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Native American Tribes of Guyana (British Guiana)

This is an index to the Native American language and cultural information on our website pertaining to Guyanese Indian tribes. Some pages contain more information than others. If you belong to an indigenous tribe from Guyana that is not currently listed on this page and you would like to see it here, please contact us about contributing information to our site.

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Both Guyana's name and the name of its neighboring country French Guiana come from the same indigenous placename, Waini. It has been spelled many different ways over time including Guayana, Guiana, Guaiana, Guayano, Guyane, Guayni, Guainia, Wainia, and Quayena, and is sometimes referred to by the names "British Guiana" or "Guayana Inglesa" to differentiate it from French Guiana. The original meaning of Waini is uncertain-- it is the native name of a Guyanese river, but is not itself a word in either the Carib, Arawak or Warao tribes whose territory the river passes through. Most likely it could have been a Carib mispronunciation of the Arawak word for "water," Wini. Another possibility is that it could also have come from a Carib word for "palm tree," Kuwai.

Although English is the only official language of Guyana, indigenous languages are beginning to gain more respect in the country and are used for education and local government services in some areas. All told there are about 14,000 speakers of Amerindian languages in Guyana, of which the three most common are the Arawakan language Wapishana and the Cariban languages Akawai and Patamona. There are also another 500,000 speakers of Guyana Creole, which is a mixed language combining elements of Arawakan, Cariban, and African languages with English.

The original inhabitants of the area that is now Guyana included:

The Akawaio Indians
The Arawak Indians
The Carib Indians
The Makushi Indians
The Mapidian Indians
The Mawakwa Indians
The Patamona Indians
The Pemon Indians
The Shebayo Indians
The Waiwai Indians
The Wapishana Indians
The Warao Indians

Recommended books about Guyana's Native Americans:
(Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links)

*Through Indian Eyes: A journey among the Indian tribes of Guiana:
    Interesting book on the Guyana Indians and their worldview.
Legends and Myths of the Aboriginal Indian of British Guiana:
    Collection of Guayana Indian legends.
Song People of the Rainforest:
    Book about the traditional music of the Warao people of Venezuela and Guyana.
Among The Indians Of Guiana:
    Anthropology text on the native population of Guyana.

Other resources about American Indian history, culture and society in Guyana:

Amerindian Peoples Association:
    Nonprofit organization of Guyana advocating for indigenous communities and their rights.
Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology:
    Homepage of the national museum in Georgetown specializing in indigenous Caribbean history.
Indigenous Peoples of Guyana:
    Information and photos of the Guayanese Indian tribes.
Animism and Folklore of the Guiana Indians: * Religions of Native South Americans:
    Online books about Native Guyanese ceremonies and myths.
Languages of Guyana:
    Map showing where in Guyana indigenous languages are spoken.
Indigenous Flag of the Guianas:
    Picture and description of the tribal flag of the Guiana natives and its symbolism.
Leon Couchman is on a mission to preserve local music:
    News article about a famous Guyanese Native musician.
Guyanese Indigenous women of the Amazon Conservation Fellowship:
    The story of Native American environmental activists in Guayana.
Guyana Chronicles: Amerindians:
    Culture, costume, and crafts of the indigenous Guayanese people.
Guyana Cultural Objects:
    Photographs of artifacts from Guyana tribes.

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