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Guyana’s First People

Just a brief departure and respite for TRAKKER readers – from the “serious” issues, the politics, the economics, the crime and the disasters.

Here instead – in a few paragraphs – is a reminder, OR an introduction, concerning the very first inhabitants of Guyana.

Desiree Fox, Guyana’s late premier “first-people” anthropologist, advised me to use her preference for “NATIONS”.  Most Guyanese say AMERINDIANS; many now use “indigenous” to describe our first inhabitants.  I have a liking for simply OUR FIRST PEOPLE.

It could be as early as the 13th or 14th Century that Guyana’s Amerindians ended their trek to that part of South America, VIA North America, from their origins in the coldest climes of Asia.  There are many folk-tales and actual historical information outlining the trek to, arrival and settlement in hinterland Guyana.  As elsewhere in the early “civilized” world, societies grew from hinterland and interior regions and rural communities, into the latter-day towns and cities.

Guyana’s First People, has largely, REMAINED in communities stretched across the vast forested hinterland.  These Amerindian First People have given the hundreds of NAMES to Guyana’s rivers, villages, creeks, mountains, waterfalls, grants and landings.  And that includes the name ‘GUYANA’ itself!

Their forefathers’ legacy includes from household implements and accessories to foods, cultural practices, folklore, festivals and the spiritual.  This snapshot merely evokes the contributions and meanings of: pepperpot, cassareep, tasso, farine, paiwari, kanaima, bush dai-dai, piai-man, Dave Campbell, Stephen Campbell, Rupununi, Aishalton, Imbaimadai, Mabaruma – and yes, Mashramani.  Find out more about Guyana’s Amerindians just by exploring those names – for starters.

There are NINE (9) NATIONS OR TRIBES of Amerindians in Guyana. I’ll give you SIX (6):   CARIB, ARAWAK, AREKUNA, WAI-WAI, WAPISHANA and AKAWAIO – You name the other three.

HERE NOW IS A DESCRIPTION OF A POWERFUL Folk Spirit from Amerindian Folklore –

THE MASSACOURAMAN

DESCRIPTION:  as usual, depending on who has sighted the Massacouraman, fearful Amerindians themselves or the coastal visitors who would pan for  gold or settle in the rain forest or jungle  locations, along with the enormous fear which is invoked and which distorts, descriptions differ.

One writer witness records that the Massacouraman is “a snake-like, hairy monstrous giant which comes out of the water to devour his beholder”.  Across the Guianas in Amerindian lore, the Massacouraman is also “prominent”, as in French Guiana (Cayenne) says one researcher.  He usually grabs and submerges female victims who venture to the river unaccompanied.

BASIC FEATURES AND HABITS: the creature is human-like, very hairy and of King Kong facial looks.  It is larger than life, mostly of male characteristics and roams from the beds of deep interior rivers. The aquatic monster is a night creature and harms anyone found in his domain.

The extreme angry Massacouraman would overturn the little vessels of ‘intruders’ and either eat them or drown them beneath the river.  Amerindians claim that the more wicked Massacouraman first rips out their victims’ heart then eats them.  

Essentially, the Massacouraman is regarded as the personification of a hideous wicked spirit-being who objects to strangers “invading” his hinterland, watery domain, his actions are meant to be “protective” – and extremely punishing or fatal to intruders.