Guyana


    Early History Of Guyana

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    Early History Of Guyana

    Post  Admin on Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:24 pm

    Guyana's History is rich and beautiful. It fills you with wonderment, it's intricate detail will consume you, and make you fall In love with Guyana again.
    We are priveledged to have so much information on our homeland. This is Part 1 of a series of entries I will be posting on the history of Guyana.


    Life Before European Exploration

    Guyana was originally inhabited by Amerindians. Predominantly
    Arawaks, Akawaios, Caribs and Warraus, but was also inhabited by
    the Atorads, Miyonggongs, Piyanogottos, Trios, Tarumas, Taurepang, and Kamarakoto.
    These tribes were Nomadic in nature, they constantly moved camps throughtout the regions.
    Amerindians were subsistence farmers, growing food mainly for their own needs and with a little left over for trade. They cut down trees to make room for planting and used the "slash-and-burn" method of farming. This is a simple method where the land was burnt to clear it of weeds and bush. The ash produced as a result of the procedure was mixed with fish remains and urine to produce fertilizer that would help prolong the productivity of the land. Crops were then planted in the ashes among the blackened tree stumps.
    Women were responsible for the planting of crops and preparation of food. Cassava (also known as yucca or manioc), slips were cut from the stem and planted in mounds in the earth. Cassava was planted twice a year when the soil was damp. In addition, cassava was produced on the Guyana coast along with sweet peppers, Chili peppers, and yutia (another root crop). Cotton and tobacco were also grown. Amerindians ate a variety of other fruits and vegetables including pineapples, star apples, naseberries, guavas and cashews. The Arawaks peoples did not touch mammy apples as they believed that it was food for the dead.

    European Explorers Reach The Guianas

    In 1498 Alonzo de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci, sailing together, reached the northern coast of South America in the region of Suriname. They then sailed west along the coast of Guyana. In 1500 Vincente Yanez Pinzon also sailed along the Guyana coast, but no attempt to land was then made, excluding Pinzon's unsuccessful attempt in the neighbouring Amazon.
    By the year 1500, the coast from the Amazon to the Orinoco began to be referred to as Guyana.

    Immediately after the territorial "discoveries" were made by Columbus, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella petitioned Pope Alexander IV to recognize the "new found" lands as Spanish possessions. At that time, the Pope's declaration was regarded as the supreme law in the Christian world, and it was considered paramount for Spain to win recognition for it's so called "discoveries" especially when Portuguese at the same time were exploring lands in Africa and Asia and approaching the Pope so that he would recognize their "Discoveries" as their property.
    In 1616 the Dutch established one of the first European settlements in the area of Guyana, a trading post twenty-five kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Essequibo River. Other settlements followed, usually a few kilometres inland on the larger rivers. The original purpose of the Dutch settlements was trade with the indigenous people. The Dutch aim soon changed to acquisition of territory as other European powers gained colonies elsewhere in the Caribbean. Although Guyana was claimed by the Spanish, who sent periodic patrols through the region, the Dutch gained control over the region early in the seventeenth century.


    African Slave Importation

    The Dutch had originally used Aboriginals as field workers. One of the first indicators of Caribbean exportation importance was the export of 15,000 kilograms of tobacco from Essequibo in 1623.
    But as the agricultural productivity of the Dutch colonies increased, a shortage of labourers became evident. The indigenous populations were not efficient plantation workers,


    and many of the aboriginals died from European introduced diseases. The Dutch West India Company then began importing African slaves.
    One of the goals of the Dutch Government, when it established the West India Company in 1621, was to obtain a share in the African slave trade which was controlled predominantly by the Portuguese. During that time Portugal had partnered with Spain, whom the Dutch were at war with. Thus, the Dutch also attacked the Portuguese traders and seized control over many of their slave trading posts in West Africa.
    With the expansion of plantations in the Americas, and the increasing market for slaves, other European countries, including England and France, also established trading companies to supply slaves to their colonies.
    It is estimated that the English transported more than 1,900,000 slaves to their colonies in the Caribbean from 1651 to 1807 when they finally abolished the slave trade. The French, whose trade lasted between 1664 and 1830, shipped about 1,650,000 to their colonies. In roughly the same period, the Dutch took 900,000 to the Guianas and the West Indies. These figures only include the slaves brought to the colonies alive, they do not include those who died during the passage and those who were killed by slave hunters in the midst of the gathering process in Africa.
    The European slave trading companies and a independent slave traders carried out their slave hunting in western Africa in the areas of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Gambia, and as far south as the Congo River and Angola. Initially chiefs sold slaves to the captains of slave ships believing that they would be domestic slaves and used in the same manner that they were used in the mother land.
    he traded the slaves were kept in enclosed areas known as baracoons.
    All over western Africa, domestic slavery existed within various tribes. Actually, the lowest caste within these tribes were born and lived as slaves and performed the task as servants in households. Merchants who also owned slaves used them for carrying heavy loads through the forest and savannah.

    "Prisoners of war" captured during inter-tribal warfare and raids were generally sold to European slave traders. In many cases, groups of African "slave catchers" were employed by the factors to raid villages and capture the residents who became part of the growing slave collection in the baracoons.
    As the European slave traders gained the trust of the chief’s who had sold slaves too them, Europeans slave traders began hunting and capturing African noble’s kings and queens.

    Many slaves were obtained very far inland where they were collected in a "coffle" and
    Were marched to the coat. A pair of slaves were chained together by a leg in groups of four secured by ropes.
    a Y-shaped stick was fastened with the fork round the neck of the slave walking in front and the stem resting on the neck of the slave walking behind. Free Africans employed by the slave catchers, or the slave catchers themselves guarded the coffle’s. when slaves arrived on the coast,
    after many days of travel, the slaves were penned up in the baracoon, where they were prepared for sale. Slaves were shaved and water was thrown on them, little or no care used. This was done to make the Africans more “appealing” to European buyers The European buyer who arrived in his slave trading ship would examine each slave and haggle the price of the slave.
    In the 1690s, a slave was bought for goods equivalent to about 4 English pounds. About a hundred years later, as some records show, a British slave trader paid for each male slave 96 yards of cloth, 52 handkerchiefs, 1 large brass pan, 2 muskets, 25 kegs of gunpowder, 100 flints, 2 bags of shot, 20 knives, 4 iron pots, 4 hats, 4 caps, 4 cutlasses, 6 bunches of beads ans 14 gallons of brandy.

    The Middle Passage
    From the baracoons, the slaves, chained in groups, were transported in small boats to the slave ships which was anchored either midstream of a large river or off shore in the Atlantic.
    The slave ship travelled for roughly
    three months along the coast of west Africa stopping at slave collecting stations along the way to purchase additional slaves. Finally, the ship, with its full cargo of slaves packed closely together in the hold, turned west and sailed away towards the American continent.
    Each slave ship was constructed to transport large numbers of slaves. A typical ship's hold was 5 feet 8 inches deep and this was packed with slaves lying flat on the floor. On the walls, shelves 6 feet wide were built and upon these slaves were made to lie down close to each other. In this way, a ship was built to transport about 450 slaves, but it was not unusual for 600 or more slaves
    to be packed in it.
    The trip to the Caribbean region, known as the Middle Passage, took from five to eight weeks. The slaves were fed on deck and occasionally some managed to leap overboard. While there was a small proportion of lost life through suicide, most of the deaths were caused by disease brought about by the unhealthy situation in the ship's hold. Small pox, eye diseases and dysentery were common and these also affected the ship's crew. It is estimated that more than 10 percent of slaves perished on the Middle Passage.



    By the 1660s, the slave population numbered about 2,500; the number of indigenous people was estimated at 50,000, most of whom had retreated into the vast hinterland. Although African slaves were a paramount factor in the growth and economy of Guyana, like most of the Caribbean, slaves in Guyana were subjected to harsh conditions. Hard labour was demanded, with little rest and provisions provided. Slaves single handedly built the irrigation systems of Guiana, the Sea walls and many historic buildings.
    Plantation work was tedious, slaves were worked to the bone with brute force. Slaves who weren’t working as hard as the slave master wanted were often made an example of.
    Slave men, women, and children were raped, and/or mutilated, as a way for the slave owners to create fear and obedience in the slaves. The mortality rate was high, and the unbearable conditions, and strong willed rebelliousness of the slaves led to more than half a dozen slave rebellions.

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