« PrethodnaNastavi »
them, leaving their welfare to a small band of missionaries. Later the Government recognized that it had responsibilities towards them, but until 1910 little was done for them. In that year a Protection Ordinance was passed and Amerindian enthusiasts, such as Michael McTurk, a District Commissioner in the Interior, and Dr. Walter Roth, a Medical Magistrate, devoted their lives to the Amerindian cause; yet still little was
done by the Government. In 1944 a Field Officer for Amerindian Affairs was appointed, Mr. P. Storer Peberdy, and during a tour of five years he travelled 3,000 miles by foot and canoe, visiting all the Amerindian areas. He wrote a report on his findings, A Report of a Survey of Amerindian Affairs, and it was as a result of this report that the then Governor, Sir Gordon Lethem, pressed for new long-term policy for the administration and welfare of the Amerindian peoples. The reservations, it was decided, must be looked upon as temporary sanctuaries to be dissolved when their inhabitants had advanced sufficiently towards a Western way of life and could be assimilated into the community at large. The conduct of Amerindian affairs was given to the Commissioner for the Interior,
a newly-created post, a permanent doctor for the Amerindians was appointed and the Government gave increased interest, if not increased financial support, to the educational work of the Missions.
There are thirty-two mission schools for the Amerindians in the Colony, and at all those which I visited I was surprised to find how few of the teachers were Amerindians—in spite of the century or more in which mission schools have been in existence. Most of the teachers were Africans or East Indians from the coast, who did not know the languages of their pupils. I was told that it has been, from the beginning, difficult to get Amerindians to remain long enough at school to train as teachers, and those who did could not get used to the idea of staying in one place and having only one occupation; the nomadic urge would come to them and they would be off to their ‘garden places' to reap the plantain or the cassava crop. The Government is particularly anxious to train Amerindians as teachers to their own people, and the Catholic missions are trying, in their schools at Hosororo and Santa Rosa, to concentrate on producing Amerindian teachers who will be sent to Amerindian schools in all parts of the Colony.
It is difficult to know, yet, whether Amerindian education is succeeding, but in the sphere of health statistics show that the Government's new policy is having an excellent effect. Today there are roughly 19,000 Amerindians in the Colony, infant mortality has decreased and the population is rapidly increasing. In Amerindian areas the number of small children is very noticeable, most of them strong and healthy in spite of the distended stomachs caused by a vast intake of starches. Dr. C. R. Jones has, from 1950 to 1955, made constant tours of the Interior, vaccinating, pulling teeth, spraying D.D.T., deworming and generally looking after the health of the Amerindians. Each area has a medical ranger who makes routine tours in between Dr. Jones' visits.
Dr. Jones told me that the greatest scourge of the Amerindians is no longer malaria, but pulmonary consumption, which is found among all the tribes except the primitive WaiWais on the Brazilian boundary, who have not been in contact with many white men or Africans. It is among the
Amerindians living nearest the coast that the mortality rate is highest, and because the North-West was the first area to be opened up for minerals the disease has managed to get a grip on the Amerindians here, particularly in the Barama area.
Cassava (Manihot sp.) is the staple crop in the rain forests of the Guianas and it is to the Amerindians here what the cultivation of maize is to their cousins in Central America and Mexico. Possibly the rain-forest peoples did not advance in civilization because cassava is inferior to maize as a food, with a low nutritive value. Apart from this its preparation is long and arduous since in its natural state the cassava root contains a poison called hydrocyanic acid, which must be removed before the bread can be made.
The Guianese Government's new deal for the Amerindian is slowly gathering force and its aim of full integration may one day be achieved. It would be both inhuman and sentimental to attack the new deal for interfering in the traditional life of the Amerindians, and yet it seems to me that integration is only desirable and possible in areas, such as the North-West, where there is considerable contact with Africans and Europeans. 'Civilization' must inevitably come to them here and it is Government's task, through its District Commissioners and Officers, to make the influence of civilization as harmless as possible though harmful in some way it invariably is. In the outer-lying areas, where Europeans are very occasionally seen and Africans almost never, the ancient patterns of Amerindian life cannot be replaced by anything more suitable to the country and the people. Any attempt to introduce such tribes as the Akawaios or Arekunas of the deep Interior, or the 'true Caribs' of the Barama, to a ‘Western way of life', to which the Amerindian Ordinance refers, can only be disruptive. Until civilization presses at the borders of these areas—and this day may never come-it would be wiser not to destroy the highly organized tribal life but to give it the benefits of civilized knowledge in medicine and to discourage what is obviously harmful in the old customs. This would not merely be to preserve the Amerindian as a museum-piece but to recognize the arrogance of supposing that the patterns of our society can be of use to people whose life grows naturally out of the creeks and rivers.
the forests and the savannas. I would say that without doubt the happiest people in British Guiana are the primitive tribes, huntsmen, fishermen and simple agriculturists who may speak only a few words of English picked up from a passing trader. I hope they will never reach the point where their ‘integration' becomes necessary.
13. NOTES FROM A JOURNAL
A FLIGHT of one and a half hours from Georgetown in
a Dakota, over forest all the way, moving into forest-covered hills, the Pakaraimas. Suddenly these end and the savanna begins, though it looks like a parched desert--the tufts of grass are divided by poor, sandy earth whose colour is stronger than the green of the grass. The Dakota carried an engine for a Land Rover, a paraffin-fuel refrigerator and various pieces of machinery. Until a decade ago there was no regular air-service to the Rupununi and all travel across the savannas was by horse. Now the ranchers charge over their ranges in jeeps and Land Rovers, talk of crankshafts and sparking-plugs instead of saddles and martingales. All oil and petrol is flown up—our Dakota carried none because no passengers are allowed on aeroplanes carrying fuel.
There are fourteen private ranches on the savannas and one public corporation ranch--the Rupununi Development Company. The Company owns 25,000 of the total 43,000 head of cattle which roam the open-ranges (the last open-ranges in the world) of the savannas. 2,405,500 acres are leased to the ranches out of the 6,000 square miles of the Rupununi. It is all Grown Land and the rent is two dollars a year per square mile for the Corporation and fifteen dollars per year for each fifty square miles owned by the other ranchers. After five years the tenant can get a twenty-one-year lease for a homestead with renewal rights if he meets certain stocking and building requirements.
When you are on the ground the savannas appear green and luxuriant, but in fact the soil is minerally so deficient that the grass can only support ten to fifteen cattle per square mile. The deficiencies can be made good by large-scale fertilization, whose very high cost would be justified if the effect were permanent. Unfortunately during the three months' wet season, which begins in May, vast areas of the ranchlands are under