Ndyuka people

The Ndyuka people (also spelled ‘Djuka’) or Aukan people (Okanisi), are one of six Maroon peoples (formerly called “Bush Negroes”, which also has pejorative tinges) in the Republic of Suriname and one of the Maroon peoples in French Guiana. The Aukan or Ndyuka speak the Ndyuka language. They are subdivided into the Opu, who live upstream of the Tapanahony River in the Tapanahony resort of southeastern Suriname, and the Bilo, who live downstream of that river in Marowijne District.

Dugout canoes at Ndyuka Maroon village, Suriname River, 1955
The most important towns are Moengo, the largest town in Marowijne District, and Diitabiki (old name: Drietabbetje) which is the residence of the granman (paramount chief) of the Ndyuka people since 1950.

They further subdivide themselves into twelve matrilinear kinship groups called lo. There is a thirteenth group, that of the granman

History

The Ndyuka and related people are of African descent, transported as cargo by the Dutch to Suriname in the 17-18th century to work on Dutch-owned colonial plantations.

Those who escaped fled deep into the rainforests where they established Maroon communities along rivers in mostly southeastern Suriname and parts of neighboring French Guiana and where their culture adopted elements of Native American cultures. It is rare for Ndyuka people to marry outside the group, “so they remain genetically close to their African ancestors.”

In 1757, a large slave revolt took place at six wood plantations near the Tempati Creek. The runaway slaves joined an existing group of Maroons.

The Society of Suriname was concerned about the size and strength of the group, therefore Captain Zobre was dispatched on 30 July 1759 to negotiate.

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Zobre returned with a temporary ceasefire agreement, and information that the tribe consisted of six villages with an estimated population of 2,000 people. The second expedition was less successful: the Ndyuka were disappointed in gifts like mirrors and said that they preferred guns and ammunition. They also wanted the presence of the plantation owners of the Jodensavanne at the negotiations.

On 10 October 1760, the Ndyuka signed a treaty with the Dutch colonizers, recognizing territorial autonomy. 10 October is still a day celebrated among some Surinamese Maroons

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