Native American period
history of Suriname
dates from 3000 BC when Native American first inhabited
the area. Present-day Suriname was the home
to many distinct indigenous cultures.
The largest tribes
were the Arawaks
, a nomadic
coastal tribe that lived from hunting
, and the
. The Arawaks (Kali'na
the first inhabitants of Suriname; later, the Caribs arrived, and
conquered the Arawaks using their sailing ship. [The Kali'na are
also a Carib group. The Arawak languages in Suriname are Lokono
Dian and Mawayana. That said, I urge whoever wrote the original
text to check the facts. Were the Kali'na there first? Or were they Arawaks?]
They settled in Galibi (Kupali Yumï, meaning "tree of the
forefathers") on the mouth of the Marowijne river.
While the larger Arawak and Carib
tribes lived off the coast and savanna
smaller groups of indigenous
lived in the rainforest
inland, such as the Akurio, Trió, Wayarekule, Warrau, and
Wayana.'Surinames culture is between Saramakas, Matawais, and
Coastline of the Guianas
The first Europeans who came to Suriname were Dutch traders who
visited the area along with other parts of the South America
's 'Wild Coast.' The first attempts to
settle the area by Europeans was in 1630, when English settlers led
by Captain Marshall attempted to found a colony.
cultivated crops of tobacco
, but the venture
Willoughby, the governor of Barbados furnished
out a vessel, to settle a colony in Surinam.
At his own cost
equipped a ship of 20 guns, and two smaller vessels with things
necessary for the support of the plantation. Major Anthony Rowse
settled there in his name. Two
years later, for the better settling of the colony, he went in
person, fortified and furnished it with things requisite for
defence and trade. 'Willoughbyland' consisted of around 30.000
acres and a fort. In 1663 most of the work on the ca. 50
plantations was done by native Indians and 3.000 African slaves.
There were around 1,000 whites there, joined by Brazilian Jews,
attracted by religious freedom which was granted to all the
settlers by the English.
settlement was invaded by seven Dutch ships (from
the Zeeland region), led
by Abraham Crijnssen, on 26
February 1667. Fort Willoughby was captured the next day
after a three hour fight and renamed Fort
Zeelandia. On 31 July 1667, the English and Dutch signed the Treaty of
Breda, in which for the time being the status quo was
respected: the Dutch could keep occupying Suriname and the British
the formerly Dutch colony New
Amsterdam (modern day New York).
Willoughbyland was renamed Dutch Guyana.
This arrangement was made official in the
Treaty of Westminster
after the British had regained and again lost Suriname in 1667 and
the Dutch regained the colony in 1668. In 1683 the Society of Suriname
was set up, modelled
on the ideas of Jean-Baptiste
to profit from the management and defence of the
's colony .
three participants, with equal shares in the society's
responsibilities and profits - the city of Amsterdam, the family of Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, and the
Dutch West India
The family Van Aerssen only succeeded to sell
their share in 1770. The Society came to an end in 1795 when this
kind of trade and business was no longer seen as acceptable.
Slavery and emancipation
Funeral at slave plantation,
Colored lithograph printed circa 1840-1850, digitally
In South America, slavery was the norm. The native people proved to
be in limited supply and consequently people from Africa were
imported as slaves to work on the plantations. Slavery in Suriname
started with the English and this practice was continued when the
Dutch took over Suriname. The plantations were produced sugar
and were exported
for the Amsterdam market. In 1713 for instance most of the work on
the 200 plantations was done by 13.000 African
slaves. Their treatment was bad, and slaves
have escaped to the jungle from the start. These Maroons
(also known as "Djukas" or
"Bakabusi Nengre") attacked the plantations in order to acquire
goods that were in short supply and to find themselves women.
Famous leaders of the Surinam Maroons were Alabi
Joli-coeur and Broos
(Captain Broos). In the
18th century, three of the Maroon people signed a peace treaty,
similar to the peace treaty in Jamaica whereby these people were
recognised as free people and where they received a yearly tribute
that provided them with the goods they used to "liberate" from the
plantations. A contemporary description of the war betwee the
Maroon and the plantation owners in Suriname can be found in
Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted
Negroes of Surinam
was occupied by the British in 1799, after Holand were incorporated
by France, and was
returned to the Dutch in 1816, after the defeat of Napoleon.
The Dutch abolished slavery only
in 1863; although the British had already abolished it during their
short rule. The slaves were, however, not released until 1873; up
to that date they conducted obligatory but paid work at the
plantations. In the meantime, many more workers had been
imported from the Dutch East Indies, mostly Chinese inhabitants of that colony.
1873, many Hindu laborers where imported from India.
emigration was ended by Mohandas
in 1916. After that date, many laborers were again
imported from the Dutch East Indies, especially Java.
In the 20th century, the natural resources of Suriname, rubber
were exploited. The US company Alcoa
had a claim on a large area in Suriname where
bauxite, from which aluminium can be made, was found. Given that
the peace treaties with the Maroon people granted them title to the
lands, there have been international court cases that negated the
right of the Surinam government to grant these claims.
In 1954, Suriname gained self-government, with the Netherlands
retaining control of defence and foreign affairs.
In 1973, the local government, led by the NPK
(a largely Creole party) started
negotiations with the Dutch government about independence, which
was granted at November 25, 1975. The Dutch instituted an aid
programme worth US$1.5 billion to last till 1985. The first
President of the country was Johan
, with Henck Arron
the Surinam National Party) as Prime Minister. Roughly a third of
the population emigrated to the Netherlands, fearing that the new
country would not be able to survive.
In 1980, the government of Henck Arron was overthrown in a military
led by Sergeant-Major Desi Bouterse
. President Ferrier refused to
recognise the new government, appointing Henk Chin A Sen
(of the Nationalist
Republican Party). Another coup followed five months later, with
the army replacing Ferrier with Chin A Sen. These developments were
largely welcomed by a population that expected the new
army-installed government to put an end to corruption and improve
the standard of living. This was despite the fact that the new
regime banned opposition parties and became increasingly
dictatorial. The Dutch initially accepted the new
government, however, relations between Suriname and the Netherlands
collapsed when 15 members of the political opposition were killed
by the army on December 8, 1982, in Fort
This event is also known as the
in Dutch). The Dutch and
Americans cut off their aid in protest at the move, leading to
Bouterse looking towards countries such as Grenada, Nicaragua, Cuba and Libya for
In 1985, the ban on opposition parties was lifted, and work began
on devising a new constitution. The following year saw the start of
an anti-government rebellion of the Maroons in the interior,
calling themselves the Jungle Commando and led by Ronnie Brunswijk
. The Bouterse government
violently tried to suppress the insurgency by burning villages and
other similar means. Many Maroons fled to French Guiana.