Indigenous peoples in Suriname number 18,200 people, or approximately 3.7% of the total population of 492,0001 (census 2004/2007), while an additional 2-3,000 live in neighbouring French Guiana after fleeing the “Interior War” in the late 1980s. The four most numerous peoples are the Kali’ña (Caribs), Lokono (Arawaks), Trio (Tirio, Tareno) and Wayana. In addition, there are small settlements of other Amazonian indigenous peoples in the south-west and south of Suriname, including the Akurio, Wai-Wai, Katuena/Tunayana, Mawayana, Pireuyana, Sikiiyana, Okomoyana, Alamayana, Maraso, Sirewu and Sakëta. The Kali’ña and Lokono live mainly in the northern part of the country and are sometimes referred to as “lowland” indigenous peoples, whereas the Trio, Wayana and other Amazonian peoples live in the south and are referred to as “highland” peoples.
The legislative system of Suriname, based on colonial legislation, does not recognize indigenous or tribal peoples. Suriname is the only country in the Western Hemisphere without any legislation on indigenous peoples’ land and other rights. This forms a major threat to the survival and well-being and respect for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, particularly with the rapidly increasing focus that is being placed on Suriname’s many natural resources (including bauxite, gold, water, forests and biodiversity).
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, The Indigenous World 2011
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