The lost nations of Guyana

There are several nations who at one time or another lived in Guyana, and subsequently disappeared without trace.  The Iaos, for example, were evicted from Moruka by the Arawaks with Spanish assistance as early as 1596.  Their contemporaries, the Shebayos, on the other hand, were most likely absorbed by the Arawaks.

More tragic is the case of the Paravianas, a Cariban nation which once lived in the upper Demerara, Essequibo and possibly, the Berbice as well. They were evicted from Demerara by the Caribs, thereby creating a vacuum which the Akawaios filled. As late as Dutch times they were still being driven up the Essequibo by the Caribs, and they ended up in the Takutu region.

Even though they were allied to the Dutch, fighting the Spaniards on their behalf, the Dutch gave them no protection when the Portuguese started rounding them up at the end of the 18th century.

Most of them were transported to the Amazon by the Portuguese. The few who survived were taken in by our Wapishana, the last known pure-blooded member of that nation dying in Guyana in 1914.

Another such case is that of the Taruma, who are thought to have come as refugees to Guyana from the Rio Negro between 1715 and 1721. They settled in the very south of the country around the Kassikaityu and Kuyuwini Rivers.

Famous for their cassava graters and hunting dogs which were traded for miles around, they finally became extinct as a tribal unit at the beginning of the 20th century as a consequence of an influenza epidemic. Some researchers believe that they were the last victims of the flu pandemic which killed millions after the First World War. Their former habitat – the Kassikaityu – is now referred to by the Wai-Wais as the ‘River of the Dead.’

Portuguese depredations in the Rio Branco as well as tribal movements also brought many people into the south of Guyana in the 19th century, such as the Maopityans, Atorais, Daurais, Drios, Pianoghottos and Amaripas. Some of these moved out again, some died out, and some were absorbed by the Macushis and Wapishanas.

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