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stores, where rates are absurdly high, even when transport costs are taken into account. The prospectors themselves call it the Dollar Area because even a tin of grapefruit juice, costing 28 cents on the Coast, sells for a dollar (4s. 2d.) here.
On the Mazaruni there are two columbite mining camps, each staffed by two Englishmen; near Arakaka, on the Barima, three Englishmen run the manganese camp_at-Matthews' Ridge, and Europeans run B.G. Timbers and B.G. Consolidated Goldfields, both in the Bartica Triangle. The district administrators are all local Guianese, except for one Englishman, the District Officer at Kamarang, Mr. William Seggar, who has achieved great results at the Government Station there. He and his wife are the only Europeans in 4,500 square miles. Near Kamarang, at Paruima, an African Minister of the Seventh Day Adventists has a mission and school. In general the Catholic and Anglican Missions have not penetrated into the far Interior, except in the Rupununi. Here there are Catholic missionary schools in most of the Makusi and Wapisiana villages, and there are three English priests to administer them, and ensure the spread of the Gospel among the Amerindians. At Lethem, the Government Station of the Rupununi, coastal Guianese administer the area under a District Commissioner. Here there are also a Government veterinary surgeon at the Experimental Station at St. Ignatius, and two young Englishmen who run the hotel. There are a few European settlers living on isolated ranches.
At Annai, in the north-west Rupununi, is a settlement of coastal Negroes who are living a simple agricultural life and appear to be contented in their isolation, although they feel they are not quite 'accepted' by the savanna peoples. In the southern Rupununi there is a small village of Amerindians who are, likewise, not accepted by their neighbours the Wapisianas, although their blood is basically Wapisiana. Over a century ago two runaway Negro slaves came to the village and settled there. They were apparently extremely fecund, for their contribution to the stock is very noticeable in the negroid faces of most of the people in the village. Fear of blood pollution has kept them genetically isolated, and the result has been considerable inter-marriage.
The Amerindians proper are divided into several tribes,
speaking different languages or dialects. Those of the nearInterior are of Warrau-Arawak stock, in the North-West District Carib stock, in the Mazaruni area Akawaio and Arekuna, and in the Rupununi Patamona, Makusi and Wapisiana. In the forests to the south of the Rupununi live the sixty surviving members of the Wai-Wai tribe who, of all Amerindians in the Colony, have been least touched by civilization. They wear brightly-coloured feather headdresses, paint their faces with violent dyes and have no interest in emulating the ways of the white man. An American missionary is, however, now at work among them and a way of life which is full of happy activity will be gradually modified by the blessings of Christianity. The Wai-Wais will, like most other Amerindians, be encouraged to wear trousers and shirts to cover their barbaric nakedness. In the past much illness has been caused among the Amerindians by missionaries who have insisted on their wearing shirts, even when hunting. Since it is always raining in the forests they permanently wear wet clothes, and consumption is the most common result. Another unhappy result of missionary ignorance has been the proscription of certain kinds of meat among the Akawaios and Arekunas who are under the influence of the Seventh Day Adventists; illness has resulted from a far lower protein intake than the people were used to. I was happy to notice, all the same, that when I offered a prohibited meat to two Adventists with whom I was travelling they took no time to square their consciences with eating it. I took every possible opportunity to counteract this iniquitous teaching of a sect whose good intentions are more admirable than the results of their work. They and other sects—not the Catholics or Anglicans prohibit the making of the inevitable potent drink of aboriginal tribes. This is a brew called cassiri, made from fermented cassava. It contains substances other than alcohol which the Amerindian system has come to depend on, and bad effects usually follow its prohibition.
The controlled administration of the Interior is a comparatively recent conception. In 1946 a Department of the Interior was set up for the first time to control the general administration and development, and also to safeguard the rights of the Amerindians. The Commissioner for the Interior has his headquarters in Georgetown, but makes tours of inspection.
frequently. He is assisted by three District Commissioners; one at Bartica, responsible for the vast Mazaruni-Potaro District, another at Mabaruma controlling the North-West District, and a third at Lethem, the 'capital' of the Rupununi. There are various District Officers and Wardens who administer small areas within the Districts, collecting gun-licences and taxes, acting as magistrates and in general representing Government. At a few points in the Interior there are police posts, and the populated river stretches are regularly patrolled by police boats.
'Guianization' has become almost complete in the staffing of the Interior administration. The present Commissioner is Mr. James Bamford, an Englishman born in the Colony, who has spent most of his working life in the Interior, as a surveyor marking the boundaries with Brazil and Venezuela, or as a District Commissioner. The only Englishman from England employed in the administration is Mr. Seggar. He has a great love for his Amerindians and a passion for their welfare. His station at Kamarang is in the middle of good agricultural country, and to encourage the Amerindians to produce more fruit and vegetables he guarantees to buy all produce brought to Kamarang. Some of it is flown down to the Coast by the Grumman amphibian on its monthly visit, and occasionally a Dakota lands at the airstrip at Imbaimadai and takes a load of produce; but much has to be used as cattle or pig-feed. With Amerindian help Mr. Seggar has cleared an area of forest at Kamarang, levelled it and turned it into a reasonable airstrip for a Dakota. He feels that if regular air transport could be arranged at Kamarang the area could become the vegetable garden for the Coast, where a large proportion of the fresh vegetables needed is imported from the islands.
In general the administration is efficient. There is little lawlessness, and when crimes are committed, even in the remotest parts, every effort is made to apply the full machinery of law and justice. In 1955, at Kamarang, a young Amerindian murdered an old man who had threatened to kill his family by tribal curse. The trial took place in Georgetown and twelve Amerindians were brought to the capital to give evidence. It was decided that the boy acted according to the tribal laws of self-defence, and he was acquitted. Amerindians are thus
taught the idea of British justice, though what they make of it is a different matter.
Apart from the vegetable and fruit produce in the Bartica and Kamarang areas, the Interior has made surprisingly little contribution to the grown foods of the Colony. But some forest products have played a small but useful part in its economy. Chief among these is balata (manilkara bidentata), the gum of the bulletwood tree, which grows throughout the forest areas, particularly on moist sites with little rocky formation. The foothills of the Kanuku Mountains in the Rupununi have been most exploited for the gum. Balata bleeders are usually Amerindians who wander through the forests collecting the latex from the trees and selling it to one or two traders in the area, who are also ranchers. Until recently there had been a steady demand on the world market for 300-350 tons of balata a year from British Guiana, but the substitutes are fast reducing the need, and the traders are preparing for a more or less complete end to the demand for it. Already there is hardship among Amerindians who lived by balata bleeding. Two of the Rupununi traders whom I met are trying to find an alternative forest crop which will employ the Amerindians, such as tonka beans (Dypteryx), used in scent-making, or Brazil nuts, which grow wild in the vicinity of the Kanukus. The tonka bean scheme has failed, but prospects are better for Brazil nuts. There is a small demand, for medical purposes, for curare (strychnos toxifera), the sinister poison with which some Guianese tribes still tip their arrows and blow-pipe darts. It is used especially among the Makusi, who have always had the reputation for making the best curare. The Makusi's name for it is 'devildoer'. It is made from a liana, parasitic to various trees but at its strongest and most profuse in the Kanukus. The bark of the liana contains an alkaloid called curarine, which paralyses the peripheral nerves. As a result the muscles affecting respiration gradually cease functioning and death comes by asphyxiation. A century ago curarine was used in investigations of the nervous system in order to trace the precise part of the body affected by each nerve. That great and eccentric explorer, Charles Waterton, made an expedition into British Guiana for the main purpose of collecting curare and making experi
ments with its various forms. Its modern surgical use is to relax muscles in preparation for operations.
The main product of the forest is timber. I will deal with this subject at some length in a later chapter.
One of the disappointments of travel through the Guiana forests is the apparent lack of wild life. The cries of parrots and macaws are heard, and the song of various birds, but they are rarely seen because they live high in the canopy of the trees, in the sunlight where the insects live and breed. On the ground small snakes are seen fairly frequently, but unless one goes with Amerindians for the specific purpose of tracking down wild animals it is possible to walk for weeks through the forests without seeing any animals at all. This is partly explained by the fact that most animal life in the forests of South America is nocturnal, but that is not the complete explanation. The fact is that the animal population is sparse in comparison
with the size of the forests.
The most predatory animal of the forests is the jaguar, generally, and incorrectly, called 'tiger' by Amerindians and Guianese. There are eight species of the cat family, ranging from the large felis onca, the true jaguar, to the small felis pardalis, or ocelot, the commonest cat in the Colony. Robert Schomburgk found the skeleton of a felis onca nine feet long, and jaguar teeth seen by his brother Richard had a circumference of three inches at the root. Richard Schomburgk has convincing evidence that the larger jaguars will attack a man, but the Amerindians whom I anxiously questioned on this point, when we were camping one night and heard a jaguar prowling round the camp, told me that there are only certain times of the year when they will do so. Fortunately it was not then the period when the jaguar is prepared to taste human blood. The Amerindians will only hunt jaguars to avenge a hunting dog which the jaguar may have killed. One Amerindian I came across went off for three days to track a particular jaguar, and came home triumphant and revenged with his skin.
The tapir (Tapirus americanus), or bush-cow, is the largest of the common animals of the forest, a hoofed animal distantly related to the rhinoceros. The Amerindians, who call it maipuri, look upon its meat as a great delicacy and it is so much hunted that its numbers have been much reduced.