Surinamese Slavery: Djukas/Bush Negroes

Dutch maroons
Figure 1.--This photo was taken in 1915 in a Maroon village of Suriname. The Maroons are the descendants of runaway slaves that restarted in America the lifestyle of their African ancestors. In Suriname they were commonly called Djukas or Bush Negros. This is the earliest photograph we have found. Excpt that they are wearing clothing this image could have been taken in the 16th century.

Given the numbers of Africans imported as slaves, Africans developed over time as the principal part of the population. Labor on a sugar plantation was very hard. Some African slaves like the Native Americans before them, escaped into the interior which was largely undeveloped. The terminology varied. Such escapees were more commonly known as Maroons in the Americas. It developed from the Spanish word 'cimarron', meaning fugitive or runaway. The literal meaning is 'living on mountaintops' from the Spanish word 'cima' meaning top or summit. The Maroons after running away formed independent settlements in the bush south of the coastal areas controlled by the Europeans. This also occurred in the Caribbean, but with the exception of Jamaica, the Europeans hunted them down without great dufficulty. The Maroons in Surinme called 'Djukas' or 'Bush Negroes'. Some would acquire weapons and attack plantations. They developed a greater threat than the Native Americans in part from their resistance to European disease. Even give the area involved, the Dutch could have defeated the Maroons, but it would have been a very costly operation. The damage they did jut dis not justify the massive military opetation that would have been necessary to defeat them. Unable to wipe out the Djukas, in part because of the large area of the interior, Governors Mauritius and Crommelin negotiated peace treaties with some of the tribes. Other tribes continued to stage raids. One of the most effective Maroon tribal leader was Boni (second half of the 18th century). Over time the Maroons created a kind of buffer zone between the Dutch planters, who settled land along the coast and some extent the main rivers, and the Native American tribes deeper in the interior. Some of the Maroons were recent enough arricals that they recrreated the African societies from which they camne. This was somewhat complicated by the fct that they came from different tribal geoups abd areas of Africa. Eventually in both Suriname and French Guiana they joined with Native Americans or founded several independent tribes, including the Saramaka, the Paramaka, the Ndyuka (Aukan), the Kwinti, the Aluku (Boni), and the Matawai. Suriname Marions/Djukas began pressing for land rights (1990s).

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Created: 5:12 AM 8/24/2012
Last updated: 5:12 AM 8/24/2012