Amerindians of Guyana’s Northwest Rainforest Region, Animism, Arawaks, British Guiana, Bush Spirits or Forest Spirits, Caribbean Region, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), Indigenous Peoples’ Day, The Animism and Folklore of The Guiana Indians by Walter E. Roth (1915)
On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation declaring October 11th as a national holiday in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Does this mean that we will no longer remember this day as Columbus Day? Growing up in what was then British Guiana, I was taught to regard the Genoan explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) as a hero. During his four voyages to the New World, he explored a vast area of the Caribbean Region that he called the West Indies. The gentle and kindhearted indigenous Arawak peoples who first welcomed Columbus and his crew knew not the misery that this encounter would later unleash upon their world.
Based on what Columbus told Peter Martyr, who recorded his voyages, Martyr wrote: “They seeme to live in that golden worlde of the which olde writers speake so much, wherein menne lived simply and innocently without enforcement of lawes, without quarreling, judges and libelles, content onely to satisfie nature, without further vexation for knowledge of things to come.” [As quoted by Edmund S. Morgan in his article “Columbus’ Confusion About the New World”]
Not until his third voyage (1498-1500) did Columbus sight the coastline of Guiana but made no attempt at landing. The Dutch, the first to settle Guiana, referred to this forbidding region of dense tropical rainforest, stretching between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers on the South American mainland, as “The Wild Coast.” After two centuries of Dutch rule (1600s to 1803) and another century of British rule, the indigenous peoples of then British Guiana, called Amerindians, had lost sovereignty over their territories. Beginning in 1902, the British forced them into reservations.Continue reading