Nieuwe West-Indische gids

Material Information

Nieuwe West-Indische gids
Alternate Title:
New West Indian guide
Portion of title:
Abbreviated Title:
Nieuwe West-Indische gids
Place of Publication:
M. Nijhoff
Publication Date:
Four no. a year
completely irregular
Physical Description:
v. : ill. ; 25 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Civilization -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area ( lcsh )
periodical ( marcgt )
serial ( sobekcm )


America, history and life
Historical abstracts. Part A. Modern history abstracts
Historical abstracts. Part B. Twentieth century abstracts
Dutch or English.
Dates or Sequential Designation:
40. jaarg. (juli 1960)-
General Note:
Published: Dordrecht : Foris Publications, <1986->

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Source Institution:
University of the Netherlands Antilles
Holding Location:
University of the Netherlands Antilles
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Resource Identifier:
000273853 ( AlephBibNum )
01760350 ( OCLC )
ABP9733 ( NOTIS )
sn 86012467 ( LCCN )
0028-9930 ( ISSN )

Related Items

Preceded by:
West-Indische gids
Preceded by:
Preceded by:
Vox guyane

Full Text

Nederlands West-Indische Gids

Hoetink. H.Dr. Prof, Thoden Van Velzen. Dr. H.U.E, Westermann, Dr. J.H. Westermann van der Steen Wagenaar Hummelinck, Dr. P.



Nederlands West-Indische Gids




te Utrecht

De uitgave van de 55ste jaargang van de NWIG welke verschijnt met medewerking van de
Vakgroep Culiurele Antropologie der Rjksuniversiteit te Utrecht werd gesubsidieerd door
de Nederlandrse Stichting voor Culturele Samenuwrking.


Bilby, Kenneth M., The Kromanti Dance of the
Windward Maroons of Jamaica (l afb.) ............ 52-101

Bovenkerk, Frank, Why returnees generally do not
turn out to be 'agents of change': the case of
Suriname ................................ .......... 154-173

Parris, Scott V., Alliance and competition: four case
studies of Maroon-European relations ............... 174-224

Riviere, P.G., A report on the Trio Indians of Suri-
nam ................ ............ ............ 1- 38

Romer, R.A., Labour unions and labour conflict in
Curaao .................... ............... 138-153

Samson, J.A., Citruscultuur in Suriname (5 afb.) ... 109-137

Visman, M.A., Van slaaf tot plantagehouder. Een
aspect van het 18e eeuws plantagewezen op Cura-
(ao ..................................... ............... 39 5 1

Wagenaar Hummelinck, P., Chris Engels (1907-
1980)(portret)............................................. 102-103

Afscheid van Dr. J.H. Westermann (1. VI.1907-
10. VI.1981) (portret) .................................... 104-107

Nederlands West-Indische Gids



wonder redactie van
Prof. dr. H. Hoetink, Prof. dr. H.U.E. Thoden van Velzen, Dr. J.H.
Westermann, Drs. L.J. Westermann-van der Steen en Dr. P. Wage-
naar Hirhmelinck (eindredacteur).

No 1-2 AUGUSTUS 1981 (p. 1-108)
No 3-4 DECEMBER 1981 (p. 109-224)


No 1/2
55ste jaargang
augustus 1981


te Utrecht
ISSN 0028-9930

wonder redactie van
Prof. dr. H. Hoetink, Prof. dr. H.U.E. Thoden van Velzen, Dr.
J.H. Westermann, Drs. L.J. Westermann-van der Steen en Dr. P.
Wagenaar Hummelinck (eindredacteur).

van het eerste en tweede nummer van de
vijf-en-vijftigste jaargang

A report on the Trio Indians of Surinam
(6 foto's)

Van slaaf tot plantagehouder. Een aspect van het
18e eeuws plantagewezen op Curacao 39 ^; j

The Kromanti Dance of the Windward Maroons of
Jamaica (kaartje) 52 7.

CHRIS ENGEIS (1907-1980)
(portret) 102

DR. J.H. WESTERMANN (1.VI.1907-10.V.1981)
(portret) 104

OUDE JAARGANGEN zijn nog vanaf Jrg. 36 als voledige series aan het redacticadres ver-
krijgbaar. Daarvoor verschenen jairgangen, asmede de registers, zijn nog slechts in beperk-
te mate leverbmar.
Deze aflevering van de N.WI.G. verschijnt met medewerking van de Vakgroep Culturele
Antropologie der Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht.



In memory of JAN VAN MAZUK

This article is an abbreviated version of a report prepared for
various departments of the Government of Surinam in February
1979. It is based on fieldwork carried out among the Trio Indians
between January and June 1978.1
In October 1964 I submitted to the then Government of Suri-
nam a report on the Trio Indians as I found them in 1963-64. This
report was subsequently published in amended form in Nieuwe
West-Indische Gids (Vol. 45, 1966, pp. 95-120) under the title 'A
policy for the Trio Indians'2. The present article updates the earlier
report by taking account of both its contents and what has
happened in the intervening fourteen years. In this way it is
possible to assess the accuracy of the earlier predictions and the
nature of additional intrusive factors. In particular, the new pers-
pective afforded by time allows for a greater understanding of the
internal dynamics of Trio society and culture and their reaction
to external influences. While numerous changes have taken place,
overall one is struck by how little many of the problems facing the
Trio have changed. In many ways the situation closely parallels
that of fourteen years ago. Some of the recommendations made in
the earlier report have been put into effect (although it is not
known whether this was a result of the earlier report), but in other
cases nothing has been done and it has been found necessary to
repeat the identical suggestions.
The earlier report was divided into two parts. In the first part a
general description of the Trio Indians was provided. This included
a section on the external influences at work on the Trio, and an ex-
amination of Trio society and some of its institutions. The second
part contained the recommendations concerning the future treat-


ment of the Trio. A similar layout has been retained here, but the
detailed recommendations sent to the Surinam Government in
1979 have been omitted for reasons of space, and only a summary
of them is included.


In 1978 the majority of the Surinam Trio were living in two large
settlements; the village of Tepoe on the Upper Tapanahoni River,
and that of Kwamalasamoetoe on the Sipaliwini River.
The village of Tepoe was the normal residence of approximately
350 Indians, mainly Trio but with a number of inmarried Waiyana
and a group of Akuriyo. Although the Trio and the Akuriyo do not
intermarry the latter are becoming increasingly Trio-ised. The vil-
lage of Tepoe was formed in 1968 by the migration of the Indians
who had previously lived at Paloemeu. The reason for this move,
the possibility of which was mentioned in the earlier report, was to
get away from tourists and workers at the airfield.
The village of Kwamalasamoetoe contains approximately 575 In-
dians, mainly Trio but also varying numbers of Waiwai, Katwena,
Saloema, Tunayena, and others. These small groups are tending to
adopt Trio ways, and the common language is Trio. The village of
Kwamalasamoetoe was formed by the migration of the population
from the old village of Alalaparoe in 1976-77. The reasons for this
move are complex and difficult to untangle but there is no doubt
that given the physical limitations of the Alalaparoe site the action
was the right one. A few Indian families have remained at Alalapa-
roe. A handful of Trio are living at the Sipaliwini airstrip and there
are some others married to Waiyana and living in Waiyana villages.
The exact number of Trio and related Indians in Brazil at the
moment is not known, but in 1970 the figure was 299.3
The demography and distribution of the Trio are discussed in
greater detail in II.1.
The external influences at present operating among the Trio will
be examined under six headings, although this is an expository
device since in practice there is often overlap between the different
groups. For the sake of continuity and for the purposes of compari-


1. Mechanisation has come to the Trio. An Indian cuts the the airstrip at Tepoe while two
young girls hitch a ride.

2. One of the tasks now undertaken by Indians is the regular daily recording of meteorolo-
gical information. The houses in the background belong to a mixed group of Katwena and


son the first five headings are the same as those used in the earlier
report; this number has been increased by the inclusion of a group
referred to as 'Employers'.


It had been noted earlier that intercourse between the Trio and
Bush Negroes was decreasing. It has continued to do so, and at
present is at a very low level. For the moment trade with the Bush
Negroes is of little importance to the Trio who can obtain
manufactured goods by other means. From the Bush Negro point
of view the Trio's increasing numeracy and monetary sophistica-
tion make the Indians less attractive (i.e., easily defrauded) trading
partners. The Trio retain their ambivalent attitude toward the
Bush Negro, although they seem less fearful of them and more
willing to stand up to them than in the past.
Despite this a surprising number of Trio still claim to have a
Bush Negro trading partner. In most cases this partnership is cur-
rently dormant, but given the right conditions, such as the disap-
pearance of other sources of money it is quite possible that these
partnerships will be reactivated. Dogs, of which the Trio at the mo-
ment have a very large number, are still seen as valuable trading
items, and the traditional purchasers of them were Bush Negroes.
For the moment Bush Negro influence on the Trio is negligible
but this does not rule out the possibility that with changed circum-
stances it will not regain some of its traditional importance.


There is now more contact between the main population of
Surinam and the Trio than there was in the past. Much of this
increase results from Trio visiting the coast, although there have
also been changes in the situation in the interior.
As has been noted the Trio at Paloemeu moved up river in order
to get away from non-Indians. In their present village they are al-
most completely isolated from the contacts they disliked most.


However, many of the younger men are not happy with this isola-
tion, welcome contacts with people from the coast because of the
economic advantages entailed, and given the right circumstances
would not be unwilling to return to Paloemeu. On the other hand
the older men at Tepoe, those who led the move from Paloemeu,
claim that they would shift to an even more remote location if un-
wanted strangers took up permanent residence in or near Tepoe.
Until the Indians from Alalaparoe moved to Kwamalasamoetoe
they had virtually no contact, at least in the interior, with people
from the coast. This situation changed following the move to Kwa-
malasamoetoe where men from the coast are employed on the con-
struction and maintenance of the airstrip. Developments there al-
most exactly parallel those at Paloemeu in the past, with a number
of incidents resulting from workers taking Indian women. Such
occurrences are rare but they give rise to more problems than in
the past since Trio men with their greatly increased self-assurance
are now willing to stand up to the outsiders.
There are two further aspects to this situation that deserve men-
tion. The trouble thas has occurred has not been helped by the in-
transigent position adopted by the LVD administration who insis-
ted that a worker return to Kwamalasamoetoe after the Indians had
forced him to leave. An action of this sort shows a quite
unnecessary disregard for the Indians' sensibilities, and indicates
an unfortunate attitude towards the Indians.

On the other hand those from the coast resident in the interior
are not entirely to blame for their affairs with Indian women. Trio
woman are well aware of the economic advantages of such liaisons
and are not above instigating them.
As agents of change coastal people in the interior are relatively
insignificant; their most important role is of demonstrating to the
Trio the existence of another culture radically different from that
revealed by the missionaries. Some of the younger Indians find this
alternative attractive and go out of their way to develop a relation-
ship with people from the coast. The numbers involved are too
small to have any effects other than minor ones and some short-
term advantages of an economic nature. More significant is the
contact gained when Indians visit the coast, almost exclusively Pa-


ramaribo. For one reason or another a large number of Trio have
now been down to the coast. They tend to be ambivalent about it.
They are curious and they very much want the material things that
urban culture has to offer. On the other hand stories abound of
cases in which Indians have been swindled out of all their money or
had other unpleasant experiences. The majority soon wish to
return to their village. A few have gained a superficial
sophistication about town life but for most the experience is too
meaningless to have any deep influence.
Finally one might note that the attitude of the coastal people to-
wards the Trio tends to be one of benevolent paternalism. The In-
dian is regarded as a poor, underprivileged, and backward child,
who should be an object of charity on condition he behaves himself.
The Indians are not totally unaware of this and are capable of play-
ing on it in order to obtain advantages and privileges not readily
available to other Surinamese.


Contact between the Trio and representatives of different Govern-
ment departments and other official bodies has increased greatly in
the last 14 years. The Trio now meet from time to time a wide
range of such people including the President, the Prime Minister,
Members of Parliament, District Commissioners, civil servants of
various ranks, and policemen. The Trio have not yet learnt to dis-
tinguish between the respective authority and importance of these
people and they tend to attribute similar power to all Government
representatives, including the workers on the airstrip.
It is difficult to define precisely the Trio notion of the Govern-
ment and it is doubtful whether they have any clear conception of
it. It is recognized as an agency that has a vital role to play in the
Trio's welfare. The Government is the source of much wealth; not
only are the Indian officials paid by it but sizeable ex gratia hand-
outs in cash and kind flow from it. The Trio attitude to these gifts is
that they are owed them by the Government which is in a sort of
tribute-paying position. At the same time the Government is seen
as unreliable and inconsistent. The Trio complain continually and


on every possible occasion about the failure of the Government to
fulfil its promises. Nor do the Trio understand why people from the
Government who seem so friendly when visiting a Trio village are
not interested in them when they visit Paramaribo, and may not
even have time to see them.
It is true that the Government's treatment of the Trio is incon-
sistent and sporadic, and characterized by an ill-advised paternal-
ism. While in some cases this is the result of opportunism since
there is always political capital to be made out of doing something
for the Indians, it mainly springs from a wish to do well by the
Indians, but not knowing how to set about it and lacking a policy by
which to be guided.


Relatively few tourists visit Trio villages, but there has been a
marked change over the years in the Trio's attitude towards them.
Particularly at Tepoe and to a lesser extent at Kwamalasamoetoe,
the Trio express a dislike, often bordering on hostility, of tourists.
Indeed some Indians would prefer no-one to visit them who was not
engaged in some way in benefitting the Trio.
Many Trio now object to being photographed, or will demand
money in return for posing. They also take what advantage they
can of the tourists by selling them Indian artefacts at very high
It is unlikely that in the foreseeable future tourists will present
any serious problem. Their numbers are too few, and given the
cost of reaching the Trio villages it is improbable that this number
will grow. At the moment most casual visitors are those who ac-
company a Government official who has business with the Trio.
The influence of casual visitors and tourists can be ignored in con-
sidering the future of the Trio.



There are now two missionary organizations working among the
Trio. The American West Indies Mission which is mainly con-
cerned with evangelising the Trio has been operating since 1961.
In the earlier report attention was drawn to the strong influence
that the missionaries had had and were having on the Trio. It was
also pointed out that, regardless of one's views about the far-
reaching cultural changes brought about by evangelisation, the
Trio had benefitted in many ways from the mission's presence.
During the last 14 years the influence among the Trio of the
West Indies Mission has undoubtedly waned. There is no single
reason for this but among a variety of causes may be listed: changes
in mission personnel; the loss by the mission of their medical and
educational functions; the loss by the mission of their monopoly on
the Trio; a decline in the intensity of religious fervour among the
Trio; and increasing familiarity with the outside world on the part
of the Trio. However this does not mean that Christian beliefs and
practices have weakened, and today they are to be found embedded
in all facets of the Indians' everyday life.
The translation into Trio of the New Testament and selected
parts of the Old Testament is now complete. The present policy of
the West Indies Mission is to build up a self-supporting native
church so that the missionaries can be withdrawn, at least to the
coast. This aim is to be achieved by concentrating the Bible
teaching on suitable Indians, the Church Elders, who will then
minister to the rest of the population.
The second missionary organization is the Medische Zending
voor Suriname which although church associated and funded is not
concerned with evangelising, but as its name indicates with medical
work. The mission was begun in 1966 and trained nurses took up
residence in the Trio villages. From small beginnings this organiza-
tion has come to administer most of the medical work in the interi-
or. The programme was initially funded by charities but the whole
cost has now been taken over by the Surinam Government. It
might be noted that the medical treatment available to the Trio is
almost certainly as good if not better than that for any other Indian


group in South America, and certainly better than that obtainable
by a very large proportion of the subcontinent's total population,
urban and rural.
While the primary aim of the Medische Zending voor Suriname
has been to provide health care for the Indians both by keeping
trained personnel in the villages and by supplying hospital facilities
as necessary, there has also been a policy of training Indians to take
over their own medical work (a move strongly recommended in the
earlier report). Thus one of the duties of the resident nurses has
been and is to train a few Indians as clinic helpers. In order to help
with this the mission branched out into education, and appoints
school teachers to both villages. Primary education is in the Trio
language, and arithmetic and Dutch are also taught. The teacher's
task is also to train Indians to take over the teaching duties.
As with the West Indies Mission, the policy of the Medische
Zending voor Suriname is toward Trio self-sufficiency. The diffi-
culties faced by the latter organization in achieving this are greater
than those faced by the West Indies Mission. All religious affairs
are conducted in the native language while it is essential for a com-
petent clinic helper to speak Dutch.
These two missions, because of their permanent and relatively
long contact with the Trio and because of the very nature of their
aims and activities, have been and are the most influential agents of
change. In Part II some of these changes will be described. Whether
one approves or disapproves of missionary work, one would have to
be either unrealistic or a romantic not to admit that the Trio have
benefitted in many ways from the presence of the missions.
The Trio themselves recognize the advantages which they derive
from the missions, and distinguish clearly between those resulting
from evangelisation, education, and medication. Their attitude to
the missionary personnel is favourable although, like anyone else,
they prefer some to others. Nurses, because of the nature of their
duties combined with Trio ideas about the causation of sickness and
death, are most frequently sanctioned in Trio gossip. However it
should be noted that is is always the practitioner who is criticised,
and not the practice.



This group overlaps extensively with others since Government de
apartments, people from the coast, and missionaries all employ Tri(
labour. In recent years commercial companies have also provide<
employment. The possibilities for earning money have increase
enormously in the last 14 years although in this period the Tric
have experienced considerable fluctuation in the availability oi
The impact on the Trio produced by wage-labour has been great
but, as will be seen in Part II, it has not yet resulted in any radical
and irreversible changes. The main reason for this is that the
demands of the employers have not yet interfered with traditional
Trio practices. This appears to be the result of luck rather than
good management for most employers are not interested in the
Trio except as wage-labourers, and while on the whole they treat
them with the best intentions, they have only a shadowy idea of the
Indians' own needs.



An outline description of the location and size of the modern Trio
villages was given at the beginning of Part I. Here these topics will
be examined in greater detail.
In April 1964 there were approximately 220 Trio Indians at
Paloemeu, and 160 at Alalaparoe: a total in Surinam of 380. If one
includes the various minority groups living at Kwamalasamoetoe
that total today is near the 900 mark. This dramatic increase can be
accounted for in two ways. First there has been further migration of
Indians from the Brazilian side of the frontier, and second there has
been an enormous natural increase in the population. Directly as a
result of medical care life expectancy has increased greatly, and a
side effect of this is that the death rate has been artificially low dur-
ing the last decade. There has also been a dramatic drop in the
infant mortality rate from somewhere near 60% 14 years ago to


around 10% today the death of a baby is now an unusual event
compared with the past. At the same time it is probable that the
birthrate has increased, but the absence of reliable figures for pre-
missionary years makes this only guesswork. Assuming the birth-
rate has increased it is not possible to know whether this results
from an increase in natural fertility, possibly as a result of improved
health, or from the decrease in such practices as abortion and infan-
ticide, both of which undoubtedly occurred although with what
frequency it is impossible to estimate.4
For social purposes it is not all that important whether the higher
birthrate and survival rate result from improved health, from a
reduction in cases of abortion and infanticide, or from increased fer-
tility, and it is most likely to result from a combination of these fac-
tors. What does have social and economic implications is that ap-
proximately 50% of the population is under 15 years old, or below
reproduction age. While this is a significant indicator of the part
played by natural increase in the growth of the Surinam Trio popu-
lation, it also contains the warning of a potential population explo-
sion when this under-15 age cohort starts reproducing. The medi-
cal personnel are already alert to this situation, and are making cer-
tain contraceptive devices available to Trio women. This policy has
proved successful, and unlike the reluctance of populations in many
parts of the world to accept contraception, the Trio have welcomed
it. One reason for this is almost certainly their own tradition of
family planning and their practice of limiting the number of
The increase in life expectancy is also having certain social con-
sequences, especially for the structure of the family. The facts will
be noted here, and their implications are discussed in 11.4. In the
past two-generation families were usual, three-generation rare, and
four-generation non-existent. Today the three-generation family is
common, there are several cases of four-generation families, and
the existence of the occasional five-generation family can be predic-
As well as the gains in the Surinam population resulting from
immigration there have also been some losses through emigration,
almost entirely from village of Tepoe. About fifty Trio from there
have moved back to Brazil in the last decade. Some of these have


gone to the main area of Trio settlement near the Roman Catholic
mission on the Paroe savanna, and the rest have formed a relatively
isolated village further to the east.
Alongside these fairly permanent changes in residence there are
continual temporary movements with smaller or larger groups
travelling between the Surinam villages and backwards and for-
wards to Brazil. These journeys are undertaken to see relatives, to
trade, to look for work, for the fun of travelling, or evade problems
at home. These population movements are traditional and to be
expected. It is safe to assume that they will continue for as long as
the Trio maintain their social organization since such journeys
have an important function to play in it.
A less traditional reason, that of wage-labour, accounted for the
absence of men from the villages, in particular Tepoe, during the
period of research. In all cases these absences were regarded as tem-
porary even where whole families had moved to Paramaribo. These
families were seen in Paramaribo and outside. In every case the In-
dians referred to their ties with the interior and voiced the expecta-
tion that they would make regular return trips.
In the earlier report considerable space was given to discussing
the viability of the large settlements. This examination was conduc-
ted in terms of centrifugal and centripetal forces, i.e., those pressur-
es acting to make the Trio disperse, and those working to maintain
the large settlements. The future of Trio society was seen to depend
on which of these two forces proved stronger. The present exis-
tence of two settlements, even larger than they were 14 years ago,
proves that the centripetal force has so far proved stronger. How-
ever this is not necessarily a permanent condition since the struggle
between the opposing tendencies continues, and there is evidence
to suggest that the centrifugal forces are becoming stronger. The
nature of the various factors involved will emerge in the following
sections. All that need be noted here is that even if the centrifugal
forces gain the upper hand only a limited dispersal is likely to oc-
cur. The great majority of Indians will not want to lose touch with
the existing settlements which will continue to act as medical,
educational, commercial, and religious centres. This development
has already taken place in Brazil where it appears to work perfectly



The basic Trio subsistence economy has remained unchanged. The
fundamental reliance on slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, fish-
ing, and gathering remains, and the diet continues to depend on the
exploitation of a very wide range of resources. Some additional
crops have been successfully introduced but these are of a supple-
mentary nature, like fruit, rather than staples. The Trio like rice
but the chances of getting them to grow it for themselves are slim.
Given the extra time and effort required and other disadvantages
that rice has, especially when compared with cassava, the Trio are
probably right to be hesitant about it. Experiments with domestic
animals have been made but have proved a failure (as was anticipa-
ted in the earlier report).
The only imported food present in the diet in any quantity, and
then still in minute amounts, is rice. There are certain other
imported foods on which the Trio are keen, such as tinned fish and
tea, and others, such as tinned meat, which they tend to dislike (as
might be expected there is great personal variation in likes and
dislikes). However foods of this sort are rarely available and play no
significant part in the diet.
The Trio have adopted a large range of manufactured goods. In
many cases these have replaced traditional items without bringing
about any radical changes in practices and techniques. Thus the
shotgun has largely replaced the bow and arrow for hunting, al-
though the latter is still an important aid for fishing. A brief review
of the more common imported items will be made, and where ap-
propriate their more profound side effects commented upon.
Trio pottery has been totally superseded by manufactured metal
pots of all shapes and sizes. Some types of basketwork have suffered
the same fate, although those items concerned with the processing
of cassava, for which there are no manufactured substitutes, are
still made and used. Many men and women still know how to make
baskets and pots.
Western clothing has partly replaced traditional dress. In the case
of women there has been a complete switch. The traditional, small
cloth apron is never worn except by one or two of the very old


3. Outboard motors have brought many changes to the Trio way of life. Here a dugout canoe, much larger than the traditional size, sets out
on a journey up the Sipaliwini River.

L -Ap
-t-AIP- A-*^^^





r-- ' <

s~a~g~ ~
~ a; ~;. II=

women, and bead aprons are now curiosity. The very least worn by
a woman today is a pair of underpants and a length of cloth wrapped
round as a skirt, often supported by elastic. Western style dresses
are worn by many. The men still wear the traditional loin clothes;
some men rarely wear anything else, while others only wear
western clothes. Some Indians have learnt to look after their clothes
well and always look clean and neat; in other cases the clothes are
unwashed and tatty. Men's clothes are mainly bought readymade,
but the women usually make their own from rolls of cloth. There
are a number of sewing machines in both villages, and these are
used by both men and women. Most Indians wear thong sandals,
and some have canvas or leather shoes. Gumboots are also popular.
The use of body paint, especially the oil-based red paint, has
declined, and this is clearly a response to the adoption of western
dress. Other ornaments and decorations are less used than previ-
ously, but large quantities of beads are still often worn. The Trio
have become far less conservative in their choice of colours, and
they will now include yellow, green and other colours in their bead-
work which they would not do formerly. Red has also ceased to be
the dominating colour for clothing, and although men's loin
clothes are still invariably red, many colours and patterns are found
on other clothing.
At the moment one of the most expensive but most sought after
objects is an outboard motor. During the first half of 1978 there
were 16 of these at Kwamalasamoetoe and 10 at Tepoe, and the
number was growing steadily. The outboard motor is used to
extend and to make easier traditional activities. For example, the
distance from a village that one can travel in a day in order to hunt
using an outboard motor far exceeds that which it is possible to
cover on foot or in a canoe with paddles. The area over which natu-
ral resources can be exploited is greatly increased by the outboard
motor. Thus it might appear to be a centripetal force, but in fact it
is a neutral element since Indians can just as easily disperse and use
the motor in order to exploit the various facilities of the main vil-
There is also a great range of other consumer goods that the Trio
now have: transistor radios, tape-recorders, some cameras, soap,
toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, lamps, hair lotions, lipstick, etc.,


etc. It is difficult to see that these things have brought any profound
social or economic repercussions. However, there is one item
which no Indian owned 14 years ago but is universally possessed
today; that is the hammock cover. In passing it might be noted that
the Trio still make their own hammocks, although they may use
machine-made imported thread rather than their own cotton. The
existence of hammock covers has had several interesting side ef-
fects. First they provide relative privacy; something very difficult to
come by in an Indian village. Second the traditional positioning of
the husband's hammock immediately above that of his wife is not
feasible with a cover. Thus one of the symbols of marriage has
fallen into disuse.
Third, and perhaps most interesting, the hammock cover has
brought about a change in the pattern of daily, or at least nightly,
life. The marked drop in temperature at night used to mean that
few Indians slept undisturbed; there was constant movement as
people stoked up their fires, and in the coldest hours before dawn
many abandoned their hammocks to sit round the fire. Much of the
basketwork was done at this time which was said to be ideal since
the material is damp from the night dew and thus more pliable. The
view was also expressed that a 'good' Trio would be up early doing
such jobs. This pattern of behaviour has now changed completely.
People, warm in their hammock covers, are more prone to sleep
through the night, and if they wake early are more likely to stay in
bed listening to their transistor radios than to get up and make
baskets. As mentioned above certain basket objects are essential for
the processing of cassava, but the basketwork is now done during
the day with the material dampened with water in order to obtain
the required pliancy. The notion of the 'good' Trio as an early riser
has also waned.

Although individually manufactured objects may not have pro-
duced any radical alterations in Trio society and economy, their
presence does raise certain questions. In total these goods and ex-
ternal contacts have produced many superficial changes. The Trio
look very different today from what they did 14 years ago, and most
people will decry the decline of traditional crafts. But the major
problem for the Trio is that their new possessions cannot be provi-


sioned from the environment. Outboard motors need petrol: shot-
guns need cartridges; and transistor radios, tape-recorders, and tor-
ches need batteries. The Trio are becoming decreasingly self-suffi-
cient and increasingly tied to an external cash economy.
The vital question is how far has their reliance on manufactured
goods gone? The answer is not too far for them to be able to
resurrect their traditional techniques. The knowledge of old skills is
still there even if it is not often put into practice. The Trio see
themselves more dependent on manufactured goods than they
actually are. The Trio would claim vehemently that metal pots,
shotguns and other manufactured objects are now necessities, and
this would not be surprising since no one likes to be deprived of
things to which they have become accustomed and have to revert
to former ways. In fact, at the moment, with their subsistence
economy intact, it would still be possible for the Trio to re-adopt
their material and technical culture of 14 years ago.
The possession of manufactured goods depends on the Trio
having a supply of money. The cash economy of the Trio, perhaps
better described as the means by which they obtain money, can be
examined separately from the traditional economy. This is because,
while objects purchased with cash have been incorporated into the
traditional economy, money per se has not been. The two economic
spheres are to a large extent still autonomous.
Fourteen years ago, money if not unknown to the Trio was little
understood by them, and the opportunities for obtaining it very
limited. At Alalaparoe casual work for the missionary and the sale
of artefacts were the only possibilities. At Paloemeu, as well as
these means, there were also a few jobs available working on the
airstrip or for the Mines Department. At that time there were also
two salaried Government appointed officials.
Today the situation is rather different, and the number and kinds
of sources of money have increased greatly. The most general
source is employment in various roles by official, semi-official, and
private organizations. The availability of work varies, and the Trio
have in the past, and will almost certainly in the future, experi-
enced alternating periods of affluence and deprivation. The case of
Tepoe illustrates this. In the late 1960s there was a period in which
many Indians were able to find employment. This was followed by


some years when there was little work available. Recently this trend
has been reversed and there has once again been plenty of work
available. No such opportunities for earning money presented
themselves at Alalaparoe, but on moving to Kwamalasamoetoe
many Indians found work constructing the airstrip there. This
provided 15 months employment but on completion of the airstrip
the workforce was reduced to an handful of maintenance men.
During periods of work the Indians enjoy considerable affluence.
They are paid relatively well (Sf 6-8 a day, compared with Sf 1 a
day 14 years ago), and they do not have to spend any of it on subsis-
tence. Accordingly they are much better off than many better paid
workers on the coast who are faced with the cost of food and
housing. Given these facts it is not difficult to understand how
some Trio have saved enough money to buy-outboard motors
which cost approximately Sf 1,500 delivered at Kwamalasamoetoe.
Other, more casual labour, such as building houses for mission
personnel, still occurs. Indians also undertake such minor but rou-
tine tasks as recording meteorological data, cutting grass on the air-
strip at Tepoe, and minding the electricity generator. For these jobs
they receive a small but regular income.

The largest, steady supply of money into the villages comes from
the salaries paid by the Government to the Indian officials. The
number of posts and the size of the salaries have both increased
greatly in the last 14 years. Whereas in 1964 there were just one
captain and one lieutenant (both at Paloemeu), today there are 2
Granman, 3 captains, and 18 lieutenants including 4 women. In
the past the captain received Sf 360 a year and the lieutenant
Sf 100. Today a Granman gets Sf 3,000 a year, a captain Sf 1,800,
a male lieutenant Sf 1,200, and a female lieutenant Sf 960. These
officials are very well paid for what they do, for with the exception
of the women whose job it is to clean the village, their duties are ill-
defined to the point of being non-existent. However the salaries do
provide a reliable income of around Sf 32,000 a year for the Trio,
and many more Indians than just the recipients benefit from the
The Government-appointed officials are not the only Trio to re-
ceive salaries. The eight Trio clinic helpers, four in each village, get


just over Sf 100 a month each. However, unlike the officials, the
clinic helpers earn their money doing a responsible job. The Trio
school masters also receive a monthly but much lower salary.
There is still money to be made by the manufacture of traditional
artifacts for sale. Enthusiasm for this varies since the Trio have
worked out that in terms of time and effort this business gives a
very poor return when compared with the rewards obtainable from
wage-labour. The sale of articles provides an income for those
unable to work, and acts as a stand-by when other sources of cash

What influence has the presence of wage labour and the Trio's ge-
nuine desire to obtain money had on traditional life? The most ob-
vious concern is how far the Indians' engagement in a cash
economy has prevented them from participating in his own subsis-
tence economy. There are a number of points to be made on this
First, many of the objects bought with the cash earned save the
Indian time. Manufactured items substitute for traditional articles
on which an Indian would have to spend time making. An object
such as an outboard motor eases traditional tasks as well as
permitting their more rapid completion. Second, within his
traditional life a Trio did not spend more than 20 hours a week on
average directly engaged in obtaining food. At some times of the
year, for example during the cutting and planting of fields, the
figure would be higher than that but in other seasons it would be
much lower.
In other words the hours engaged in wage labour are not all used
at the expense of the time that would normally be devoted to subsis-
tence activities. It is possible for the Trio to practise both econo-
mies simultaneously without his subsistence base suffering any se-
rious decline. This does not mean that there is no cause for worry
since some additional factors have to be taken into account. The
first of these is the location of the work, and the second is the pro-
portion of men involved in it. The contrast between the situation at
Kwamalasamoetoe and that at Tepoe in 1978 provides a useful il-
lustration of this point.
At Kwamalasamoetoe the work, the construction of the airstrip


and the building of the schoolteacher's house, was local. Although
nearly half the adult men were engaged in these occupations, even
during the busy planting season the traditional economy was clear-
ly not under any strain. However, an important additional factor
here was that rarely were the Indians working on the airstrip expec-
ted to do a full day's work and they were left ample time in which
to tackle traditional tasks.
At Tepoe all available work took men away from the village, in
some cases for two to three months at a time. At the time of the
research approximately half the able-bodied men were away from
the village and their absence had placed a burden on the remainder,
mainly the young and the old. The village was visited during a not
very busy time of year (April-June) and the strains observed tended
to be more social than economic. The situation -would have been
more serious in seasons of intense economic activity.

Most of the other occupations mentioned above can be readily inte-
grated with traditional economic activities. However the potential
difficulties attached to involvement with wage labour cannot be
ignored. The fulltime employment of a large proportion of the
population holds inherent dangers for the traditional subsistence
economy. At the moment it is intact, and while it is the Trio will
have no trouble in surviving years of economic regression. At
present there is no sign that the traditional economy is threatened.
One good piece of evidence for this is that money is still one
remove from causing any radical changes in social, economic and
political relationships. No Trio has yet started paying another Trio
to do things for him, and in particular food is not regarded as
something for which one gives money to another Trio.
The fact that money is not used internally in Trio society does
not mean that it is not employed elsewhere. Most transactions with
non-Indians involve cash, and with non-Indians even food is
exchanged for money or goods. The Trio are becoming
increasingly knowledgeable about money and its worth. Those who
live on the coast or visit it often are beginning to understand the
nature of an economic system in which everything, even food and
shelter, has to be paid for. However, for the majority of Trio an
economy involving a complex division of labour in which objects


and services are all tied in a cash nexus is incomprehensible.
There are some exceptions to the claim that the Trio do not use
money among themselves. Two cases that were recorded are on a
small scale. One concerns the man who has been working on the
Paloemeu airstrip for more than 15 years, and he resides there. The
Indians who moved there temporarily in order to work obtained on
occasions cassava from this man who charged them for it. The
other case involves one of the few Trio who has moved more-or-less
permanently to the coast. This man took his family with the excep-
tion of a teen-age daughter whom he has left with another family,
and he pays them to look after her. The family in question has visi-
ted North America, and its head is the Trio who best understands
the ways of western culture.
A third case is an altogether different matter. In the earlier report
it was suggested that some provision be made in the interior for the
Trio to spend his money without their having to go to town. This
requirement was met by the missionaries who set up and operated
stores in both Trio villages. Indian assistants were employed in the
running of these stores, but the present policy is to hand them over
completely to an Indian storekeeper. This has now happened and in
both villages the stores are owned by Indians who, still with some
supervision from the mission personnel, run the whole business
themselves, including ordering goods from Paramaribo, arranging
their transport, fixing prices, and doing the bookkeeping. It is too
early to say whether these Indian storekeepers will be successful,
and they face many difficulties such as fully appreciating the notion
of profit and loss, and being able to withstand the demands from kin
for special consideration a common reason for the failure of such
stores in many developing countries. However, if properly
managed the potential rewards are very high although these will
naturally fluctuate with the general affluence of the Trio. Some idea
of this can be given by figures from Kwamalasamoetoe where in a
period of affluence the store took Sf 72,000 in 18 months. (During
the same 18 months the total cash income of the village was in
excess of Sf 100,000.)

The important point to be made here is that the Trio now have
among their own number Indians with whom they engage in regu-


4. Both Trio village contain stores which are now managed and run by Indians with some supervision. Not everyone who turns up is there
to buy since much of the interest is in seeing what other people buy.


lar cash dealings and who will have to work within the commercial
constraints of profit and loss if they are going to succeed. However
the impact of this will be diminished since the storekeepers are only
acting as brokers for externally derived goods and currency. There
is no reason to expect them to extend their newly learnt commer-
cial notions into the sphere of the traditional economy, no more
than that they can allow traditional economic ideas and practices to
invade the commercial sphere. The two economies, subsistence and
cash, are still separate entities, although interconnected by simple
links. Accordingly no radical change will take place until the cash
economy intrudes into traditional economic relationships'.
One further, economic-related, change that has taken place in
the last 14 years is that the notion of work per se has arisen. A
word for it (orokome) has been adapted from Sranan. This concept
is not just applied to the new economic activities (although almost
certainly responsible for its occurrence) but is equally used to de-
scribe traditional practices which would not have been so distin-
guished in the past. The idea of work has also been accompanied by
that of leisure although this is less well developed and more infre-
quently referred to. Work is seen as a good thing in its own right
and not simply for the rewards it brings. However, one must be
hesitant about explaining this as the Puritan work ethic implanted
by Gospel teaching. A not dissimilar idea distinguishing energetic
from lazy people existed in traditional Trio thought.


No discernible development of any traditional system of maintai-
ning order or settling disputes has occurred. The authority
structure of the Trio, as far as it exists, is illsuited for developments
that can cope with the present situation. In the earlier report it had
been forecast that a new authority structured would emerge round
the groups of Church Elders. This has not happened and it now
seems unlikely that it will, since the opportunity has passed. As far
as it has been possible to reconstruct what happened it seems that a
few years ago the Church Elders had managed to gather
considerable authority into their hands (with the tacit and not-so-


tacit support of the missionaries). However, recently this power
seems to have diminished again. Several reasons for this can be
posited. These include changes in mission personnel, greater fami-
liarity with Christianity and experience of other Christians on the
part of the Trio, and the fact that the generation now coming to
adulthood have lived all their lifes under the missionary regime, do
not have the innate understanding of their old beliefs, and thus are
less dependent upon and less enthusiastic about Christian beliefs
than were and are the original converts. The behaviour of many
Church Elders or their close kin has not always been above
suspicion, and a number of them, especially at Tepoe, have
resigned because of this, or have used it as an excuse to rid them-
selves of a burden with which they had become disenchanted.
Another factor in all this is the creation of a group of Village
Leaders who are meant to have responsibility for secular affairs,
leaving spiritual matters to the Church Elders. While a good idea in
theory, in practice this separation of secular and spiritual authority
has not been successful for a number of reasons. First, in many
cases it is difficult to decide what is a secular rather than a spiritual
matter. A state of affairs only to be expected in such societies as the
Trio where institutions tend to be embedded in one another.
Second, this situation is compounded by the fact that there is a high
degree of overlap between the Church Elders and the Village
Leaders; this is particularly so at Kwamalasamoetoe but less so at
Tepoe. This means that a Village Leader will use the opportunities
presented to him in church as an Elder to speak on matters that
would appear to be purely secular. Nor does it stop a Village Leader
who is not a Church Elder from using the same arena to give
sermons on what are more clearly spiritual affairs. The church
provides a captive audience for both.
Both Village Leaders and Church Elders are chosen by the Indi-
ans themselves with the main say going to the existing members of
the group and guiding pressure being exerted by non-Indians. The
Village Leaders have to have their position confirmed by the
Government which then pays them a monthly salary. The details of
this have already been given in II.2. In the earlier report it was re-
commended that the whole system of Government-appointed
Officials be discontinued. In fact the opposite has happened and


whereas 14 years ago there were two such officials costing Sf 460 a
year, there are now 23 costing over Sf 32,000 a year. The system
is working better today because some individuals for whom the
other Trio hold respect have been appointed, unlike the original
two officials who still hold office and are still regarded as a joke by
the other Indians. This is still true of many of the present officials
who are not simply unlikely ever to do anything for their money
but are in no position to do so since they lack any authority. If the
practice of appointing officials in the present numbers is to be
defended it can only be on the grounds that it is a covert way of
providing the Trio with a steady cash income.
It should also be pointed out that even those officials whose ad-
vice and opinions are respected and acted upon are mainly not com-
petent to act as intermediaries between the Trio and outsiders be-
cause they do not speak Dutch or Surinamese. There are a number
of young Trio men who can speak some Dutch, and it is more than
possible that, as has happened elsewhere in the world, their linguis-
tic ability will allow them to gather power which traditionally they
would not have had because of their lack of knowledge about Indi-
ans ways. This sort of thing is already beginning to happen, and a
particularly interesting example arose as a result of the Kwamalasa-
moetoe Granman's manipulations to have his Dutch-speaking but
very young brother's son made a Village Leader.
While such developments as these may bring changes in the
future, at present whether an individual be a Church Elder, a Vil-
lage Leader, both, or neither the respect in which he is held and the
authority he has do not derive from the office he holds. The
traditional competence for a Trio leader were to be able to lead and
to persuade. For the first he had to be able to do things at least as
well if not better than anyone else; for the second he had to have
'strong' talk. These are still recognized by the Trio as the impor-
tant characteristics of a leader, and it is very much on them that the
leaders rely today for maintaining orders and settling disputes.
However the present size of the settlements greatly weakens the in-
fluence of these informal means, and no new methods of mediation
or coercion, perhaps backed by sanctions, have appeared. Rather
unsuccessful attempts at applying sanctions have been made. These
have included the whipping of Indians as punishment for misde-


meanours. (It is not at all certain where the notion of corporal pu-
nishment arose since it is not a traditional Trio practice. A possible
explanation is that it is an overzealous application of certain Biblical
admonitions). Other sanctions have been discussed and tried but no
satisfactory ideas have been forthcoming. One reason for this is that
the traditional Trio response to conflict or coercion is migration.
This is still the normal reaction to such situations even if it is only
threatened rather than put into practice. This problem was
highlighted at Kwamalasamoetoe as a result of a severe dispute
between the two senior Village Leaders, who happen also to be the
two senior Church Elders. Without mediation on the part of non-
Indians it seems fairly certain that one or other of the two men
would have left the village for a longer or shorter time, perhaps
with a sizeable group of followers.
In the absence of any new forms of dispute settlement and the
presence of the traditional reaction to conflict, the unity of the large
settlements remains at risk. This problem will worsen with the
withdrawal of mission personnel and the lack of any competent
outsider to arbitrate in disputes.


Although not all the data collected on this topic have been analysed
as yet it is clear that Trio social organization has not undergone any
important changes. In fact it has remained remarkably intact while
adjusting itself to new conditions that have arisen. Some examples
of this can be given.
The large settlements are not simply disorganised agglomera-
tions of houses, but are divided into groups separated by well
defined physical and social boundaries. The composition of these
groups is almost identical with that which existed in traditional
villages. The Trio continue to follow their traditional marriage
rules, and the pattern of exchanges of objects and services between
different categories of kin and affines remains as it was 14 years
Some further comment on this last aspect is required since some
Trio claim that the relationship between affines is changing. It is


said that the conventional avoidance behaviour is no longer ob-
served and that in-laws now talk to one another.6 Avoidance, it was
explained, was part of their bad old way of life. However, observa-
tion failed to detect any obvious diminution in the practice, and
Trio of all ages, allowing for normal individual variation, still be-
have in the traditional manner. On the other hand, the Trio consi-
der that the conventional obligations and duties owed between af-
fines should continue. Some people complain that various services
are not being fulfilled because the individual owing them was too
occupied with wage labour. It is not known whether the present in-
cidence of failing to fulfil obligations is any higher now than in the
past when it resulted from other causes, including residence in dif-
ferent villages, but for the moment it is not resulting in any serious
unrest except in the odd individual case. Although a number of In-
dians had received sums of money from affines, usually in order to
acquire some specific item, money is not recognized as a substitute
for traditional affinal prestations.
In II.1. mention was made of the increasing number of three-,
and even four-generation families whose existence results in the
main from an increase in life expectancy. One of the side effects of
this is that a man's obligations to his parents-in-law last much lon-
ger than in the past. Formerly a man who had a mature son-in-law
would not normally have a surviving father-in-law, and he would
gradually have been able to retire from the more energetic activi-
ties, leaving these to his son-in-law. This situation is not so com-
mon today, and a man with a mature son-in-law often finds himself
with a father-in-law to whom he still owes prestations. Behaviours
and expectations have not yet adjusted themselves to this new situ-
ation, and it is not possible to predict how they will. However, the
new vertically increased extended family would seem to present a
good institution through which to accommodate to the demands
made on its members' time and energy by both the subsistence
economy and wage labour.7
Finally, on this topic, it should be stressed that it is the combina-
tion of an intact social organization and a fully functioning subsis-
tence economy which has allowed Trio society to maintain its fun-
damental integrity.


11.5. HEALTH

It would be superfluous to make any detailed observations on the
state of Trio health since this has been carefully monitored for over
a decade and detailed information on it is available.8 It will suffice to
say that the general level of Trio health is good, that they receive
excellent medical attention, and that all those concerned in bring-
ing this state of affairs about deserve congratulations for what they
have achieved.
However, some comments on Trio ideas relating to the c .usa-
tion of sickness and death need to be made in order to warn of cer-
tain problems that may arise in the future. This is a complex
subject and since it can only be dealt with briefly here some
oversimplification is necessary.
Traditionally the Trio did not just become sick or die. Sickness
and death were the result of the maleficent activities of some agent,
either human or spiritual, or both acting in coordination. For ex-
ample, accidental death resulting from a tree falling on someone re-
quired for a proper explanation a further agency than the falling
tree. The Trio perfectly well understand that if a tree falls on
someone it is likely to kill him, but there are further questions: why
did the tree fall, just then and on that particular person? The ans-
wer was to be found in some malevolent agent, human or spiritual.
The same sort of explanation was given in cases of sickness. Sick-
ness was not simply a matter of the body as a physical entity, but a
phenomenon that was equally symptomatic of social problems. In
other words, for the Trio the individual's being consisted of a net-
work of social relationships, and sickness indicated the malfunc-
tioning of these just as much as of the body. Diagnosis and cure
concerned both the physical and social aspects of the individual,
and the traditional medical practitioner, the shaman, was involved
in restoring both physical wellbeing and social harmony; health de-
pended on both. A vital component in the causation of sickness and
death was cursing, the idiom in which disrupted social relationships
were expressed.
These notions have not undergone any fundamental changes al-
though they have adapted themselves to the new teaching about the


5. Under missionary guidance, the Trio church has become nearly self-sufficient with ser-
vices being conducted by Church Elders.

6. A large proportion of the Trio can now read and write in their own language and are be-
coming familiar with arithmetic. Elementary teaching is carried out by Indian teachers.

spirit world and to western medical practices. The vital influence
on the individual's health of the state of his relationships with
others is still of paramount importance. The idiom in which this is
now commonly expressed is that of people's spiritual integrity,
their relationship with God. The sinfulness of others, as much as
one's own, can bring about sickness and death. The efficacy of
medical treatment is incorporated in this set of ideas, for it is
claimed that God withholds the power of medicine if its giver is not
a 'proper' Christian. The Trio definition of a Christian is strict, but
the assessment of an individual can be made post facto, depending
on the outcome of a particular event.
This is of some importance to the future of medical work among
the Trio. Most of the Medische Zending voor Suriname nurses
have been the focus of accusations by Indians. The Trio blame the
nurses for the deaths of certain individuals, saying that the medi-
cine had failed to work properly. While unpleasant and disturbing
for the nurses such accusations have no further implications be-
cause they are directed against outsiders who have a different value
system. However, this will not be the case when the medical care is
left in the hands of the Trio clinic helpers. These Indians will face
grave difficulties when the medicine which they have dispensed has
failed to cure. The problem is serious enough to undermine the fu-
ture possibility of a self-sufficient Trio medical programme. This si-
tuation is not helped by the fact that seven out of the eight Trio
clinic helpers now being trained are women. Given the nature of
Trio society and the position of women in it, this is a mistake. The
female clinic helpers, even more than the man, will be the object of
great social and psychological pressures.
There is one further problem in the creation of a self-sufficient
group of clinic helpers, and this is a linguistic one. The aim is that
while the clinic helper will operate within her own society she will
be using western medicine and be backed by medical resources
from outside. It is difficult to see how, within the foreseeable future,
any of the clinic helpers are going to achieve adequate fluency in
Dutch to allow them to communicate with non-Indian speakers
from the coast.



A very large proportion of the Trio are now literate in their own
language, being able both to read and write it. A few are able to
speak and write a little Dutch and/or Surinamese. A growing num-
ber of Trio is also numerate to the extent of being able to do basic
arithmetical exercises. Counting, which in the absence of numerals
did not exist formerly, is now a natural part of everyday life for
many Indians. Given the Trio's increasing and inevitable invol-
vement with money this has proved a particularly useful additional
Another aspect of numeracy has been an increasing understan-
ding of western notions of time. Many Indians have watches and
know how to read the time; they have started to adopt a western
calendar, and there are signs of an adoption of a chronological
framework by which past events can be dated.
The Trio schoolmasters who are being trained are competent to
teach reading and writing in their own language, and also elementa-
ry artithmetic. However, once again there is the problem about
how the Indian teachers are to gain sufficient fluency in Dutch in
the near future so as to be able to teach it.
At the moment no adult education is given, but schooling is pro-
vided for boys and girls up to approximately 18 years old. School
hours are arranged so that they do not interfere with the Indians'
normal daily and weekly routine. Holidays are arranged to fit with
the interests of all parties. The value of schooling is recognized by
many of the Trio, and in particular they appreciate the advantages
that are to be derived from knowing arithmetic and being able to
speak Dutch and/or Surinamese.


Almost all the Surinam Trio are nominal Christians although the
enthusiasm of the years following conversion has waned and a rath-
er more balanced approach to religious practices is now taken. Less
time is spent in church, and many Indians no longer find it necessa-


7-8. The policy of training Indian medical assistants is paying off, and there are now a
number of Indians capable of treating with Western medicine a wide range of complaints.


ry to go more than once a week. There has been a decline in pray-
ing before embarking on almost any activity, and when prayers are
said their duration is much briefer.
All this is particularly true of the younger generation which has
grown up in a nominally Christian society. Young people are
generally more casual towards Christian beliefs, and fail to
appreciate the part Christianity played for their elders vis-a-vis
traditional beliefs. For example, aware of but insensible to the
central importance of tobacco in communication with the spirit
world, many young Trio can see nothing wrong with smoking and
do so. A further contributing factor is the Trio's widening
knowledge of the outside world where are to be found good and
trustworthy people who do not adhere to the strict Christian tenets
taught by the missionaries.
Even if there has been some falling away from strict Christian
ideals, this does not mean that the Trio are going to or are in a posi-
tion to revert to their traditional beliefs. To a surprising degree the
form and content of the traditional religion has been forgotten
(even by the older people) or become blurred through the incorpo-
ration of Christian themes. The present religion is an amalgam of
old and new ideas which has its own internal dynamic, and the
withdrawal of direct missionary contact with the Trio will not halt
or reverse this process.
In the spheres of social and economic organization the missiona-
ries have had little influence, and only a temporary one in the polit-
ical arena. However, Bible teaching has had a profound affect on
many facets of Trio life, although it is not always easy to distin-
guish the changes brought about by the missionaries from those re-
sulting from secular contacts. For example, during the last 14
years, the Trio have become much more selfassured, especially in
their dealings with outsiders. Of course this could be explained as
the natural adjustment to the vastly increased experience of
outsiders which they have had. However, there are too many
examples from elsewhere that indicate that it is not a necessary
natural response to wider contact. Nor does it explain in the case of
the Trio why they are no longer so frightened of the Bush Negroes,
people with whom they have interacted for over one hundred years,
and more in the past than the present. At least in part, the source of


this new-found self-confidence is attributable to Christian teaching,
and to the simple but explicit faith that God will answer the Trio's
prayers and protect them.
One final point here, and this is a conservative rather than an in-
novative aspect, is that all Christian teaching has been done in the
Trio's own language. While this approach speeds up the rate of
evangelisation, at the same time it leads to a greater distortion of
the original message. In the case of the Trio it is also an important
contributory factor to the more-or-less total monolingualism that
continues to characterise the Trio.9


Trio society and culture have changed in the last 14 years, but not
all that much and in certain crucial ways not at all. There has been
a gradual and on the whole successful adaptation to their changed
and changing circumstances. The socio-economic structure has re-
mained intact; their health is much improved and demographically
they are in a strong position; and the various agencies involved
with them are making strenuous attempts to prepare the Indians to
understand and be able to partake in the wider Surinam society.
There has been a loss of traditional knowledge and practices but not
to the point where it represents a threat to the society's autonomy.
Given changed conditions techniques and skills not at present prac-
tised would be revived. At present and as far as things have gone
the Trio case can be regarded as a success story, especially when
compared with what has happened in similar situations elsewhere.
That this is so is almost entirely due to the efforts of a few dedicated
individuals who have spent many years working on their behalf.
However this does not mean that there are not difficulties ahead.
There are tensions in Trio society which can best be summarized in
terms of the centripetal and centrifugal forces operating there.
At the moment the main elements of the centripetal force, that
acting to maintain the large settlements, are the various services
available in them; medical, commercial, educational, and spiritual.
The potentially strongest centrifugal force, that acting to disperse
the large settlements, is the Trio desire for money. If work is avail-


able in or near the villages this force is neutralised, but there is no
guarantee that employment will be so located. The strength of this
force nearly became evident in 1978 when it looked as though
Paloemeu would continue as the main centre of work for the people
at Tepoe. If this had happened there is every indication that a
proportion of the Tepoe inhabitants would have moved their
residence back to Paloemeu.
There are other centrifugal forces at work. In particular can be
mentioned the lack of any sound means to regulate disputes and the
traditional tendency to move in the face of tension and conflict.
There is also a greater awareness on the part of many Trio of the
disadvantages of living in large settlements. They complain of the
lack of peace and quiet in the large villages, and realise that there
tends to be a local scarcity of many essential items from agricultural
land to game, and from firewood to house thatch.
It is difficult to predict what the future developments will be but
on existing evidence the following forecast seems safe. Both Tepoe
and Kwamalasamoetoe are sited on rivers which provide good
means of communication, and this asset has been made even more
useful by the ownership of outboard motors. This means that the
Indians, while maintaining a house in the main village, can more
readily have a secondary settlement some distance away. To some
extent this has already happened at Tepoe where Indians have
houses and have cut fields away from the main village. Observation
from the air suggested that something similar had happened at
Alalaparoe, it has happened on a larger scale among the Brazilian
Trio,10 and it would be surprising if it did not occur in due course at
Kwamalasamoetoe. This pattern of dispersal round a focal village
which is a service centre is almost certainly the best way in which
the Trio can merge new ways with traditional practices.


- That the status of the Trio Indians as citizens of Surinam, with
all the rights and privileges that entails, be confirmed, but that due
and appropriate allowance be made for their unique social and cul-
tural tradition together with the right to develop in their own way.


- That the Trio be granted inalienable land rights to an appropri-
ate area of the interior of Surinam.
- That the Medische Zending voor Suriname and the West Indies
Mission be encouraged to continue their operations among the
Trio. If this is not possible, that a well qualified advisor/coordinator
of Indian affairs be appointed whose task it will be to mediate be-
tween the Trio and the non-Indian world.
- That no work, development or other schemes be introduced
without careful consideration of their aim and likely outcome.
- That the current practice of making gratuitous gifts and exces-
sive promises to the Trio be replaced by more reliable and realistic
forms of subsidized assistance.
- That the Government be prepared to introduce legislation to
prevent the exploitation of the Trio by wage labour and to ensure
the maintenance of their traditional subsistence economy.
- That some provision be made for giving a few Trio a technical
- That, beyond these recommendations, as little disruption as
possible be allowed to the present path of Trio development.



I The authorities responsible for giving me permission to carry out research among the
Trio stipulated that I should report to them on the state and condition of these Indians.
The report was in fulfilment of that requirement. Because a number of other official
and unofficial bodies and concerned individuals expressed interest in the results of my
investigations, and because no terms of confidentiality were imposed on me, the report
was circulated fairly widely. At the moment of revising the report for publication
(January 1980) I have received no reaction or comeback to it.
I am extremely grateful to the Surinam authorities for giving me permission to do
my research, and to the many people, above all personnel of MEDISCHE ZENDING
MISSION, for all the help, kindness and hospitality they offered.
The research was funded by the SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL of GREAT
BRITrrAIN under Grant No. HR5344/2.

2 Other recent reports on the Surinam Trio include Bos (1967) and BRANDS et al.
(1969), and for the Brazilian Trio there is FRIKEL (1971). Accounts of change in other
Cariban societies of the Guyanas can be found in ADAMS (1972, 1979), KLOOs
(1971), SCHWERIN (1966), and THOMAS (1973).

3 FRIKEL & CORTEZ (1972). This figure was composed of 222 Trio, 64 Kaxuyana, and
13 Ewarhoyana.

4 THOMAS (1973: 74) has concluded that it is the improved infant survival rate rather
than changes in female fertility which accounts for the recent rapid growth of the
Pemon population.

5 A not dissimilar state-of-affairs is reported from the Karinya (SCHWERIN, 1966: 85-6.
& 174).

6 A similar change among the Brazilian Trio is noted by FRIKEL (1971: 83).

7 For changes in the pattern of cooperation within the Barama River Carib family as a
result of the introduction of wage-labour see ADAMS (1972: 104-5; & 1979).

8 From 1965 onwards first the Surinam Interior Fellowship and then the Medische
Zending voor Suriname issued twice yearly statistics on health and health care among
the Trio and Wajana.

9 For accounts of missionary activity and its effects among the Trio in Brazil see CORTEZ
(1977) an REWES (1977).

10 For the situation in 1970 see FRIKEL (1971: 43-5). Since then the process of
decentralisationn' has continued (personal communication from FRANCISCO
CERQUEIRA currently carrying out fieldwork among the Trio in Brazil).



ADAMS, KATHLEEN J, 1972. The Barama River Caribs of Guyana restudied: forty years of
cultural adaptation and population change. Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation: Case Western
Reserve University.

ADAMS, KATHLEEN J., 1979. Work opportunity and household composition among the
Barama River Caribs of Guyana. Anthrops 74 : 219 222.

Bos, G, 1976. Sociologische notities over de Trio-Indianen. Marienburg, Suriname.

BRANDS, A., et al., 1969. Notities betreffende de sociologie en de landbouw der Bovenland-
se Indianen in Suriname. Algemeen Diakonaal Bureau van de Gereformeerde Kerken: Leus-

CoRTEz, ROBERTO, 1977. 0 'Diaconato' indigena: articulafdo etnica no recdncavo do
Tumucumaque Brasileiro. Dissertago de Mestrado: Universidade Federal do Rio de

FRUmEL, PROTAsIo, 1971. Dez anos de acultumado Tiriy6: 1960-70. Museu Paraense Emilio
Goeldi, Publicaqoes avulsas 16: Belem-Para.

FRIKEL, PROTASIO & CORTEZ, ROBERTO, 1972. Elementos demograficos do Alto Paru de
Oeste, Tumucumaque Brasileiro. Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Publicaqbes avulsas 19:

KLoos, PETER, 1971. The Maroni River Caribs of Surinam. Van Gorcum & Co.: Assen.

REWES, RALPH. 1977. Los Indios Tiriyos con la ayuda de antrop6logos se integran a la vida
modern. Geomundo 1: 738-751.

SCHWERIN, KARL H., 1966. Oil and steel: process of Karinya culture change in response to
industrial development. Latin American Studies 4. Latin American Center: University of
California, Los Angeles.

THOMAS, DAVID JOHN, 1973. Pemon demography, kinship, and trade. University Micro-
films: Ann Arbor.

Institute of Social Anthropology
University of Oxford,
51 Banbury Road, Oxford





Toen, na de proclamatie van 30 september van het jaar daarvoor,
op 1 juli 1863 aan de slavernij op de Antillen (en Suriname) einde-
lijk een eind was gekomen, werden op die dag 6750 mensen feeste-
lijk in vrijheid gesteld, waaronder 67 die aan het Gouvernement be-
Al sinds 1817 had de op CuraCao werkende pater J. Stoppel er
bij koning Willem 1 en zijn regering op aangedrongen de slaven
een meer menswaardig bestaan te geven, wonder meer door hen met
hun levenspartner te laten huwen, onderwijs te laten genieten en
gezinsscheidingen bij wisseling van eigenaar van b.v. plantages on-
gedaan te maken. Allemaal zaken waarvoor ook diverse commissies
aan het werk zijn geweest, v66r en na de emancipatie. Meer dan het
aantal in vrijheid gestelde Curacaose ingezetenen van Afrikaanse
herkomst was echter reeds vrij, al was dit een vrijdom met beper-
Afgaande op schattingen ons, wonder anderen, door Dr.C.Ch.
Goslinga verschaft in zijn werk 'Emancipatie en emancipator' van
1956, mogen we gevoeglijk aannemen dat bij de algehele emanci-
patie van 1863 het aantal z.g. vrije Negers dat van de onvrijen ver-
re overschreed. Bij die vrije Negers waren er een aantal die al ge-
neraties lang in het burgerleven een plaats hadden gevonden, want
al in de Taxatielijst van 1702 (1) komen 'vrij Negers' voor die in
zoverre in goede doen zijn dat zij aangeslagen werden voor het be-
talen van belasting. Ook in het z.g. Hoofdgeld als eigenaren van
Maar het grootste aantal slaven dat de vrijheid weet te verkrijgen
vinden we in en na de tweede helft van de 18e eeuw. Er bestonden
verschillende, vaak willekeurige, redenen om uit slaafse dienst ont-


slagen te worden. De minst humane was wel die, als door ziekte of
onbekwaamheid hij of zij overbodig werd en met zijn z.g. vrijbrief
in feite een hoogst onzekere toekomst tegemoet going in de stad, le-
vend van genadebrood. Of als door het verlopen van een plantage of
zijn maatschappelijke status, de eigenaar van de zorgen over zijn af-
hankelijken verlost wilde worden. In dit geval hadden de nieuwe
vrijen een betere kans van slagen dan de eersten. Veel gevallen van
in-vrijheidstelling kwamen ook voort uit genegenheid voor een
trouwe dienaar of dienares, een vlijtig arbeider die zijn aspiraties
niet wonder stolen of banken stak, en niet in het minst bij ge-
vallen van een intieme relative waaruit de nakomelingen een onmis-
kenbare familieband gingen betekenen, zoals wij ook verder in dit
artikel zullen tegenkomen. In de 18e eeuw, toen allengs duidelijk
werd dat slavernij een onhoudbaar kwaad was, werden buitenecht-
lijke nazaten zowel gekend als erkend.
In een groot aantal testamenten dat wonder ogen kwam, meest nog
van stadsbewoners, troffen we bij de begunstigden in de verdeling
van zowel roerend als onroerend goed, ook de namen aan van sla-
ven. Zij verkregen testamentair tevens hun vrijheid in die gevallen,
erfden vaak huis en haard, of ground. Zo schenkt Frans Grootestam,
zoon van de gelijknamige Frans 'de oude', en evenals deze bekend
planter in zijn tijd, aan zijn buitenechtelijke dochter Marietje, die
hij verwekt had met de Negerin Hortensia, in 1782 de plantage
Zorgvliet of Corporaals Tuyn, tegenover Daniel, en naast Jan Kock
gelegen. De 'vrij Mulattin' Marietje komt later voor wonder zowel
de achternamen Grootestam als Niemand. Zij huwt Johan Andreas
Schaup wiens knoek gelegen is binnen de plantage St. Nicolaas.
Frans Grootestam had geen kinderen bij zijn wettige vrouw, en bij
zijn dood erven zowel zijn vrouw en zuster als Marietje.
Planters hadden ook intieme verhoudingen met de autochtone
bevolkingsgroep, n.l. de Indianen. In 1752 (2) laat een zekere An-
dries Boothman 'alles na aan de Indianin genaamt Maria de Roga,
door de wandering genoemt Maria Damoe. De laatste naam komt
nog voor op Curagao. Welke knoek zij bezat is niet bekend. Wel
weten we van andere Indianen die plantages bezaten, zoals Jeroni-
mo, eigenaar van de ground die hij in 1709 verkocht, en die nog
zijn, thans 'geheiligde' naam draagt: St. Hyronimo, of Leentje Bas-
tiaanse die in 1737 de ground verkocht die later de plantage Patrick


Er bestonden, zoals wij zagen, vele motieven om uit slaafse
dienst te geraken, doch er bestonden slechts twee methoden waar-
op, met consent van de eigenaar, door middel van z.g. vrijbrief Ma-
numissie werd verkregen.
De eerste method, n.l. het vrijkopen door middel van extra ar-
beid, was de oudste en tot aan 1863 toegepast. Gebleken is dat al
v66r 1700 slaven zich door het leveren van 300 schepels mais vrij
konden kopen. Een schepel bestond uit een (meest houten) schop
met opstaande rand waarmee de voorraden in de magazijnen
werden gemeten. Een schepel mais stond heel lang in waarde gelijk
aan 1 Peso, en voor drie honderd ervan verdiende een slaaf -na
overleg met zijn meester- de vrijheid. Op de meeste plantages
hadden de arbeiders kleine eigen grondjes waarop zij bijvoeding
kweekten als boontjes, wat groenten en vruchten, om aan het
eenzijdig door het hoofdhuis verstrekte funchi-rantsoen wat
variatie te geven.
Door extra mais aan te kweken en de ground zorgvuldig te cultive-
ren, (en vermoedelijk going het opbrengen daarvan in cooperatie
met bevriende lotgenoten) oogst men op die manier een overschot
dat als betaling werd afgedragen aan de heer en meester. Vrijkopen
verliep vaak in termijnen; men bracht niet gauw 300 schepels in
an seizoen op van een stukje ground, zeker niet als een deel ervan in
droge jaren voor eigen gebruik beschikbaar most blijven.
De andere method werd vaak toegepast op de slaven die voor
hun meester een bepaald beroep uitoefenden in de stad als: schoen-
lapper, schrijnwerker of pondjesbaas, die een vastgesteld bedrag per
week moesten opbrengen. Door opvoering van dit bedrag werd een
aflossing overeengekomen die most leiden tot de vrijdom van be-
trokkene. Weglopen, alhoewel zeer veel voorkomend, had geen en-
kele zin; op paper bleef de ongelukkige een slaaf. De vluchteling
leed dan het leven van een paria, leed longer en angst want hij bleef
een vervolgde tot hij weer gevat werd. Zelfs een vlucht naar de kus-
ten van Venezuela bracht niet altijd bescherming: ook hier kon hij
in slaafse dienst gesteld worden, of worden uitgewisseld. Velen van
de weglopers werden verraden en gevat, of kwamen om.
De meeste vrijbrieven werden afgegeven wonder het behind van
gouverneur Isaac Faesch (1740 tot zijn dood op 13 Oct. 1758) en
zijn opvolger Jean I.C. Rodier, die waarnemend was van 1758 tot


1761 en eind 1762 tot 1764, en vast aangesteld van 1764 tot
In het tussenliggende jaar, 1761-1762 heeft Cura4ao een uiterst
lastig en tactloos bewindsman gehad aan Jacob van Bosvelt, die
kans zag in de kortst mogelijke tijd na zijn aankomst en installatie
met iedereen overhoop te liggen. Hij had niets dan afbrekende
kritiek op al datgene dat door zijn voorgangers was volbracht, en
ook het grote aantal vrije Negers was hem een doom in het oog.(3)
Maar nog voordat hij in deze situatie kon ingrijpen stierf Bosvelt,
en nam Rodier zijn functie weer over.
Rodier, een oud-zakenman en reeds vele jaren woonachtig op het
eiland wist de situatie better te beoordelen dan de nieuwbakken Bos-
velt. Over het toenemend aantal vrije Negers verdedigde hij zich in
een brief aan de Heren Bewindhebbers door op te merken dat ze
'niet meer last veroorzaken dan andere luiden en getrouw hun
dienst vervullen in het Vrij-Negerkorps als ze daartoe geroepen


In de geschiedenis van het plantagewezen is het opmerkelijk te zien
hoeveel weduwen of anderszins alleenstaande vrouwen knoek- of
plantage eigenaars zijn. Het merendeel is geboren en getogen op
een plantage en heeft zodoende de agrarische kennis, die
onontbeerlijk is voor het welslagen van een opzet als die de
Curacaose planter voor ogen heeft, door ervaring opgedaan.
Ook wonder vrijgelaten slaven komen we ze in groten getale tegen,
vrouwen die voor korte of langere duur een plantage bezitten en be-
sturen. Zo bezit reeds in het jaar 1715 de Vrij Negerin Magaya een
perceel ground in het Ruyter Quartier. In in 1743 is het de eveneens
Vrij Negerin Maay die een kleine plantage bezit, annex de grotere
plantages Zeelandia en Grootdavelaar. De ground van de
eerstgenoemde wordt in 1793 Macay genoemd bij een overdracht
van een belendende plantage, en bij examinatie ervan noemt de
factor Jan Evertsz het 'een blood stukie ground' (OAC 1095, fol
71). Samen met het belendende Vriendenwijk vormt het later het
zo bekende mooie plekje Mahaai, dat na 1940 als woongebied door


particulieren werd 'ontdekt', zoals J. van Soest terecht opmerkt in
zijn 'Olie als Water' (1977).
De Vrij Negerin Anna Maria, in de wandeling Anika genoemd
koopt in 1814 de plantage Watervliet, nabij Scherpenheuvel. Maar
ondanks de bekende waterrijkheid hiervan kan ze het werk kenne-
lijk niet aan en verkoopt het een jaar later.
In 1785 vinden we de Vrij Mulattin, ook Anna Maria genaamd,
die als weduwe van de blanke planter Pieter Stuyling haar kleine
plantage verkoopt 'nabij Groot. St. Joris en Scherpenheuvel gele-
gen'. Mogelijk wordt hier Klein Tuintje bedoeld, nu nog als zoda-
nig bekend. Dan is er in 1796 Anna Matthew, Vrij Mulattin, die
de Plantage Chobolobo bezit. Zij is tevens de naamgeefster aan deze
zoutplantage, die vanaf haar bezitsperiode in de overdrachtdocu-
menten als Sebollobo genoemd wordt (OAC 1098 fol. 202-3) alvo-
rens haar huidige naam te krijgen. Voordien going het onroerend
goed van hand tot hand wonder namen Uytzicht, Zoutpan en Grote
Zoutpan. Op het levensverhaal van de ex-slavin Maria Magdalena,
komen we later in dit artikel nog terug.


Gouvernementsslaven hadden de beste kansen om vrij te komen;
de WIC stond welwillender dan b.v. plantage-eigenaren tegenover
het verlenen van de Vrijbrief. Vooral de gouvernementsplantage
HATO spande de kroon. Deze waterrijke plantage, tevens
ontspanningsoord voor hoge militairen of ambtenaren, was vele
jaren de retraite bij uitstek voor vele gouverneurs. De plantage
leverde zowel geregeld maisoogsten als fruit. Het aantal slaven
bedroeg gemiddeld tegen de honderd, waaronder een aantal die
elders gewerkt hadden en nu van een rustiger oude dag konden
genieten. In 1773 was het merendeel zelfs boven de 50, waaronder
een zekere Maria die 100 jaar oud was. (4)
Het waren dan ook de gouverneurs die slaven van Hato, wegens
bijzondere diensten, of getoonde ijver, in vrijheid stelden, met een
flinke knoek als toegift. Deze gronden vindt met nu nog links en
rechts van de weg naar Hato, gerekend vanaf de rotonde bij Toren-
kwest. De meeste van deze oude plantagegronden die toen aan de


Vrij Negers werden gegeven zijn thans verkaveld in woonwijken,
doch oude namen als Luis Paula, Calabare, Juan Hato, Baas Gracie,
Guanapa, Nanie, Gora, Jenefoe, Kanga, Guanota enz. spreken
duidelijke taal!
Twee grotere plantages in deze omgeving, die op dezelfde manier
zijn ontstaan zijn: Juan Domingo (ongeveer 75 ha, gelegen tussen
Julianadorp aan de weg naar West Punt), en Ceru Fortuna onge-
veer 150 ha, en oostelijk van Hato gelegen). Beide voormalige
plantages zijn inmiddels aanmerkelijk verkaveld ten gunste van wo-
ningbouw. Mr. Jan Noach Du Fay is de oorspronkelijke stichter
van deze plantages. Hij kwam in 1721 op Cura4ao aan, als opvol-
ger van de (waarnemend) gouverneur Juan Pedro van Collen, en
bleef voor de volle tien jaar, tot 1731. Omstreeks 1729 kocht Du
Fay voor eigen rekening de twee bovengenoemde percelen ground
die braak lagen, met het doel er plantages van te maken. Misschien
had hij toekomstdromen als planter, na zijn functie neergelegd te
hebben, maar de werkelijkheid zou anders blijken te zijn.
Du Fay stelde op beide nieuwe plantages eenfactoor aan om toe-
zicht te houden op de werkzaamheden, waartoe hij twee, z.i. ge-
schikte, krachten uitkoos wonder de slaven van Hato en hen in vrij-
heid stelde. De eerste heette Juan Domingo, die de leading kreeg
over de plantage, die sindsdien zijn naam draagt. De andere factor
was de Vrij Neger Francisco Bertran (ook wel Beltrano geschre-
ven), die Ceru Fortuna going cultiveren. Vermoedelijk werden zij
geholpen door slaven van Hato die Du Fay aan deze plantage ont-
trok. In januari 1731, toen de werkzaamheden, waaronder het bou-
wen van een woonhuis, voldoende waren gevorderd, schreef Du
Fay eigenhandig het document uit dat hem het privilege gaf tot het
vormen van een koekoraal (5). Hij going met al deze zaken behoor-
lijk buiten zijn boekje, en werd dan ook in hetzelfde jaar (1731),
toen hij opgevolgd was door Juan Pedro van Collen, door de Heren
Bewindhebbers in Nederland gevoelig op de vingers getikt. Het was
ten ene male verboden voor overheidsdienaren plantages te bezit-
ten, al werd dit verbod door velen ontdoken. (Gouverneurs kochten
soms plantages op naam van derden om geen last te krijgen.) Doch
met het aanleggen van liefst twee nieuwe plantages going Du Fay
over de schreef! Mogelijk zal de door hem zelf bedongen grondprijs
destijds ook een rol hebben gespeeld, alhoewel wij die niet hebben
kunnen achterhalen.


Du Fay zag zich genoodzaakt zijn nieuwe plantages van de hand
te doen, en hij deed dit op een humane manier: hij gaf de en ca-
deau en vroeg voor de andere een lage prijs. De acte met betrekking
tot de overdracht van Ceru Fortuna luidde als volgt:(6)
3 juli 1731
'Juan Pedro van Collen gouverneur verklaart dat in eigen per-
soon is verschenen de Heer Mr. Jan Noach du Fay -scheepen der
stad Amsterdam en oud gouverneur van Curagao, welke verklaart
verkocht te hebben en over te dragen aan de vry Neger Francisco
Beltran een stuk grondgenaamt Shera Fortuna, gelegen op de grote
berg omtrent de Plantage Hato, verdeelt in zes(!) perceelen land,
met opstal van huis, en privilege van coralen.'
De prijs bedroeg Peso 800. Niet is bekend of Beltran dit bedrag la-
ter wist op te brengen. Hij verkocht zijn bezit al in 1735 aan
Jaques Veeris. Spoedig daarna going het landgoed van hand tot hand
en werd voor een deel verkaveld. Als plantage heeft het nimmer
iets betekend.

De ex-slaaf Juan Domingo verging het better. Hij kreeg in 1731
van Du Fay het enorme perceel ground waarop hij werkte, met be-
huizing enz. gratis. Afgaande op het feit dat de ground, na 21/2 eeuw
nog steeds zijn naam draagt, mogen we aannemen dat Juan Domin-
go en zijn nakomelingen lang op dit bezit hebben gewoond. In ons
archief zijn we echter zijn naam kwijtgeraakt. Zoals ook die van
Piet (zonder meer!), ex-slaaf van David Senior, die in 1751 van
Gouverneur Faesch een deel van de voormalige plantage Suffisant
kreeg. Of van Ceintje, wiens naam voortleeft in de knoek Vader
Ceintje, gelegen ten Westen van Jongbloed. Zij, en velen die naam-
loos blijven in de plantagegeschiedenis, verpersoonlijken de levens-
geschiedenis van hen die eens niets bezaten, ook het hoogste goed
de vrijheid niet, maar die op een gouden dag hun lot verbeterd za-
gen en verder leefden als bezitter van ground, en huis en haard.
Toch moeten we hierbij niet vergeten dat het plattelandsleven
zoals dat zich op de Antillen afspeelde allerminst rooskleurig was.
Om aan de droge ground en het hete klimaat vruchtdragende gewas-
sen te ontlokken was constant arbeid en idem irrigatie vereist, en
het bleef steeds een wonder als het weer lukte!
Toen Curacao, ook voor de andere eilanden van de toenmalige


kolonie, voldoende andere werkgelegenheid bood, zoals na 1915
(Shell, handel en nijverheid, of de Overheid), werden allengs de
tuintjes en plantages verwaarloosd en bleven alleen de huizen over
met een karige begroeing op de velden en weinig of geen vee in de
koralen. Aan een agrarisch tijdperk was definitief een eind geko-
men en werd nadien bij velen vermoedelijk het begrip geboren
dat plantagebezit een zaak was geweest welke hende di col6 niet


Vervolgens willen wij de lezers de opmerkelijke geschiedenis van
Maria Magdalena Martha niet onthouden. Ook hair naam is tot in
lengte van dagen verbonden aan de, zij het thans sterk ingekrom-
pen, ground die zij en haar man Francisco in cultuur hebben ge-
bracht. Deze oude plantage was ook, evenals de hierboven eerder
besproken percelen, gelegen langs de oude weg naar Hato, Ooste-
lijk van wat nu de Franklin D. Rooseveltweg heet. Heden ten dage
ingeklemd tussen Klein Marchena, Gora, Jenefru en Selinda, be-
sloeg Maria Magdalena oorspronkelijk samen met Rosendaal,
dat in 1735 werd gekocht een oppervlakte van ca 150 ha. Het
was gelegen tussen de plantages Bleinheim in het zuiden en ver-
moedelijk Salsbach in het noorden; in het oosten begrensd door
Buena Vista. Maria Magdalena moet een doortastende vrouw zijn
geweest; alle officiale documenten staan op haar naam. Zij en haar
man waren als huisslaaf in dienst bij de moeder van Juan Pedro van
Collen, genaamd Leonora Goedvriend. Vermoedelijk was het in
1731, toen Van Collen opnieuw gouverneur werd, dat zij door
diens bemiddeling voldoende vrijheid van handelen kregen om een
eigen bestaan op te bouwen. Ze kregen hun vrijheid echter niet
zonder er iets tegenover te zetten zoals we straks zullen zien.
Maria Magdalena en haar man boerden kennelijk goed; enkele ja-
ren na het aanleggen van de oorspronkelijke plantage kochten ze de
ground in het zuiden gelegen erbij, die later (1747) de naam Rosen-
daal zou krijgen, als volgt: (7)


Ao 1735
De Gebroeders Pieter Claasz en Andries Christiaansz verkopen aan
Maria Magdalena Martha, vij Negerin, een stuk ground bij de Plan-
tage genaamt Bleynheim, off en aan het Joodse Kerkhoff
Maar vermoedelijk was de opgave te zwaar. Een uitgebreider
terrein most bewerkt worden en er zijn aanwijzingen dat de krach-
ten van haar man Francisco afnamen. Wat de redenen geweest zijn
kunnen we alleen gissen, maar op 2 Mei 1740 verkoopt Maria
Magdalena Martha de 'canoek genaamt St. Magdalena aan Juan de
Palma' (8) en vermoedelijk doet zij even later haar nieuw
verworven plantage (Rosendaal) over aan (haar dochter?) Juana
Maria Baptista. Deze op haar beurt verkoopt echter al in 1747.
St. Magdalena heeft inmiddels een huis, en de inventaris ver-
meldt: 2 Negerslaven, 100 schapen, wat hoenders en 2 rijpaarden.
Maria Magdalena koopt een huis 'aan de overzijde van de haven',
hetgeen wil zeggen dat ze zich op Otrabanda vestigde. Inmiddels is
aan de aflossing voor de verkregen vrijheid een eind gekomen ge-
tuige de volgende acte:(9)
16 October 1741:
'De Neger Francisco betaalde aan Leonora, Weduwe' Goedvriend
voor zijn vrijdom en dito vrouw en kinderen P 1140.- in 12 a/beta-
lingen, uaaronder levering van 100 schepels mals. Geregistreert
wonder mijne Minuten wonder No-86.
Get.: Leonora Goedvrient
en Jan van Schagen-fiscaal
Maar twee rampen zouden spoedig de vreugde bederven. Een jaar
nadat hij als vrij man in het leven stond, stierf Francisco, en bleef
Maria Magdalena achter met haar kinderen waarvan we met zeker-
heid weten dat er twee volwassen zonen bij waren, die zeevarend
waren. En just daar sloeg het noodlot opnieuw toe!
Spaanse, Franse en Engelse kaperschepen hebben de wateren
rond onze eilanden lang onveilig gemaakt. Ondanks de op Curacao
uitgeruste schepen, die bekostigd met gelden uit de z.g. kaperkas de
zee school probeerden te houden, vielen vele Nederlandse barken
en andere schepen in handen van zeerovers. Deze leefden van de
buit, en de opbrengst van de vaak geconfisqueerde vaartuigen.
Soms lukte het de Nederlanders een zeeroverschip op te brengen, of
de kapers tot betere gedachten te brengen, zoals in de beginjaren


van 1700 toen de Nederlandse kaper Rijnier Tongerloo, na het
onze schepen erg moeilijk gemaakt te hebben en vele naar Jamaica
opgebracht te hebben, uiteindelijk zijn houding verbeterde en,
liggend in St. Michielsbaai, een generall pardon' kreeg van het
Curacao gouvernement. Andere naties waren onverbiddelijk in
hun vernietigende jacht en veroorzaakten op de eilanden grote
verwarring als er keer op keer vaartuigen, ontdaan van hun lading,
en na betaling van een hoge losprijs, na lange afwezigheid
Zo gebeurde het met het schip waarop de twee zoons van Maria
Magdalena voeren; deze kwamen echter niet terug en waren door
een Engelse kaper naar de Engelse kolonie in Amerika opgebracht,
om als slaaf verkocht te worden! Maria Magdalena zat niet bij de
pakken neer. Ze beschikte kennelijk over zowel overredingskracht
als een invloedrijke positive in de Curacaose gemeenschpap, getuige
de volgende stap die genomen werd:
Isaac Faesch, sinds twee jaar de nieuwe gouverneur schreef op 7
juni 1742 eigenhandig een brief (10):
Aan de Heer Coll. Thomas, Gouverneur over Rhoode Eyland-
enz... Alszoo de vrij Negerinnin Maria Magdalena, weduwe van de
vrij Neger Francisco, wonende alhier, heeft het ongeluk dat enkele
van haar zeevarende zoons door een Engelse kaper genomen en
naar Rhoode Eyland (zijn) opgebracht.
Faesch zond in zijn brief de bewijzen van vrijdom en vroeg drin-
gend de mannen weer op vrije voeten te stellen. Bewijzen van een
happy ending zijn ons helaas niet wonder ogen gekomen in deze
zaak, doch aangezien er een ere-code bestond met betrekking tot dit
soort gevallen, nemen we aan dat de zoons vroeg of laat Curacao
weer hebben teruggezien.
Hoe going het verder met Maria Magdalena? Zij koopt en ver-
koopt geregeld huizen op Otro Banda, voert zelfs een 'cachet' of
wel een zegelring waarmee ze de transacties bij de notaris bekrach-
tigt. Deze ring droeg een beeltenis van een boom, met daarnaast
een vrouw met een hondje dat tegen haar opspringt. Van boven
voorzien van de woorden Hou en TROUW. lets dergelijks had ook
de Vrij Negerin Martha van Bambergen, die in dezelfde jaren
zegelt met een beeltenis van een boom, waarnaast een man met
laarzen en een brandende flambouw in de hand. Ook hier een hond-


je dat tegen hem opspringt. Zij echter voerde in bovenrand de
woorden: TROU EN GEHEYM. Wl1k geheim vragen we ons af...(1 1)
Nog enkele malen komen we de naam van Maria Magdalena
(Martha) tegen maar dan betreft het waarschijnlijk een dochter of
kleindochter, gezien de datum: 1828. In dat jaar testeert Maria
Magdalena's naamgenote, als voorbeeld van de 'geest des tijds' als
De Vrij Negerin Maria Magdalena enz..., loat haar 2 Negros slaven
na overlijden vrij, zo zij zich weten te gedragen naar de letter der
geldende wetten.'
Zij tekent, net als haar naamgenote v66r haar, met een kruisje.

Vrij Negers sloegen ook soms de handen ineen bij de koop of ver-
koop van onroerend goed, zoals in het volgende geval van drie -
niet met name genoemde Vrij Negerinnen die omstreeks 1795
een stuk ground bezaten aan de 'Overzijde van de haven', genaamd
Maguaje, met een weg naar het binnenwater, of Kreek, zoals het
toen heette. Op hun ground hadden ze 'een huis, combuys en twee
afdakken'. Omstreeks 1800 verkopen de drie vrouwen het geza-
menlijk aan Andries A. Scharbaay, en tekenen met een kruisje.
In dezelfde stadswijk krijgen enkele jaren later een aantal vrijge-
maakte slaven van wijlen dominee Rasveld en zijn eveneens overle-
den weduwe een stuk ground ten geschenke, als volgt: (14)
(Testament opgemaakt 31 juli 1809, geopend 1812)
'Mej. Sybrecht van Uytrecht in leven weduwe van de Wel. Eerw.
Heer Wigboldus Rasvelt, in leven predikant alhier, enz... laat na
aan al haar vrigegeven sloven en slavinnen, een stuk ground ge-
naamd de Loos, met daarop afdakken enz., gelegen aan de Overzijde
van deze haven, aan de Noordzijde van de Breedstraat, be-Westen
het huis van G.M. Ellis.
Onbekend is gebleven het aantal mensen dat in dit geval de vrij-
heid kreeg, maar vermoedelijk betrof het hier haar huispersoneel.
De weduwe Rasveld liet na haar overlijden de plantages Ascencion,
de Kloof en Soemboe na, doch die gingen en zeer waarschijnlijk
inclusief de aldaar werkende slaven over in handen van haar neef
C.L. van Uytrecht. Haar humaniteit kende dus grenzen. Het
perceel ground 'de Loos' is inmiddels opgeslokt in de enorme stads-


ontwikkeling die sindsdien op Otrabanda heeft plaatsgevonden, en
komt niet in de stratengids voor van Willemstad.
Op eenzelfde manier vermaakt wonder meer de Weduwe van
Abraham Nolet in 1747 'al haar ground, geld en goederen aan haar
tevens vrijgemaakte slaven'

Er hebben op CuraCao in het verleden verschillende plantages be-
staan die de naam Eenzaamheid droegen. Het toeval wil dat twee
ervan in handen kwamen van ex-slaven. Het eerste perceel van die
naam maakte deel uit van de gronden die nu wonder plantage Rapha-
el vallen, het andere is thans een deel van Karpata en Heintje Kool.
De Vrij Negers kwamen als volgt aan hun bezit:
29-4-1794 Plantage de Eensaamheyd, gelegen in het Joden Quar-
tier, met opstal van huysinge en magazijn, verkocht door Jurriaan
Crisson, oud-Capt. van de Burgerij, oud Raad, enz. aan de Vrij Ne-
ger Juan Bentura. De plantage ligt in gemeen tranqueer met de
plantage Nooytgedacht (alias Heintje Kool). (15)
De andere transactie betreft weer een schenking blijkens het op
27 januari van 1824 geopende testament: (16)
Plantage de Eensaamheyd, met vervallen woonhuis, gelegen in de
midden divisie, le district en in eigen tranqueer liggend, (enz) nage-
laten door F Borel Rijke, en gelegateerdaan de Vrij Negerin Marie
Consecion, gelegen tussen de plantages van Alb. Bergh en Andries
de Lannoy.
Men zou, al lezende, de nieuwe knoek-eigenaren veel voorspoed
en geluk willen wensen, doch de geschiedenis gunt ons dat genoe-
gen niet. Juan Bentura n.l., die in 1794 in het bezit kwam van
eerstgenoemde plantage, stierf in 1803, waarna de Weesmeesters
zijn nagelaten bezit aan Rudolf Raven verkochten, en zo de eventu-
ele erven genoegdoening schonken.
En Maria Consecion voelde kennelijk niets voor het plantersle-
ven want zij verkocht haar nieuw verworven bezit onmiddellijk aan
haar buurman Barend Bergh voor 2050 Peso, waardoor de Savaan
en Maria's kortstondige bezit aan 4en families going behoren. De
naam Concession komt heden ten dage nog voor op Curacao, zij het
niet als plantage-eigenaren. Hetzelfde kunnen we zeggen van de
naam Bentura, met uitzondering van een flinke tuin in de buurt
van Santa Rosa die deze naam draagt.


Het is ondoenlijk om alle Vrij Negers op te noemen die in de z.g.
slaventijd al beschikten over eigen kostgrondjes, grotere knoeken
of zelfs plantages van enige belang. We hebben met een aantal voor-
beelden aangetoond dat een lang vergeten groep kleine boeren in
het verleden heeft bijgedragen aan het wel en wee van de Curacaose
agrarische sector.

Ter afsluiting van dit artikel moge er op worden gewezen, dat
sommige Vrij Negers al rond het jaar 1750 gebruik maakten van
testamenten. Zij hadden lakzegels met initialen, doch tekenden de
overdrachtsdocumenten meestal met een kruisje. Er waren toen
ook al Vrij Negers, en 'moulatten', die volgens de officiele huwe-
lijksafkondigingen huwden, net als de blanken (17).


(De afkortingen OAC en WIC staan voor respectievelijk Oud Archief Curapao en West ladi-
sche Compagnie met daarachter de nummering zoals in het Haags Algemeen Rijks Archief
is geindexeerd.)

1. WIC 567, fol. 356-372
2. OAC 820
3. WIC 1163 getuigt van zijn zwartgallige visie in dit opzicht, in zijn brieven aan de
Heren Bewindhebbers in Patria.
4. WIC 1165, fol. 33
5. OAC 800
6. ibid
7. OAC 804
8. OAC 1550
9. OAC 847
10. OAC 848, fol. 165
11. OAC 1555, testament, geopend 1756
12. OAC 1082, fol. 52
13. OAC 1102, fol. Ill
14. OAC 1114, fol. 106-7. Onder een 'Afdak' werd verstaan een vertrek met een half pan-
nendak dat tegen de muur van een groot gebouw, of woonhuis werd gebouwd. Men ziet
ze nog wel op Scharloo en Otrabanda.
15. OAC 1094, fol. 46
16. OAC 1127, fol. 59. A. Bergh was eigenaar van de Savaan nabij het huidige Juliana-
17. Voorbeelden o.a. in OAC 829 uit 1753.



Introduction .................... ........... ... ... ...... 52

Religion in Moore Town ............. ..................... 53

The spirit world ............ .. ........... ....... .. ....... ...... ........... 55

Ceremonial organization ................................ ....... ... 57
The Fete-Man The Pakit Spirit possession Divination
Herbal medicine Animal sacrifice Ritual objects Ri-
tual motions Music and Dance

Outsidersin Kromanti dance. ..... ........... .......... 76

Outside influences in Kromanti dance 80

Relationship of Kromanti dance to Afro-Jamaican cults........ 81

Kromanti dance and Maroon identity .................. ............... 86

N otes and M ap ....... ........ ......... ........ .... ..... .... 91

References ............................. ....... ... 99


In the mountainous interior of Jamaica live several groups of people
known as Maroons. They are the descendants of African and
Creole slaves who escaped from bondage during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries and fled to the mountain forests, where
they were able to from their own societies.' Despite repeated
efforts, the British colonists were unable to destroy these rebel
communities. The Maroons successfully adapted to their new envi-
ronment, and developed a formidable military organization based
on an innovative style of guerilla warfare. The British found it ne-


cessary to sue for peace, and in 1739 concluded treaties with the
Maroons, granting them legal freedom, parcels of land, and a sort
of vague, incomplete political autonomy.3
Today there are four major Maroon communities in Jamaica:
Accompong, in the western part of the island; Scott's Hall and
Charles Town, in the east-central part; and Moore Town, the lar-
gest community, in the eastern Blue Mountains. These communi-
ties today are politically and economically more or less integrated
within the larger Jamaican society, but their inhabitants retain a
distinct ethnic identity. While present day Maroons for the most
part share the culture of other rural Jamaicans, they maintain a def-
inite cultural distinctiveness within a few limited spheres. One such
domain, and the central topic of this paper, is the system of beliefs
and practices relating to the supernatural.
The information presented below, unless otherwise indicated, re-
fers specifically to Moore Town. Although much of it would apply
accurately to the other Maroon communities as well, each commu-
nity displays significant variations of its own.4


There is little in the historical literature from which we can draw a
picture of the traditional religion of the early Maroons.' The most
we can assume is that some sort of religious syncretism began to
occur at an early stage as Maroons from a great many different
African cultures first came into contact. Drawing from several
West African (and possibly Central African) models, the result
must have been unmistakably 'African' in a broad sense -
although there is some possibility also of early Christian influence
through slaves who joined the Maroon communities after several
years spent on the plantations.6
Christian missionary activity first reached Moore Town in the
1820's. Within a few decades an Anglican church had been built
in the center of the village and virtually the whole community con-
verted. Throughout the century the Anglican church remained the
sole mission in Moore Town and dominated the religious life of the
community.7 In spite of the thoroughgoing conversion of Maroons


to Christianity on the surface, it appears that the traditional religion
continued to be practiced as a separate system. The process which
SPICER (1954: 665-670) called compartmentalizationn' seems to
have operated in Moore Town in the religious sphere. Christianity
and the traditional religion coexisted as separate systems, each with
its own concerns. While Christianity provided the setting for
worship and preparation for the afterlife, the more immediate
problems of everyday life, as well as the major crises, were handled
in the context of the traditional ceremony known as Kromanti
dance (also called Kromanti Play). The two systems existed
simultaneously, apparently without conflict.
This situation continued into the twentieth century. However,
by the 1940's, the influence of several other Christian sects had
reached Moore Town. Within a short time the Anglican hegemony
had been replaced by a more complex picture, as new churches
sprang up within the village and claimed their own converts. In re-
cent times a large number of foreign-based fundamentalist sects
such as the Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the
Church of God have gained dramatically in popularity. Unlike the
Anglican church of Moore Town, some of these churches violently
and actively oppose the traditional Maroon religious practices in
general, and the Kromanti dance in particular. For this reason, and
a variety of others, the traditional religious system of the Moore
Town Maroons has declined to the point that very few younger
Maroons participate in it or have any real understanding of it.
The majority of the people in Moore Town today belong to one
or another of the several Christian churches in the village. Many of
these churches forbid participation in traditional Maroon rituals.
Thus it should be borne in mind that a large segment of the com-
munity no longer participates in the ceremony of Kromanti dance,
on the infrequent occasions it is held. Nevertheless, many elements
of the traditional belief system continue to be shared by all
segments of the community, and during times of crisis even the
strictest Christians may deign to seek aid from one of the few
remaining ritual specialists.
Although the Kromanti dance complex is waning in importance
for the majority, it continues to occupy a primary place in the lives
of a few individuals. The main body of this paper is devoted to an


examination of this complex as it exists today. As in the past, the
Kromanti dance and the belief system associated with it remain
'compartmentalized', and there is little evidence of Christian
syncretism, even though some of its primary practitioners are also
practicing Christians.
Once again, in reading what follows, it should be kept in mind
that the Kromanti dance is no longer a community-wide event; nor
is it held on a regular basis. But it continues to have importance for
a large number of Maroons, although fluctuating participation
makes even an approximate estimate of this number impossible.


In traditional Maroon belief, there is one supreme deity, the omni-
potent creator, known as Yankipong or Tata Nyame, who inhabits
the sky.8 Yankipong is generally seen as being remote from the liv-
ing and unconcerned with everyday human affairs. Nonetheless, in
times of extreme crisis it is felt that his aid may be sought through
prayer. But direct communication with Yankipong is not possible.
Below Yankipong are the spirits of the ancestors. There is no
pantheon of intermediate deities such as one finds in many African
and Afro-American religions.9 The spirits of the dead, called dup-
pies, jumbles, or bigi-man, are closely linked with the living and
have a great deal of influence in daily human affairs. They possess
the power to bring about either good or evil.
Close contact is maintained between living Maroons and the an-
cestral spirits. Duppies may be manipulated by the living for their
own purposes. In most respects they resemble living persons very
closely. Like the living, they have desires and needs, emotions and
personalities; like human beings, they can be angered or appeased,
threatened or cajoled. They do possess, however, super-human
powers, and if given the proper attention and favors, will sometimes
put these powers at the disposal of living individuals. Power over
spirits is sometimes referred to as obeah, as in the rest of Jamaica,
although this term has been supplanted by the more modern term,
science. Nowadays in Moore Town 'obeah' carries negative impli-


cations, for it has come to mean the use of power by outsiders for
evil ends.
The ancestral spirits are arranged in a sort of vague, informal
hierarchy. At the apex are the spirits of the earliest Maroons, who
lived centuries ago. Few of these are remembered by name,
although the great heroes, such as Kojo and Nanny, have not been
forgotten.o1 Also near the top of the hierarchy are four early
Maroon warriors (sometimes referred to as 'generals'):

1. Swiformento" 2. Okonoko 3. Puss 4. Welcome"1

These ancient spirits are more distant from the living than the
spirits of those who have died in more recent times. As a result of
their great age they have acquired tremendous power, but in turn
they have become farther removed from human affairs. In fact, they
have become more or less inaccessible to the living. These four
topmost 'generals' are said to correspond to four 'tribes' or
'nations' (both of the foregoing terms are Maroon usages):

1. Dokose 2. Ibo 3. Mongola 4. Prapa1'

There is a certain amount of confusion as to which individual cor-
responds to which tribe, but these are the four most commonly
mentioned tribes from which the present day Maroons are said to
have sprung. Each of the four 'generals' is vaguely conceptualized
as the apical ancestor of all Maroons descended from the tribe to
which he corresponds.
The concept of 'tribes' among the present-day Maroons is rather
nebulous. Most traditionally-oriented Maroons assert that one or
another African tribe is dominant in their family history, although
they will add that there has been so much intermarriage between
tribes in the past that it is sometimes very difficult to single out the
one particular tribe which outweighs all others in importance. The
only social context in which this notion of tribes comes into play is
the traditional ceremony of Kromanti dance, in which certain
songs are said to relate to specific tribes, and to invoke the spirits of
past Maroons descended predominantly from one or another of
these tribes. Aside from the four tribes listed above, which are con-


sidered the principal tribes in the Maroon ancestry, several others
are cited by present-day Maroons as having contributed to early
Maroon society. Among these are: Mandinga, Nago, Wesuman,
Mabiwi, Mabere, Timbambu, Oyesu, Okrio, Okriba, Chankofi.14
All of these individual tribes are subsumed under the one most
powerful tribe, the Kromanti tribe, which has become almost syn-
onymous with the name 'Maroon', and the primacy of which is
taken for granted.
Under the four 'generals' is another group of four ancient war-
riors whose spirits also possess great power:

1. Wendandu Kofi 2. Jinsandi Kofi
3. Kromanti Kofi 4. One-yeye Kofi

None of these early Maroon spirits play much of a part in the cere-
mony of Kromanti dance. Although spirit possession is an impor-
tant feature of the ceremony, usually only the younger, less power-
ful spirits take possession of living individuals; it is said that
possession by one of the truly ancient spirits is extremely violent
and may lead to the death of the person possessed."
Under the upper echelon of ancient spirits lies a large body of an-
cestral spirits whose powers decrease in proportion to their close-
ness to the living. A very large number of such spirits are remem-
bered by name, and it is this group which is in constant interaction
with the world of the living. Every Maroon no longer alive, within
the past few generations so long as he or she is still remembered
by the living belongs to this group.


There is no special cult organization connected with Kromanti
dance. Participation is open to all adult Maroons; non-Maroons are
excluded, except under certain special circumstances. Ceremonies
used to be held regularly, several times a week, in a structure
known as the asafo house, located near the center of the village.16
Several years ago the asafo house fell into disuse, and today public
ceremonies are usually held at a nearby spot known as Bump


Grave. Aside from these infrequent public ceremonies, private
ceremonies are sometimes held at individuals' homes. Although in
principle any adult Maroon may participate in these, in practice
they are usually attended only by a select few who are invited.
There are two types of Kromanti dance: Business dances and
Pleasure dances. The latter are dances which have no purpose other
than entertainment, and in which spirits are not purposefully in-
voked (although spontaneous possession will sometimes occur in
this context). Business dances, on the other hand, are taken very se-
riously, and are only held in order to achieve some clear purpose
through the invocation of ancestral spirits. Most often Business
dances are held for the purpose of healing spirit-caused illnesses, al-
though nearly any problem can be dealt with in this context. In
times of crisis a Business rather than Pleasure dance will be held,
and the aid of ancestral spirits will be sought. Business dances are
more frequently held than Pleasure dances."

The Fete-Man

The ritual specialist, and the central personage in Kromanti dance
is known as the fete-man. There are a number of alternative names
for him: dancer-man; work-man; Business-man; titai-man; kumfu-
man.1t But the most common form is fete-man.
At any given Business dance there is usually one key fete-man
who is chosen in advance to work for the person seeking aid.
Although several fete-men may be present at the dance, it is this
particular chosen individual who is responsible for effecting the
cure, or the resolution of the problem if it is something other than
an illness.
Kromanti dance usually begins shortly after nightfall and con-
tinues until daybreak; when very serious problems are involved,
the dance will sometimes continue for several days and nights.
During the initial stages of the dance, anyone present is permitted
to participate in the dancing, which is sometimes done in ring for-
mation. However, after several hours the dance loses its recreation-
al character, and the centralfete-man becomes possessed by an an-
cestral spirit. At this point, the proceedings become very grave and


formal, as the possessed fete-man takes complete control of the
ceremony. During the remainder of the ceremony, except for short
periods when he is absent from the danceground, the fete-man is
the center of attention. He gives commands which must be follow-
ed, and he alone dances, unless he invites others to join him. He al-
so decides which songs are to be sung.
Although this central position is most commonly occupied by
males, there are also a lesser number of respected fete-women who
achieve an equal degree of power and whose services are equally
valued. 19

The Pakit

The primary source of afete-man's power is his pakit.20 A pakit is
an ancestral Maroon spirit which has devoted itself to a particular
fete-man, and has become his own personal possession. A fete-
man's pakit is seen as the key to his success, and is at the very root
of his power. If a man's pakit is weak, then he will not excel as a
fete-man; if a man's pakit is strong, then he will most certainly
achieve great things in the realm of the supernatural. Pakits are
owned only by fete-men and are not well understood by the general
population. In almost every case, a man's pakit is the spirit of a
Maroon who, during his own lifetime, was a practicing fete-man
with a pakit of his own. It is said that whenever a living fete-man
dies and enters the spirit world, his spirit will eventually find an-
other living fete-man to which to devote itself.
Any Maroon may strive to become a fete-man, but it is felt that
certain individuals are born with a special gift, and only such per-
sons can achieve true greatness in this field. These individuals often
begin to exhibit their gifts at an early age: they are able to see or
sense the presence of duppies around them while still children, and
their unusual behavior is interpreted to mean that they possess a
sort of innate affinity with the spirit world. Sometimes these gifted
persons enter into an informal apprenticeship with an older fete-
man, who teaches them the secrets needed to manipulate the spirit
powers. But apprenticeship is by no means a necessary stage in the
process of becoming a fete-man. In fact, any adult Maroon who is

able to attain a pakit, by whatever means, is capable of becoming a
There are several possible ways of obtaining a pakit. For a few
especially fortunate persons the process is a quite simple and
passive one: the spirit of a former fete-man takes a strong liking to
them, and offers itself to them as a pakit. This occurs most often in
a dream, in which the spirit approaches the sleeping person and
communicates its desire to give itself to him. In such cases there is
no choice, as refusal of the offer would anger the spirit and result in
dangerous repercussions. Once this relationship between living
person and spirit is established, the former is well on the way to
becoming a fete-man. The spirit, which is now his own personal
pakit, will visit his dreams often and begin to teach him the
knowledge much of it secret necessary to a fete-man.
In some cases, the process of acquiring a pakit is more violent.
The spirit which decides to become a person's pakit may simply
take possession of that person while he is in a waking state. When
this occurs, the possessed person loses control of his behavior and is
unconscious of his surroundings. Sometimes his behavior will
become violent and unpredictable, and it will appear that he is
going mad. Little by little, however, it will be understood what is
happening: a spirit has chosen to be this person's pakit and, being
too impatient to teach him gradually, has possessed him
The majority of persons who wish to becomefete-men do not re-
ceive a pakit in this way, but rather, must go and actively seek the
help of a fete-man It is possible to buy a pakit from an experienced
fete-man (although this is considered unethical); if things are done
properly the fete-man should be willing to perform this service free
of charge, out of friendship for the receiver, and in recognition of
his natural rapport with the spirit world.
A fete-man will never give away his own pakit, of course. He will
instead give another spirit with which he has become acquainted in
his work, and over which he has achieved a certain amount of
power. The private ceremony in which a pakit is given to a person
is known as wash-head, for it involves the bathing of the recipient's
head with a special herbal mixture.2 Contained within this mixture
must be a special 'weed' which corresponds to the recipient's tribe;


it is said that for every tribe represented among the Maroon there is
a matching 'weed' for example, Ibo weed, Dokose weed, Nago
weed, Mandinga weed, Chankofi weed. Although in reality 'tribal'
divisions among the Maroons have long since faded into the past, a
prospective fete-man should have some idea of which tribe is
dominant in his ancestral background, so that the proper 'weeds'
can be used in washing his head.
In many cases, the person whose head is being washed must also
be taken to the grave of the person whose spirit is to become his pa-
kit. At the graveside, thefete-man introduces the spirit to its future
owner, and goes through a series of motions intended to cement the
new relationship. If things go as planned, the person for whom the
ceremony is being held is now a pakit-man, a fete-man who is
equipped to dance Kromanti. However, pakits given in this way are
not as powerful as those which offer themselves to individuals of
their own will, for the fete-man who gives a pakit retains the power
also to take it away.
Pakits sometimes visit the world of the living in the form of an
animal.2 Each pakit has its own special animal form which it
adopts whenever it chooses to manifest itself physically. The most
common form taken by pakits is that of ananka, the snake, but
there is a wide variety of other possible forms, such as opete, the
johncrow (vulture); okrema, the chickenhawk; or sumans, the
crayfish.23 Pakits are said to visit Kromanti dance in these animal
forms on occasion; they are said to resemble natural animals,
except that they emit a whitish glow from within they shine in
the dark. Several informants who had snake pakits claimed that
these would sometimes appear while they were dancing Kromanti,
and would coil around their bodies as they danced.
One of the most important functions of a pakit is that of protec-
tion. Kromanti dance is viewed by Maroons as a sort of metaphori-
cal warfare, on a spiritual rather than physical plane. The work of
the fete-man is conceived of as a fight a battle between the spirits
controlled by the fete-man and those afflicting the person seeking
his help. (The term 'fete-man' is derived from the verb 'fete', from
a deep layer of Maroon creole, meaning 'to fight', as well as 'to
dance for sickness'.)24 For this reason every fete-man risks incur-
ring a 'blow' a spirit-caused injury anytime he dances Kro-


anti. Even during the course of his normal daily life the fete-man
must be prepared against attack from the vengeful spirits he has
previously opposed in Kromanti dances. His pakit offers full-time
protection against such assaults, and if his pakit is extremely
strong, then he is virtually invulnerable to spirit-harm of any kind.
But most pakits do not function perfectly all of the time, and thus
must be given special attention before any crisis situation is to be
approached. Using special 'weeds' and other secret paraphanelia,
the fete-man must trim (also sometimes pronounced 'prim') him-
self ritually prepare himself and his pakit in a private ceremony
- before facing any dangerous tasks involving the spirit world. In-
terestingly enough, in Maroon oral tradition the word 'trim' is also
used to refer to the ritual preparation of the ancient Maroon war-
riors before going into battle.

Spirit Possession

No Kromanti dance can achieve its purpose without one or more of
the participants becoming possessed by the spirit of an ancestor.2' It
is common, especially early in the ceremony, for a number of
persons to experience possession by 'stray' or 'wandering' spirits
that happen to be passing by the danceground and are attracted to
the scene by the music. Such spirits usually visit Kromanti dance
merely to 'pleasurize' themselves, and their possession will nor-
mally last for a relatively short time, since they have no special duty
to perform at the Play, but have only come to dance and enjoy
themselves.26 In contrast, the fete-man will at some point if
things proceed properly be possessed by his pakit, and will then
take full control of the ceremony and begin to perform the rituals
necessary to bring about the resolution of the problem at hand.
During the greater part of the rest of the ceremony the fete-man
will remain in a state of possession, although there are likely to be
intermittent periods in which the spirit disengages from him, fol-
lowed eventually by periods of repossession. At times the fete-man
will remain in an uninterrupted state of possession for several
hours. In between periods of possession by his pakit the fete-man
may also be possessed by other spirits with which he has become


familiar, who come to the Play to satisfy their curiosity or to offer
additional help. But the fete-man's pakit is the primary spirit in the
ceremony, and will manifest itself through possession more
frequently than these other spirits. As previously mentioned, it is
said that the pakit will also sometimes visit Kromanti dance in the
shape of an animal.
The term for spirit possession in general among the Maroons is
myal.27 Although the random possession experienced by casual
participants is somewhat milder than the calculated possession of
the fete-man by his pakit, both types are called myal. In ordinary
speech a person who becomes possessed is said to 'get in myal',
'take myal', or 'catch myal'. When he goes in myal fully, it is said
that his 'head turns'. The special terminology of spirit possession,
as in many New World black religions for instance, Haitian
Vodun is based upon an equestrian metaphor. The spirit refers
to the person whose body it is possessing as its horse, and the act of
possession itself is known as riding. (The possessing spirit will also
sometimes refer to its horse as its 'boy', and will say that it is
'walking on' its 'boy'.) Anytime a fete-man is dancing for a Busi-
ness Play, he will tie his head with a specially prepared kerchief
known as a saddle, which has been treated beforehand with special
'weeds'. The saddle is a precious possession, for it must be worn by
the fete-man in order for his pakit to mount him properly.
The condition of myal, especially the myal of the fete-man, is ex-
tremely serious and must be treated with great caution, for it is po-
tentially very violent. Bystanding participants who are not posses-
sed (persons not in possession are said to be live-head or
clean-yeye)y must stay dear of the possessed fete-man, and should
not approach his vicinity unless called forward by him. Possessed
Kromanti dancers have inhumanly quick and unpredictable
tempers, and the slightest incident may suddenly arouse their
anger. Maroon spirits are pugnacious by nature, and the older the
spirit and thus, the higher its position in the hierarchy of the
spirit world the more excitable it will be. A favorite object of
Maroon spirits is the afana, or machete, and should a possessing
spirit be given the slightest cause for anger it will instantly get
ahold of this weapon and launch into a series of threatening


Possession is usually brought on by music and dancing, although
some fete-men also commonly experience spontaneous possession
in the absence of external stimuli. In the latter case, the fete-man
may be sitting calmly at one moment, and in the next instant he
bolts forth from his chair with great force and goes into a sort of
loping, spinning motion. When this happens, the possessed indivi-
dual must be attended to immediately by a helper who will tie his
head with his saddle and answer his commands. In the context of
Kromanti Play there are several explicit signs which warn onloo-
kers of the onset of possession. The person going into myal begins
to execute a very distinctive dance motion, a sort of jerky, spinning
movement in which one leg is crossed over the other in a rapid
backward kick. His legs begin to quiver rhythmically, and as he
bounds back and forth in this circular motion, his eyes are directed
upward in a blank stare. This continues for some time, and as the
state of possession stabilizes, the individual, still in motion, expels a
succession of piercing screams. In a matter of time, the spirit will
'cool down', but before this occurs it is dangerous to approach the
person in possession.
The intrinsic fierceness of Maroon spirits is one of the most re-
markable things about them. Although they share human
emotions and desires, these are exaggerated and distorted to such
an extent that when they possess human beings they behave com-
pletely irrationally and unpredictably. Spirits appear to operate ac-
cording to an inscrutable logic of their own. Clean-yeye persons in
the presence of a possessed individual must obey certain basic rules,
so as not to inflame the spirit. They must never smoke while a per-
son is in myal. They must remove all shiny objects from their bod-
ies, such as watches or jewelry, for these are repugnant to the spirit.
Above all, they must never address the spirit by its horse's name,
or even mention the horse's name to another person while the
spirit is in possession; to do this could cause serious injury, or pos-
sibly death, to the horse.
As the possessing spirit begins to cool down, it becomes some-
what more tractable and willing to communicate with the living
human beings around it. The possessed individual is addressed by
the living as granfa or old man if the possessing spirit is a male an-
cestor, and as grand, if a female. The granfa or grand in turn ad-


dresses living Maroons as pikin, or nyuman.30 The linguistic situa-
tion at Kromanti dance is quite complex; several different language
forms are employed within the dance context at different times.
The normal dialect of the Maroons which is essentially the same
English-based creole spoken throughout Jamaica is appropriate
for communications between living persons. On the other hand,
the 'spirit language' used in conversations between spirits themsel-
ves, or spirits and living persons, appears to consist of a deep layer
of Maroon creole which has been maintained only in the context of
Kromanti Play. Although English-based, and sharing many lexical
and grammatical features with the 'standard' Jamaican creole, it is
partially unintelligible to non-Maroons, as well as Maroons who
have no experience of Kromanti Play. Finally, there is the language
form known as Kromanti, or simply as Language, or Country.
DALBY (1971: 38) was correct in conjecturing that this Kromanti
'language' is in fact not a fully functional language, but rather, 'an
esoteric repository of isolated words and set phrases'. Although a
few phrases of Kromanti are used in a code-like way for communi-
cation, the majority of words and phrases are used for other pur-
poses, and the meanings of some of them have been lost. The main
function of Kromanti words seems to be the invocation of spirits;
the words in and of themselves have magical power. There is virtu-
ally no English content to Kromanti (it appears to be derived large-
ly from Akan, with a smattering of other influences), and being the
language of the 'first-time' Maroons, it provides a connection
through which the almost unlimited power of these earliest ances-
tors can be tapped if the user has accurate knowledge of it.'3 In
the times of greatest crisis, the fete-man feels he can rely on the in-
herent power of deep Kromanti its power to mobilize the
ancient, most powerful Maroons in his behalf. Even the remotest
ancestors will respond to the deep Kromanti and offer their aid, if
the language is properly understood and applied.
While the younger Maroon spirits which routinely possess the
living normally use the deep-level creole in their communications,
they also sprinkle their speech with bits of Kromanti 'language', so
as to draw on the power of their predecessors. Uttering fragmentary
bits of Kromanti 'language' in this way in an exclamatory tone,
without any specific communication intended is known as


'cutting Country', and is a distinctive pattern of Maroon behavior
shared by the living and the spirits of the dead alike.32
After the spirit possessing an individual calms down, it becomes
more malleable and willing to listen to the desires and needs of the
living persons surrounding it, so long as its commands are obeyed.
Normally, at any Kromanti dance there is a person who accepts the
role of kwatamassa (quartermaster), a sort of special assistant who
remains unpossessed and follows the orders ofthegranfa orgrandy,
fetching for him whatever ritual objects or other items he may re-
quest. The kwatamassa sometimes also acts as an intermediary be-
tween the granfa and living individuals, some of whom may not un-
derstand the spirit language very well.
Many of the spirits who possess persons in Kromanti dance are
recognized by participants as someone they had-once known as a
living person. Some spirits will directly identify themselves by
name, while others will only give behavioral clues as to their identi-
ty. Most spirits can be recognized by certain idiosyncracies, such as
a limp, or a twitch, or some special facial expression for which they
were known while alive. Once the possessing spirit has calmed
down somewhat, and is recognized by some of the participants, the
atmosphere becomes a bit more relaxed, and there may even be
some joking or bantering between the granfa and participants. But
people must always remain somewhat cautious in the presence of a
gran/a, even when a certain warmth of feeling is apparent, for Ma-
roon spirits are never as rational or predictable as human beings,
and are subject to sudden changes of temper.
A major part of Kromanti Play revolves around the performance
of physical feats by persons in possession. There are many reports
of possessed fete-men climbing trees backwards or upside down, fly-
ing though zinc roofs without causing damage, or devouring whole
glasses or bottles. One of the most impressive feats, said to be per-
formed only rarely today, involves the use of a machete. The fete-
man, in possession, cuts or stabs himself severely sometimes, it
is said, he actually disembowels himself and then disappears into
the woods. When he returns in a short while the wound is comple-
tely healed, with little or no scar tissue to show where it originally
was. There exist today Maroon oral traditions relating how the
ancient warriors were once trained in this art of magical healing be-


fore being allowed to join in battle against the English.
When the spirit cools down, and after a good deal of begging on
the part of the individual seeking his help, the granfa will eventual-
ly agree to take the case, and will start to perform a series of rituals
lasting through the night, some of which will be briefly described at
a later point. After the granfa has finally completed the work for
which he has been called, he will be ready to return to the spirit
world. The spirit may be able to 'pull' itself off its horse, but, more
often, will request the assistance of the kwatamassa, with a com-
mand such as 'kre me haas'! ('clear my horse'). In 'clear'
the possessed individual, a particular object chosen by the spirit
must be held by the kwatamassa or someone else the object can
be anything from a wooden stick or glass bottle to a piece of chalk
- and passed over and around the individual in a series of motions,
while he reclines on his hands and feet. The last motion consists of
a circular movement directly over the head, and as soon as it is
completed the person who has been in possession jerks back into
the arms of the kwatamassa and lets out a gasp. Once the spirit has
been 'pulled' in this manner the person who was possessed
stumbles about in a dazed and confused condition for several
minutes. When he becomes lucid he claims that he remembers
nothing that took place during the period of his possession.


Everyfete-man possesses a special object known as ajege, which is
given to him by his pakit soon after their relationship is first estab-
lished.33 Thepakit usually appears in a dream and tells the fete-man
that he should look in a particular secret place where an important
object has been hidden. The pakit guides him to this spot, where
his jege is waiting, and begins to explain its uses to him. Almost al-
ways the jege resembles a marble between a half-inch and two
inches in diameter; it is usually a light shade of amber in color, and
is transluscent, with a dull, slightly pocked surface.
The jege is one of the most important tools of the fete-man, for it
is crucial to the practice of divination. Without his jege a fete-man
is nearly powerless, because he is unable to determine the ultimate


source of the problem he is supposed to be treating. Although there
are variations of method between individual fete-men, the most
common procedure for using the jege is outlined below.
When a prospective client first consults a fete-man for help, there
is a period of private discussion during which the fete-man attempts
to 'read' the person to tell the person what exactly his problem
consists of, and what sort of help he desires, before the latter has
had a chance to clarify it to the fete-man. This is really a formality
meant to convince the prospective client of the fete-man's mystical
prowess. The fete-man's success in this endeavor is assured by the
power of his jege, which rests in his pants pocket at the time, along
with certain powerful 'weeds' he has prepared with rum
beforehand. If the reading is a success and the fete-man decides to
accept the case, a date is set for a Kromanti dance. In the meantime
the fete-man 'trims' himself and his pakit for the dance, by
observing certain private rituals.
After the dance begins thefete-man, while still clean-yeye, even-
tually commences the process of divination. He brings out his
abaso, a white enamelled metal bowl (formerly made of wood), and
sets it on the ground in the dancing area. In the bowl is a mixture of
crushed 'weeds' and rum. The fete-man takes his jege from his
pocket (sometimes afete-man will receive more than one jege from
his pakit, and will use all of them together), and places it in the
bowl; then he picks up the bowl, and begins to roll the jege around
in it. One fete-man described the process this way:

Sometimes you must get a plate and put the marbles in it, and then throw some rum in the
plate. When you throw the rum in, the marbles are going to dance in the plate, they're
going to spin around. It's the jeges, the marbles in the plate, that you have to use to read the
sign now. The marbles are going to show you definitely what happened to the man. Some of
the marbles show you how long a man has been sick. You have marbles with marks on
them, anywhere from one to a hundred marks. When the marbles are spinning in the plate,
anywhere you see them rest and stop on a number, you can say whether it has been four
days, or five days, or two days that the man has been sick.34

The jege shows what is the underlying, spirit-related cause of the
problem at hand. When the pakit later possesses the fete-man, the
granfa will then act in accord with this knowledge to bring about a
solution or a cure. At times the clean-yeye divination proves to be
incomplete or otherwise insufficient, and the granfa must use the


jege himself to get to the root of the problem.
The oracular power of the jege may be brought to bear on a wide
variety of problems, and is by no means limited in application to the
context of Kromanti Play. Fete-men often use their jeges for perso-
nal purposes, such as reading the future so that they may be warned
in advance of approaching dangers. Jeges are also important in the
process of 'capturing' and confining malicious spirits, for they
evince the crucial signs which indicate whether or not an unseen
spirit has been subdued.
In recent times some fete-men have begun to supplement their
jeges with the use of a crystal ball obtained in one of the larger

Herbal Medicine

The Maroons are famous throughout the island for their outstan-
ding knowledge of the wild plants which abound in the forests sur-
rounding them. A great number of these are said to possess medici-
nal properties of which only the Maroons are aware; in fact, many
Maroons will say that there is no plant on the face of the earth
which does not have a use."5 In the context of Kromanti Play, the
medicinal properties of wild plants (usually called 'weeds') are seen
as secondary to their spiritual powers. How these powers are
understood varies from one individual to the next. Some
informants stated that every plant has a spirit of its own, while
others asserted that the power of a plant derives from its association
with a particular ancestral Maroon spirit. In any case, the power of
plants can be great, and is often employed in ritual contexts.
Outsiders stand in awe of the Maroons' legendary grasp of super-
natural plant lore. Several non-Maroon informants living in outside
locations told the author of incidents in which they had seen Ma-
roons use 'weeds' to 'cramp' an individual. Typically, such stories
would relate how a Maroon in an argument with a non-Maroon
would pull some 'weeds' from his pocket and, while 'cutting Coun-
try', would spray a mouthful of rum on them. Within a matter of
seconds the Maroon's antagonist would be paralyzed on the
ground, suffering convulsions. Several fete-men in Moore Town


corroborated these accounts, and claimed that the use of 'weeds'
for cramping persons in this way, whether in defense or offense,
was common.
Fete-men must become expert herbalists; if their pakit is good, it
will teach them a great deal about the uses of different herbs. So es-
sential are 'weeds' in the manipulation of spirit powers that Ma-
roons often use the phrase, 'rubbing trash' ('trash' meaning
'weeds'), as a synonym for 'working science' that is, manipula-
ting spirits.
During the course of a Kromanti dance there is usually a point at
which the possessed fete-man runs off into the woods to pick the
herbs which are required for the completion of the ceremony. The
fete-man will sometimes be gone from the danceground for an hour
or more. During this time he finds the combination of 'weeds' to
be used in the cure. Since the spirit is riding him, he is able to lo-
cate the plants, some of which are rare, in pitch darkness, without
the help of a torch or any other source of light.
When he returns with the special herbs, they are crushed and
blended with rum (and sometimes animal blood) in a bowl. This
mixture is used to 'bath' the person for whom the dance is being
held: it is applied to his skin in a vigorous rubbing motion by the
fete-man and the kwatamassa. This occurs near the end of the cere-
mony, usually shortly before daylight. The mixture should remain
on the skin for several days, and the person being treated may use
only white rum, and no water, to bathe himself during this period.
Sometimes the patient is also told to drink an herbal potion which
has been previously prepared by the fete-man.
'Weeds' are also important in the manufacturing of a 'guard'. A
guard is a protective power which is fastened to a human being and
works to fend off potential spirit harm. Every fete-man must have
one, to work in conjunction with his pakit; many non-specialists al-
so possess guards which they have purchased from a fete-man in a
private ceremony. The guard is usually administered in the form of
an herbal potion, although sometimes it is also applied externally to
the skin. Once given, it will last indefinitely, but must be kept abso-
lutely secret, or else it will 'spoil', and lose its protective efficacy.
Some informants say that a good fete-man can sense when a person
has a guard, for he will be able to perceive a slight glow emanating

from the person's body, but unless told the details of how it was ad-
ministered, he will have no power over the guard.?6

Animal Sacrifice

Most Kromanti dance ceremonies require the sacrifice of an animal
to thefete-man'spakit, in return for the work which the pakit has
agreed to carry out. The sacrifice is performed by the fete-man,
either while clean-yeye or in a state of possession. The animal's
blood is an important ingredient in the herbal mixture which will
be used in the ceremony.
The animal chosen for sacrifice is most often an okoko, or fowl,
preferably a white one; if the case is an easy one a pigeon may be
used instead, or if it is particularly difficult, an oprako, or hog, may
be employed.37 Unlike certain Afro-Jamaican cult groups in other
parts of the island, the Maroons never use goats for sacrifice. The
goat is strictly taboo for this purpose, and although many Maroons
nowadays will eat goat meat with no compunction, it is said that in
older days Maroons would carefully avoid it.
The sacrifice is performed by cutting off the head with a machete,
or cutting the throat, if a hog is being sacrificed. The blood is
caught in a white bowl, and is used for making certain ritual marks
on the patient, either before or after the 'weeds' are added to it.
The meat is later cooked and served to participants, but a portion of
it is prepared separately for the spirit, without salt, since salt repels

Ritual Objects

Each fete-man possesses certain ritual objects which he keeps inside
his house until the time of the ceremony. Aside from his jege and
his saddle, he may keep a pair of Kromanti drums at his yard.
These drums are sacred, and must be given special care, for they
provide the music for Kromanti dance. Another object which may
be used in a ceremony is the junga, the traditional Maroon spear,
made of a carefully sharpened metal blade attached to a long


wooden haft. Although used primarily for hunting wild hog in the
surrounding hills, the junga is an object of pride and a symbol of
Maroon identity, and may also be used in Kromanti rituals. Most
fete-men like to keep ajunga in their yard, whether or not they are
Many fete-men possess a special switch made from the branch of
a tree which is sometimes used in Kromanti Play as a whip. On
certain occasions it may be necessary to flog a person who is being
afflicted by a duppy, either to scare the duppy away from him, or to
exact atonement from him, if he has done something wrong which
has caused the duppy to injure him of its own accord.
If a fete-man is especially lucky he may gain possession of a thun-
der-ball, a small stone-like object with a round or oval shape and a
smooth surface. Thunder-balls are usually found in the ground, a
few inches below the surface. It is believed that they fall from the
sky, and that they are special gifts from Yankipong. A person who
stumbles upon a thunder-ball is entitled to several years of good
luck. Thunder-balls are greatly desired by fete-men in particular,
for once acquired they will act as a general enhancer of power.38
Fire, or timbambu, is an important element in Kromanti dance.
Maroon spirits are attracted by fire, and often a granfa will call for
timbambu-sticks pieces of partially burned wood with red-hot
embers at one end to be used in a spectacular dance which sends
showers of sparks about the danceground. Timbambu-sticks may
be used also to test the bravery of bystanding participants, or in cer-
tain ritual operations.
Almost any object may obtain ritual significance in the context
of Kromanti Play, for the granfa may decide to choose whatever ob-
ject he pleases to perform certain operations often for reasons
that only he comprehends. But certain objects and materials are
used more commonly than others, such as bottles, machetes,
sheets, sticks, eggs, rice, thread, pieces of chalk, rocks, mirrors.
The granfa may call for any of these during the Play, and in most
cases only he understands the significance of the objects and knows
what to do with them at that moment.


Ritual Motions

Kromanti Play always involves certain very distinctive ritual mo-
tions. One of these, called 'spinning', consists of a sort of twirling
movement which requires two persons: one of them takes the
other's hand, and holding it above the other's head, guides him
through a full turn, and then back again. After this, the person who
initiated the spin gently pushes the other person down into a
squatting position and steps over him, whereupon the other person,
still squatting, turns around to face him again, and the motion is
repeated. These motions are a typical part of possession behavior,
although they are sometimes also performed by clean-yeye persons.
They are repeated very often in the context of Kromanti Play.
When a granfa spins a living person, it is said he is 'cutting off
destruction' that is, he is clearing away any evil influences
which may be lurking nearby.39 Spinning is thus a sort of gesture of
goodwill, in which the granfa transfers a small part of his power to
other persons participating in the ceremony.
Another very important set of motions is known as busubrandi
(sometimes called faiakre). The fete-man, either while possessed or
clean-yeye, puts the patient in standing position and begins to pass
one of his ritual objects around the two of them in a very distinctive
manner: first he passes it around his own body, between and
around each leg, around the torso, then under each arm and around
over the opposite shoulder, and finally over his head. When this is
done he performs the same sequence of movements on the patient.
Then he takes each of the patient's feet and traces the form of a
cross on each sole; he follows this by similarly 'marking' the palm
of each hand, the nape of the neck, and the forehead. Sometimes
animal blood is used in making these marks on the patient. The
process of busubrandi, like spinning, imparts a measure of the
performer's power to the person undergoing it. But beyond this, it
enlists the aid of other spirits over which the performer has control,
and draws them to the living person, so that the latter may benefit
from their benevolent power.40
The pouring of libations is also common at Kromanti Play as is
the practice of 'blowing' rum. In the latter, a mouthful of white
rum is sprayed, in a fine mist, in the direction of a particular person


or object. Once again, this action can be used to draw the power of
spirits to oneself or others. It is also used by the kwatamassa during
the early stages of possession to help pacify Vhe inflamed gran/a.
The metaphor of 'tying' is often used by fete-men in discussing
their methods of operation. A fete-man may 'tie' himself before
going to a Kromanti Play at which he is just a casual participant, so
as to prevent his pakit or other spirits from possessing him. Or he
may try to 'tie' a rivalfete-man who is using spirits to work against
him. When he catches a malevolent spirit and traps it in a glass
bottle, he says that he has 'tied' the spirit. The usage of the word
'tie' thus corresponds to the idea of subduing or controlling a
spirit. The metaphor is undoubtedly drawn from the practice of
capturing a spirit by tying it with a specially prepared string or
piece of cloth. A good fete-man knows how to 'mek knot' in such a
way as to trap a spirit indefinitely.41
Aside from the above-mentioned ritual motions, each fete-man
learns from his pakit a large set of idiosyncratic ritual operations
used for a number of different purposes. Therefore, at each
Kromanti Play there occurs a large amount of ritualistic behavior
which is not socially patterned, and the meaning of which remains
a mystery to all, except the fete-man, or the spirit possessing him.
Each fete-man keeps to himself his own personal store of knowledge
which is not meant for others; every fete-man must have his own

Music and Dance

Music and dance are integral parts of Kromanti Play, without
which the ceremony cannot be held. The musical ensemble usually
consists of a pair of drums, each of which is called printing; a ma-
chete used as a percussion instrument, called 'iron', or adawo; and
sometimes a hollow piece of bamboo beaten with two sticks, called
kwat. The Kromanti drummer, known as the okrema or printing-
man, is secondary in importance only to the fete-man.42 He must
be highly skilled on his instrument, and must be familiar with a
diverse repertoire of drumming styles. When the fete-man becomes

possessed and 'throws' his songs, the okrema must know exactly
which drum style goes with each song. If he plays poorly or makes
mistakes the granfa will become agitated and refuse to work.
Normally, two drummers are needed at Kromanti dance, one to
play the supporting drum, called the 'rolling drum', and the other
to play the lead drum, called the 'cutting drum'.43
There are several different types of Kromanti songs, some of
which are associated with specific styles of drumming. The lighter,
less serious songs are known as Jawbone, and although they may
invoke spirits at times, they are used mainly for entertainment and
recreational dancing. The words of these songs are usually in
English or creole. A large number of other songs are grouped ac-
cording to the 'tribe' with which they are associated. Among these
are Ibo, Prapa, Mongola, Dokose, Mandinga. These songs are more
powerful than Jawbone songs, and are used to invoke Maroon spir-
its belonging to the same tribes. They contain fewer English words
than Jawbone. Another lighter group of songs is called John
Thomas (closely related to yet two other styles known as SaLeone
and Tambu). These songs may also be used to invoke spirits,
although their power is limited.
The most powerful group of songs is known as Country. Maroon
Country songs have a unique quality unlike any heard in other
parts of Jamaica. They are accompanied by an explosive drumming
style which approaches free rhythm that is, the drumming is in
speech mode and lacks a consistent underlying pulse and they
are chanted in a rather slow, dirge-like manner. Few of the Country
songs have any English words; they consist, rather, of Kromanti
words. These songs are usually saved for the peak of a crisis, for
they call forth the greatest powers available to living Maroons.
Such is their power that they usually will cause possession to occur
within a matter of seconds. Country songs are very sacred and
should never be sung without a purpose, for they attract large num-
bers of duppies very rapidly, and these spirits will be seriously
angered if they have been summoned capriciously.
Each of the musical styles mentioned above has a corresponding
dance style. While casual participants are welcome to dance for en-
joyment during the early hours of Kromanti Play, and are familiar
with the lighter styles, the later hours are usually reserved for the


fete-man, who is supposed to have mastered a varied and complex
set of dance movements to match each of the different drumming
Although spontaneous possession may occur without music on
occasions, at most times music is required to bring about the con-
trolled possession of a person by a particular spirit. Individual
spirits have their own favorite songs, and these may be used at a
Kromanti dance specifically to invoke them. Eachfete-man also has
a personal pakit song which he may use to invoke his pakit when he
wishes to be possessed.


Among the Maroons, a strong ethic of secrecy pervades all matters
pertaining to traditional ritual. Althoughfete-men will share a cer-
tain amount of their specialized knowledge among themselves,
even then they are reluctant to dispense with too much. There is a
strong feeling that every individual must covet and protect a certain
core of secret knowledge for himself. While he may exchange a
good deal of information perhaps even the greater part of what
he knows with other Maroons, he must always keep one last
'key' to himself, as a sort of last resort which can be seized upon in
a dire emergency. One fete-man put it this way:

Every nation is supposed to have a secret. Most have a secret. My secret I can't let out.
Some people would like to get the details of everything, but no one can get all the details, be-
cause a part of the key is there. That key is a very amazing key. That is my key. It keeps
everything steady."

This 'key' must be kept absolutely secret and must be shared with
no one, for once another person is given access to it he acquires the
same measure of power, and should he decide to turn against the
person who let out his secret, the latter would no longer have an ul-
timate defense.
On a more general level, secrecy about traditional Maroon beliefs
and practices is a dominant theme running through Maroon cul-
ture.45 Even the most general, widely-known areas of ritual know-
ledge must be kept within the in-group, and protected from the cu-


riosity of visiting outsiders. Non-Maroons are not permitted to
learn of these things. There are supernatural sanctions against the
giving out of Maroon knowledge to outsiders, and thus Maroons
have developed patterned ways of 'dodging' the queries of
meddlesome outsiders. (The Maroons have a special word, jsjifo,
meaning 'to dodge' that is, to evade or mislead, by means of
trickery or subterfuge, persons with whom one is at odds; the
concept is somewhat similar in meaning to that of 'to fool
someone'.)" There are several strategies regularly employed to
protect secret Maroon knowledge from those who should not have
access to it.47 This broad rule of secrecy is tacitly understood by all
of those who attend Kromanti Play, and is reflected in a few
maxims which one hears repeated frequently in ritual contexts:

1. 'Yeye see, mouth shut.'
2. 'He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life.'

Those who violate this rule and talk too freely to outsiders are
likely to incur the wrath of the ancestors, and may suffer some spir-
it-caused misfortune, such as an illness."
Membership in the Maroon community is conceived of in terms
of a vague ideology of blood relationship. Any person born of two
Maroon parents is a full, or 'true-born', Maroon. Outsiders,
meaning persons with no Maroon blood, are referred to by the
general Kromanti term, obroni.49 In common speech, black persons
who are not Maroons are referred to by the term niega, which may
or may not have derogatory connotations, depending on the
speaker and the context.50 Traditional Maroons will never refer to
themselves or other Maroons as niegas, but will insist that, as
Maroons, they belong to a different 'nation' from niegas. Many
Maroons harbor feelings of superiority over niega people, although
in day to day contacts they will show few signs of aloofness or hos-
tility toward the latter. In many cases, Maroons develop close
friendships with niegas from neighboring districts, and intermar-
riage between the two groups is common. (The child of a Maroon
and a niega is called a white-a-miggle, and is considered half-Ma-
roon.)'" In fact, in most contexts little or no distinction is made be-
tween Maroons and niegas. There is constant interaction between


Maroons and outsiders, both within Moore Town and in surroun-
ding areas, and more often than not such relations are amicable.
Nevertheless, in Kromanti Play the distinction between Ma-
roons and niegas and, for that matter, all other outsiders is of
paramount importance. It was previously mentioned that outsiders
are strictly excluded from Kromanti Play, except in certain cases.'2
In actuality, these exceptional cases are fairly common. People
from outside districts, well aware of the Maroons' reputation for
supernatural cunning, often visit Moore Town seeking help of one
sort or another, sometimes traveling many miles. Once they have
been directed to a fete-man, he may offer to help them by means of
salo that is clean yeye spirit work, in which no possession
occurs. On the other hand, the case may be too serious for relying
on salo, and may require the higher power which can only be
achieved in the context of Kromanti dance. If this is the case, the
outsider is warned of the danger of Kromanti dance, and if he gives
the impression that he is sufficiently brave, a dance will be planned
for him. Traditionally, if dancing for another Maroon, a fete-man
should not charge a set fee for his services, but should ask for 'yeye-
sight', meaning a token contribution the amount of which is deci-
ded by the patient. However, when dancing for outsiders, most
fete-men will charge set amounts, ranging anywhere from twenty
to more than one hundred dollars.
When an obroni attends a Kromanti Play he must be handled
with extreme caution, for nothing will so enrage a possessing
Maroon spirit as the presence of an outsider.'" This point cannot
be exaggerated. Upon sensing the presence of an obroni, whether a
niega or any other outsider, the granfa will invariably become vio-
lently inflamed, and the life of the outsider will be in peril. There is
a fairly consistent pattern of behavior occurring in such situations,
as described below.
When the time comes to hold the Kromanti dance, the obroni is
sequestered in a hut or house a short distance from the dance-
ground. The dance begins and eventually, as the music gets hotter,
the fete-man becomes possessed by his pakit. Almost immediately
the possessed fete-man (now called granfa) becomes agitated and
begins to sniff at his own armpits a gesture which is recognized
by the other Maroons present to signify that he 'smells' a 'different


blood' in the vicinity. The granfa instantly calls for an afana
(machete) and starts to rant and rave about the obroni in his midst.
When he gets hold of his weapon he may charge the house where
the obroni is located and begin to violently chop at the walls, as he
shrieks out obscenities directed at the obroni and the living
Maroons at the ceremony who are responsible for his presence.
Meanwhile, the kwatamassa and other Maroons present beg the
granfa not to hurt the obroni, who has only come for help and
intends no harm.
Eventually the granfa will cool down somewhat and it is then
deemed the proper time to bring the obroni out. The obroni is in-
structed to stand directly behind the kwatamassa and hold his
hands from behind. Thus linked together, the two of them make
their way out to the danceground. As soon as the granfa sees them
he instantly becomes incensed once again and charges at them. The
kwatamassa must stay in front of the obroni at all times and act as
his protector. So long as he stays between the granfa and the
obroni, the latter will be safe, for as a rule a granfa will never shed
the blood of another Maroon. The granfa lunges at them from all
sides, attempting to find a way around the kwatamassa, all the while
shouting and slashing the air with his machete. When he begins to
show signs of cooling down again, it is time for the obroni to face
him on his own. The obroni is placed standing up with his back
against a bamboo pole or the wall of a house; before leaving him,
the kwatamassa warns him not to move or show any signs of fear.
He is told that if he runs he may be injured.
Once again the granfa charges at the obroni and begins to hack
with great force at the surface over his head. As he chops from all
sides, splinters of wood or bamboo fly about. He may put the point
of the machete at the obroni's chest or throat and begin to apply
pressure. When he is satisfied with the obroni's courage, he will at
last step forward and shake his hand, indicating his acceptance. But
before the granfa can begin to work for him, the obroni must be
sworn to an oath of secrecy. This oath is administered by the
granfa. He takes his machete and places the blade in the obroni's
mouth, sharp side in. While uttering an incantation, he pours a
mixture, called asikere (sugar and water), over the upper edge of the
machete and down the patient's throat. Sometimes the obroni will


also be instructed to repeat certain words after the granfa, and to
take the machete and thrust it into the ground three times. When
this is done the obroni is fully sworn, and is warned that should he
tell anyone about what he sees during the ceremony, he will suffer
disastrous consequences.45
Once an obroni has been sworn by a granfa, the spirit that was ri-
ding the fete-man at the time knows him and will recognize him
during future possessions. However, if a different spirit rides the
fete-man, the swearing process will have to be repeated in its entire-
ty, since the spirit has not yet been introduced to the obroni. After
the obroni has been given the oath by the spirit that will be helping
him that night, the business at hand may proceed. Depending on
the nature of his case, the obroni will be put through a series of rit-
ual operations, some of which were described in an earlier section
of this paper. In many cases the cure will require more than one
dance, and the obroni will have to return at a later date for further


As mentioned before, Kromanti dance has been subject to a process
of compartmentalization, and there is little evidence of syncretism
with features from Christianity or other religious systems from out-
side. However, there has been a slight influence from the traditions
of magic practiced in urban areas. The word 'science', used in ref-
erence to magical or spiritual practices, is itself derived from urban
traditions. But the Maroons have adopted the term for their own
purposes, and use it to refer to traditional Maroon practices. Nowa-
days, Maroons state that they work science, while outsiders work
obeah. The major distinction between these two forms lies in the
materials used: Maroon science relies on the natural power of
'weeds', either to heal or injure, whereas the obeah practiced by
niegas depends on magical oils, powders, candles, and other manu-
factured paraphanelia, and is seen as usually being evil in intent.
Many of the materials used in obeah are imported from esoteric
companies in the United States which specialize in good luck
charms and other 'novelties'. Books and manuals of 'Black Magic'

are also used by outside practitioners of obeah. These books, most
of which are published in the United States, have been outlawed in
Jamaica, but are highly desired by obeah-men.
While a few Maroon fete-men have begun to use urban methods
and materials in the context of Kromanti Play, and particularly in
working salo, the traditionalists, who make up a majority, refuse to
incorporate these non-Maroon elements in their work. They
disparage those who use books, and oils and powders, asserting that
this only serves to dilute the natural power inherent in Maroon
'weeds'. Some fete-men state that the oils and powders used in
obeah actually repel Maroon spirits; manufactured oils and per-
fumes and natural herbs, they insist, simply do not mix, so it is bet-
ter to rely on one or the other than to try and combine the two.
Nonetheless, a number of less traditional fete-men feel that there is
no incompatibility between traditional and imported materials, and
regularly make use of manufactured items such as books, crystal
balls, oils, incense, candles, rings, and other charms, alongside
their jeges, saddles, and Maroon 'trash' (herbs)."


DONALD HOGG, in an interesting paper (1960), has speculated on
the possible origins of two Afro-Jamaican religious cults, Kumina
and Convince, in the traditional religious practices of the Wind-
ward Maroons. These two cults, concentrated in the eastern par-
ishes of Jamaica, are practiced in areas adjoining the Maroon dis-
tricts, and display a more African character than the Afro-Christian
cults found throughout Jamaica, such as Pocomania (Pukkumina)
or Zion Revival. HOGG suggests that these cults, particularly
Convince, may have developed among the Maroons, or at least
have had a historical connection with the spread of individual Ma-
roons to surrounding areas after the general emancipation of slaves
in 1838. The hypothesis is an intriguing one, but the data collected
on the Kromanti dance tradition would seem to lend it only partial
credence. Relying on the sparse data available on Maroon religion
at the time, HOGG (1960 : 16) correctly notes that


...the little information available on Maroon religion indicates that it is similar in many re-
spects to Convince. For example, both involve animal sacrifices, possession by ghosts, reli-
gious dancing, ritualized aggression, the use of ghosts for Obeah, and copious consumption
of rum during ceremonies. The members of both cults have strong propensities for climbing
trees when possessed and are reputed to accomplish the same kinds of miraculous feats.

Everything in this statement would hold equally true for the
Kumina cults, which are found in an area which roughly coincides
with that in which Convince occurs. There are several other paral-
lels between the Kromanti tradition and both Kumina and Con-
vince which HOGG does not mention. For instance, in both Kro-
manti Play and Kumina, spirit possession is termed myal; Convince
workers, on the other hand, more often use the expression 'tek
body' to mean possession. Convince members tie their heads with a
kerchief known, as in Kromanti dance, as a saddle (although it is
tied in a very different manner), while Kumina people generally do
not tie their heads at all while in possession. Both Kumina and
Convince devotees, like Maroons, make use of an equestrian
metaphor in speaking of possession. In all three traditions,
possessed persons adopt a different mode of speech from the living,
and in Kumina, participants refer to the most powerful and deepest
level of language as Country, as do the Maroons. 6
In spite of all the above, members of all three traditions are quick
to point out the differences between them, and these would seem,
from a broader perspective, to outweigh the similarities. Both the
Kumina people and the Maroons think of themselves, in a some-
what ill-defined way, as 'nations', and representatives of both tradi-
tions, while recognizing that they share a related African ancestry,
vehemently reject the idea that the two groups share the same cul-
tural and historical heritage. Kumina members refer to themselves
as 'Africans', members of the 'bongo nation', and view the
Maroons as a 'different nation' closely related to them, but with a
separate cultural tradition. Conversely, Maroons refer to Kumina
people as the 'bongo race', and think of them as a separate 'nation'
with a different tradition. Maroons and Kumina people are said by
members of both groups to represent 'two sides' of a larger,
broader African tradition which also encompasses other Jamaicans
of African descent.
This contention of separate identity and origin would seem to be


borne out by the available facts. There is a good deal of objective
evidence indicating that the Kromanti and Kumina traditions stem
from two separate cultural-historical streams which have been in
contact over a long period, and thus have borrowed back and forth
from each other. Even today, Maroons commonly visit and partici-
pate in Kumina ceremonies in St. Thomas parish, where they are
treated with special respect. Although much of what the Maroon
visitor witnesses at the Kumina ceremony will be familiar to him in
essence, much of it, unless he has been trained in the Kumina
tradition, will also appear strange. By the same token, on the less
common occasions that a Kumina person is allowed to visit a
Kromanti dance in the Moore Town area, there is much that he
will readily grasp, but the larger part of what happens will not be
understandable to him. The primary reason for this is that the
ceremonies of Kumina and Kromanti, while sharing many general
elements and possessing broad structural similarities, are based on
different behavioral patterns and distinct visual and aural cues,
many of which are related to spirit possession. When a Maroon is
possessed by a Maroon spirit, a Kumina person will not understand
his actions or his language, and the same is true conversely.
In particular, the linguistic evidence strongly supports the theory
of a separate origin for Kumina and the Maroon Kromanti tradi-
tion. Informants very quickly point out that 'African' Country
(that spoken by Kumina people) and Maroon Country are very dif-
ferent, and are not mutually intelligible. In fact, it seems fairly clear
at this point that the Country spoken by the Kumina people is basi-
cally of Kikongo (Central Africa) origin, while the Country of the
Maroons shows a strong Akan influence."5 The Kromanti
'language' of the Maroons and the Country of the Kumina people
(which they sometimes refer to as 'Kongo language') are totally
distinct. In addition to this there are several significant details in
which the Maroon and Kumina traditions differ. For instance, the
Kumina tradition lacks an equivalent concept to the pakit, which is
so important in Maroon tradition; nor does it include a specific
instrument of divination such as the jege. Kumina ceremonies
often include the sacrifice of a goat, which is strictly taboo in the
Kromanti setting, and hogs are never used unless Maroons are
present. Although Maroons and Kumina people share a large


number of songs, these are sung in different ways, and all belong to
the lighter categories of songs. The deeper Country songs of the
two groups are in different languages, and are backed by completely
different drumming styles. The drums themselves and methods of
playing differ markedly; those of the Kumina people are short, with
a broad head, and are turned on their sides and mounted while
played, while those of the Maroons are long and slender and played
in an upright position, held between the legs.
Furthermore, there is a marked contrast in the overall tenor of
Kumina versus Kromanti ceremonies. The factor of secrecy is
nowhere near as important in Kumina as in Kromanti Play.
Kumina ceremonies are open to anyone who wishes to attend, al-
though an admission fee is sometimes charged. Kromanti Play, on
the other hand, is restricted solely to Maroons, a rule which is
strictly observed, except in certain special circumstances, as pre-
viously noted. Kumina ceremonies include no tradition of giving
oath, such as is found whenever an outsider attends a Kromanti Bu-
siness dance. Moreover, there is no comparison between the insti-
tutionalized belligerence of the possessed Kromanti dancer, usually
bordering on frenzy, and the sporadic aggression sometimes dis-
played by Kumina devotees when possessed. The difference is not
merely one of degree, but also of quality: Maroon spirits are belli-
cose by nature, whereas the 'bongo spirits' which possess Kumina
people vary widely in temperament, and some have very mild dis-
positions. Even those 'bongo spirits' which tend to behave
violently never display the sustained ferocity which is the norm for
Maroons in a state of possession.5"
But all of the above evidence is merely circumstantial. The
strongest case for an independent origin of Kumina is to be found
in MONICA SCHULER's recent historical work (1980) on the post-
Emancipation immigration of Africans to Jamaica in the nine-
teenth century. Shortly after Emancipation in 1838 the large land-
owners and planters began to experience a serious shortage of labor
as the newly freed former slaves rapidly abandoned the plantations
to start their own settlements in the hills. To ameliorate this situa-
tion the planters developed a scheme for the 'voluntary' immigra-
tion of free wage laborers from Asia and Africa. A major part of
this plan revolved around the importation of laborers drawn from


the population of 'recaptives': that is, Africans from various parts
of the continent who had been captured as slaves, and subsequently
intercepted by British patrols (sent out to suppress the slave trade)
before the slavers on which they were stowed reached their destina-
tions. Most of these 'recaptives' (also known as 'Liberated
Africans') eventually ended up in Sierra Leone, where a colony had
been established for the 'repatriation' of Liberated Africans. The
Jamaican government (as well as several other West Indian govern-
ments) arranged for the recruitment of large numbers of these Li-
berated Africans. Between 1841 and 1867 more than eight
thousand such Liberated Africans, representing many different
tribal or ethnic groups, entered Jamaica as wage laborers (SCHULER
1980: 112-113). Most of these persons were transported from
Sierra Leone or St. Helena, but a smaller number were brought di-
rectly from the ships on which the British had intercepted them.
Although many of these people considered themselves temporary
immigrants, few were given the opportunity to return to Africa,
and their descendants remain in Jamaica today.
Many of the Liberated Africans brought to Jamaica were
resettled on plantations in St. Thomas, the parish in which Kumina
is today strongest. At this point it may be said that the evidence
points overwhelmingly to a relatively recent origin for Kumina; all
things considered, it appears that the religion and ceremonial dance
which is today known as Kumina was introduced to Jamaica by
Liberated Africans between 1840 and 1870. It is quite possible
that the religious system introduced by the newly-arrived Liberated
Africans syncretized with elements from Afro-Jamaican cults
already present in the island, but in any case the Kumina tradition
of today still clearly bears the cultural stamp of recent arrival. The
presence, for instance, of a large number of specific and relatively
'pure' Central African cultural and linguistic retentions in Kumina
strongly supports the theory of recent origin. (It comes as no
surprise that the majority of the immigrant ships arriving in St.
Thomas parish during the nineteenth century came not from Sierra
Leone, but from St. Helena, where the Liberated African
population was almost exclusively of Central African origin.) It is
important to note as well that the contemporary oral traditions of
more prominent Kumina cultists strongly support the theory that

Kumina originated among the Liberated Africans in Jamaica
(SCHULER 1980: 65-96). Some of MONICA SCHULER's Kumina
informants in St. Thomas claimed to be but a few generations
removed from a specific Central African ancestor (Ibid: 70-80), as
did several of this author's Kumina informants. All of the above
would seem to lend credence to the oft repeated assertions of both
Maroons and Kumina people that Kromanti dance and Kumina
represent the traditions of two different 'nations'.59
The Convince cult is particularly interesting, and deserves to be
treated separately. While bearing some similarity to Kromanti tra-
dition, the Convince cult, in the author's view, appears to be the re-
sult of a syncretization of elements from the tradition to which Ku-
mina belongs with other elements stemming from the early at-
tempts at Christian missionization in Jamaica, going back to the
nineteenth century. Some Convince informants used the title '61
Revival' interchangeably with the name 'Convince', apparently
making reference to the sudden upsurge of Christian enthusiasm
known as the Great Revival which swept Jamaica during the
1860's. Convince men, like the Kumina people, claim to belong to
the 'bongo nation', and in fact assert that they are of the same
'nation' as the Kumina people, but use different spirits and meth-
ods of working. At the same time most of them recognize that the
Maroons belong to a different 'nation' altogether, and employ dif-
ferent methods of spirit-work, as well as different language, songs,
and dance movements. Convince men, when possessed, behave and
speak in a manner totally uncharacteristic of Maroon granfas.
Although they may become violent at times, they lack the intensity
and the unremittent truculence of possessed Maroon fete-men.
And unlike Maroon granfas, they are not inflamed by the presence
of persons with 'different blood'. Convince ceremonies, like
Kumina, are open to all 'well-wishers' who choose to attend.
Possessed Convince workers speak the Jamaican creole with a
very peculiar accent, different from speech modes in both Kumina
and Kromanti, although they spice their conversations with a fair
number of words from the 'African Country' of the Kumina
people, and a lesser number of words from Maroon Kromanti as
well. In addition to this, they have a small vocabularly of words
which are used only by Convince spirits. The songs used to invoke


spirits consist either of reworked Christian hymns, newly compo-
sed songs with an unconventional Christian emphasis, or folk songs
of a recreational nature, some of which are also sung by Kumina
groups. Convince men in general do not know any of the higher
Maroon songs, nor do they understand more than a slight bit of
Maroon Country.
Interestingly enough, there are a few Maroons from the Moore
Town area who have adopted Convince work in favor of their own
Kromanti tradition, and present day Convince men state that it was
not uncommon in the past for Maroons from Moore Town,
Charles Town, and Scott's Hall as well as persons of partial Ma-
roon descent from neighboring districts to take up the Convince
tradition. One of the author's informants was a Maroon who
formerly danced Kromanti, but decided to put that tradition aside
and take up Convince work while he was living in the parish of St.
Thomas. He was fully conscious of the differences between the two
traditions, and felt that Convince was not his own 'real' tradition,
but preferred it over Kromanti Play because he found it was less of
a strain on his body. Another informant, a 'bongo man' from St.
Thomas, was trained in Convince by a Maroon from Moore Town
who had lived in St. Thomas for several years and adopted Con-
vince. This man recounted how his 'boss' used to become posses-
sed by both Maroon and 'bongo' spirits, and described how the
spirits from the two different 'nations' would act differently. (This
man was able to imitate fairly accurately the distinctive speech pat-
terns of a Maroon granfa). He stated that when his 'boss' was pos-
sessed by 'bongo' spirits, the spirits would sometimes comment
that their horse was a Maroon, and belonged to a 'different nation'
from them.
Most fete-men in the Moore Town area today have encountered
Convince during visits to outside villages, and some have joined as
casual participants in Convince ceremonies. All of these individuals
feel that Convince is properly the tradition of a different 'nation',
although they are aware that a small number of Maroons take part
in Convince ceremonies.
All of the above leads to the conclusion that the Convince cult
developed apart from the Kromanti tradition, in outside locations,
among persons who were familiar with Kumina and considered


themselves members of the same 'bongo nation', but who had
adopted and reinterpreted certain superficial Christian elements to
fit their own religious system. It is quite likely that Maroons, as
they migrated away from their settlements, participated in and in-
fluenced this development also. This sort of interaction between
Maroons and outsiders, in outside ritual contexts, still occurs to
some extent today."0 It is reasonable to assume, however, that such
contacts, whether in the past or present, would result only in limi-
ted Maroon influence of a rather superficial sort. For the people
who hold Kumina and Convince as their own traditions are, after
all, obronis and, as such, are not entitled to learn the deeper lev-
els of Maroon knowledge. Even today, Maroons who have lived
outside their communities for several years are generally loath to
discuss the details of the Kromanti tradition with the obronis
amongst whom they live, despite the unrelenting curiosity of the


It seems clear enough that the tradition of Kromanti dance serves
to reinfroce a sense of distinct Maroon identity among its partici-
pants. Nearly all of the most important symbols of Maroon identity
- the Kromanti drum, the junga, the Kromanti 'language', and
most importantly, the complex patterns of institutionalized behav-
ior connected with spirit possession are brought into play in
Kromanti ceremonies. The exclusory nature of the institution itself
defines the boundary between Maroons and outsiders, who in most
other contexts mingle freely, with a minimum of distinction. In
fact, it is impossible for an outsider, without previous knowledge of
an individual, to know whether or not this person is a Maroon -
unless the latter engages in the patterns of symbolic behavior which
distinguish Maroons from outsiders, most of which are integrally
connected with the Kromanti dance complex. Only after a Maroon
externalizes these symbols does his unique identity become appar-
ent to outsiders.
Many visitors to Moore Town and other Maroon communities
have been struck by the peaceful aspect of the contemporary


settlements, in contrast to the militaristic societies described in
the historical accounts of the early Maroons. To these observers,
it seems that the Maroons have undergone a thorough metamor-
phosis, a volte-face in life-style which has severed them from their
past. On the contrary, in present day Moore Town historical
consciousness is not lacking; in fect, the unique history of the
Maroons is essential to their identity. As LEANN MARTIN (1973:
180) states: 'it is clear that the primary cultural tool as well as the
primary ingredient in their cultural identity, is history.' The living
past is crystallized nowhere more clearly than in the context of
Kromanti Play, in which the long-deceased of past generations
return for a short time to the realm of the living to offer their aid. In
the drama which ensues, they act in ways thought to represent the
behavior of past generations of Maroons, who lived during a time
when relations between Maroons and outsiders were fraught with
violence and distrust. Like the earlier Maroon society to which
many of them are said to have belonged, the ancestors possess a
fundamental militaristic orientation which is reflected in the insti-
tutionalized aggression of possessed individuals. All of the impor-
tant ritual objects and motions in Kromanti Play are thought to
mirror the practices of past generations of Maroons. And the stress
placed on secrecy is said by present-day Maroons to hark back to
the days when the success of Maroons in war depended on their ex-
clusive knowledge of the Kromanti traditions which lent them
spiritual strength in their struggles against the British.
The Kromanti dance complex represents the chief nexus in time
and space of the symbols and attitudes which define and support
traditional Maroon identity. As the tradition wanes in importance
among the younger generation, there is a corresponding attenua-
tion of traditional Maroon identity. This process is a complex one,
and it is difficult to single out all the causative factors. But it is cer-
tain that fete-men, and those who participate regularly in Kromanti
ceremonies, possess the strongest sense of traditional Maroon iden-
tity in the Moore Town area today. In the community of Charles
Town, the Kromanti dance tradition has long been moribund, and
there has been a near-complete loss of traditional Maroon identity
among the inhabitants. In Scott's Hall, on the other hand, the Kro-
manti tradition survives, but is gradually decreasing in importance,


and Maroon identity is weakening throughout the community, par-
ticularly among younger persons.
In all of the Windward Maroon communities, the distinctive
Maroon cultural heritage all of those cultural features which set
the inhabitants apart, as individual Maroons, from other Jamaicans
- are connected intimately with the Kromanti dance complex.
The Kromanti 'language', the music, the songs, the dance, the
whole belief system articulated through Kromanti Play, and the im-
perative of secrecy attached to it, are the crucial features which,
joined together, form a distinctive Maroon cultural identity. It is
therefore difficult to conceive of the continued, long-range exis-
tence of the Maroons as a distinct people in the absence of the
Kromanti tradition.

The years immediately ahead will tell whether the Maroons lose
this tradition entirely and face final assimilation into the wider Ja-
maican society or, as is also possible, experience a renewed enthusi-
asm for the Kromanti tradition which would ensure a new lease on
life for Maroon ethnicity.

ono Bay /
Melto~rf^11---~~Y^ B
st Jmes SI.Anns 4RF4
Tfilorny Bsy
-- 'Town + &**** \st may
r~)r% ST Usf S
wrstuo-^ ;-* .. .----.-- ;Sotii
4 ,r -r... Scottss,
T B To wn moo.*
ST E2.1**T" 0 *. Spa-sh' -, ,
a, \Towno ; Ton i
-s Ss ?n BOAS

-----Porish boundaries Boy

* Presently existing Maroon towns
+ Former Maroon towns

Map of Jamaica showing locations of Maroon communities.

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Full Text
A report on the trio Indians of SurinamAchterkaftAfscheid van Dr. J.H. WestermannAlliance and competitionChris Engels (1907-1980)Citruscultuur in SurinameInhoudInhoudsopgaveLabour unions and labour conflict in CuracaoNieuwe West Indische GidsThe Kromanti dance of the windward maroons of JamaicaTitelbladVan slaaf tot plantagehouderVoorkaftVoorwoordWhy returnees generally do not turn out to be "agents of change" the case of SurinameBilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bilby, Kenneth M.Bovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankBovenkerk, FrankParris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Parris, Scott V.Riviere, P. G.Riviere, P. G. Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Riviere, P.G.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Rmer, R.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Samson, J.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.Visman, M.A.