4025 - Ramifications and prospects of historical demographics regarding the Wayana in the eastern Guiana Highlands

Since the demographic nadir in the beginning of the twentieth century (338 individuals in 1940), the number of Wayana residing in Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana, has been rising exponentially (Grenand and Grenand 1979; pib.socioambiental.org/en/povo/wayana). This population increase raises issues concerning a wide range of cultural, sociological, economic, and political matters. Historical data demonstrates that the demographic nadir was reached after a turbulent time of rapid decline with a sharp decline of fifty percent in just a dozen years between the explorations of Jules Crevaux and Henry Coudreau in the late nineteenth century. In 1999, ISA estimated 1,615 Wayana (total in Suriname, French Guiana, and Brazil). Recent demographics are a remarkable increase of the numbers of 1940, nevertheless far below the lowest population estimate of 2000–3000 individuals by Crevaux in 1878, let alone the indigenous population prior to European contact. A deep historical understanding of the Wayana in the eastern Guiana Highlands will provide an understanding how indigenous societies managed communities (or tightly integrated political groups) larger than 2,500 ± 500 associated with significant organizational complexity. In this paper I will focus on the implications and opportunities of historical demographics to settlement patterning and organization, interrelationships with social others (indigenous and non-indigenous), and to what degree the indigenous people of the Guiana Highlands have contributed to the rich biodiversity in the Parc Amazonien de Guyane in French Guiana and the bordering Brazilian Parque Nacional Tumucumaque. Because Wayana have been there before, I advocate for a further understanding of their past to develop prospects for the Guiana Highlands and Amazonia at large.

Keywords: Amerindians, demographic transition, Guiana Highlands, complexity, historical dynamics

Author: Duin, Renzo (Leiden University, Netherlands / Niederlande)


University of Vienna | Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43 1 4277 17575