Amerindian names should be accurately spelt

Dear Editor,

Recently I read in the ‘Pepperpot’ section of Guyana Chronicle a report of the 2008 Safari into the Pakaraimas. The author of the article emphasized the importance of the correct spelling and pronounciation of the name of the Amerindian group that lives in that area – the Panamunas (and not Patamonas).

My purpose here is to support the author and also  highlight several names of villages/places that are erronously spelt, so that they, if possible, can be correctly spelt as they are pronounced by the Native Peoples from whose languages they derive.

The most ridiculous of them all is a farm site which grew up to the status of a village over the years. This is Crash-Water village, which is found on the right-hand side of the Rupununi River ( north). In 1979 I was attached to the Malaria Eradication Programmme in that area. During my visit there I understood the elderly Macushis because I speak their language, and they referred to their place as  Kulashe-Wata (Kulashe is the name of a bird that is found in abundance in the area, and Wata is a word for site/place. In this case the site/place of the kulashes.

Most of the names/places/villages that derived from Macushi words are spelt with R ( sound/phonics) instead of L (sound/phonics). I noticed this also with the names of the places that derived from other Cariban languages – Caribs/ Alekuna/Akawaio.

The name of the village, Arnaputa, near Annai (Anai – corn) derives from Lanipi-ta (burnt place) according to the story told to me recently by Mr Francis James of Lethem, Central Rupununi, whose fluent Macushi I enjoy listening to.

When I began to question and investigate the names of the villages, I thought Massara, village in the North Rupununi, had something to do with mosquito because Massa means mosquito. I learnt differently when I interviewed an elder- Koko (grandma) Edna Adrian of Katoka (cotton) village who had migrated there from Massara with her parents as a young girl. Koko Edna told me that Massara derived from Masalwa (cockroach). It was so named because there used to be lots of cockroaches.

Its neighbouring village, Toka, (where my mother came from) derived from Macushi Tika (rock). Its original Macushi name is Tikapishe (foot of the rock/mountain).

Karanambo, Ms Diane McTurk’s resort (home of the famous otters) has to do with one of the Aboriginal Peoples of Guyana Kalenga (Carib) Yzami (s), Caribs.

Manari (well-known resort/ranch in the Rupununi) came from the Macushi word for wover sifter – Manale.

The mighty Mount Roraima got its name from its colour (besides other significant stories attached to it) – Lola (green), hence Lolai-Ma (ma – noun).

If it is important that we, the Aboriginal Peoples of Guyana, preserve our culture/languages/traditions, we need to seriously re-examine, not only the way the names of the villages/places are spelt, but the way non-Amerindian speakers have attempted to document our languages (in written form) that are on sale in high digits on the internet. The reason for doing so would be to leave behind an accurate documented culture/ languages/names of our villages/ places for our great, great grandchildren to inherit.

Yours faithfully,
Guy Marco


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