature on Suriname, there has been a long-standing tradition of keeping population figures for the Saramaka and Ndyuka at rough parity, those for the Matawai, Paramaka, and Aluku at (a very much smaller) rough parity, and those for the Kwinti much smaller still.

Without reviewing here the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century estimates (by soldiers, planters, colonial administrators, and others), I can report that by 1900, there was general agreement on the population sizes at that time: approximately 4,000 Ndyuka, 4,000 Saramaka, 600 Matawai, 400 Aluku, 400 Paramaka, and 200 Kwinti – a total of 9,600 Maroons.

By the end of the 1960s, a combination of the first extensive anthropological fieldwork with these populations, the first (however flawed) Suriname government census of the interior, and other data produced a new consensus: Saramakas and Ndyukas were each said to number 15,000-20,000, Matawais, Alukus, and Paramakas each about 2,000, and the Kwintis less than 500 – a total of 36,500-46,500 Maroons.

Since that time, scholars have gradually adjusted these figures by modest increments (usually after corresponding with one another, which meant that the estimates were not independent). By the 1990s, the scholarly consensus was that Saramakas and Ndyukas each numbered 24,000, Matawais, Alukus, and Paramakas each 2,000-2,500, and the Kwintis 500 – a total of some 55,000 Maroons. My current research suggests that these figures now require significant modification, including a more-than-doubling of the total population of Maroons.

N.B.: For the Ndyuka, “Suriname ‘interior’” includes both the Tapanahoni/Lawa and the Cottica regions, with the population divided almost exactly evenly between the two. For the Saramaka, “Suriname ‘interior’” includes villages both above and below the lake. In addition to sites listed in the table, a growing number of Maroons – perhaps several hundred – now reside in the United States, principally in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Boston, and a small number of Alukus reside in metropolitan France…..Read the full article here at: Richard Price

Below: 2 short excerpts from the documentary ‘Suriname meets Ghana’