Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Ndyuka live in the northern extension of the Amazonian rain forest in the Marowijne (Maroni) river basin which is shared by the Republic of Suriname and French Guiana. The Ndyuka are one of six Maroon (or "Bush Negro") groups in Suriname. Maroons are the descendants of rebel African slaves who succeeded in building independent communities in the Americas. After a protracted guerrilla war, they concluded a peace treaty with the Dutch colonial regime in 1760 and were granted semi-independence. Ndyuka economy has always been based on swidden agriculture, supplemented by hunting and fishing, and participation in the postcolonial economy.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Amazon and Orinoco


French Guiana


OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in this eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number. The Ndyuka file contains 16 documents, which mostly cover topics on religion, law, and cultural change. The major works are the geographer Jean Hurault's ethnography of the Boni from the 1940s and 1950s (Hurault 1961, no. 6), Bonna Thoden van Velzen's history of Nyduka religious movements and cults (Thoden van Velzen 1988, no. 1), Kenneth Bilby's doctoral dissertation in which he examines culture change and identity in five Aluku communities, and John Lenoir's doctoral dissertation on Paramaccan religion (Lenoir 1973, no. 12). Thoden van Velzen has also written about Ndyuka manners (1984, no. 2), possession cults during Suriname's civil war (1986-1990) (1994, no. 3), and Ndyuka leadership (1995, no. 4). Other studies of Nyduka religion include two studies of Bakuu possession cults (Vernon 1980, no. 11; Wetering 1992, no. 15) and one on witchcraft (Wetering 1987, no. 14). A. J. F. Köbben has written articles on Ndyuka law and sanctions (1969, no. 7), kinship and social organization (1979, no. 8), resistance and acculturation (1968, no. 9), and classificatory kinship and authority (1969, no. 10). Hurault (1959, no. 5) also wrote a comparative demographic study of the Boni and Oyana Indians (SR12). D. C. Geijskes (1954, no. 16) describes food cultivation and preparation among several Maroon tribes, including the Paramacca and Nyduka.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The culture summary was written by Ineke van Wetering and Bonno Thoden van Velzen, July 1997.

AMPUKA--forest spirits--776

BAKUU--malevolent spirits--776, 754

BASI--priest--793, 756

BONI--war hero--769

BOOK DEI--mourning ceremony--765, 769

collective fantasy departmentalization--631, 634

FOLUKU--residential group--592


GAANAM--paramount chief--643

ethnogenesis--186, 619

KAPITEN--village headman--622, 631


KUMANTI--medicine men--756

KUNU--avenging spirit--775, 776, 769, 613, 627

LANTI--council of village elders--561,613, 623, 627

Moravian Church--797, 795

OBEAH--protective medicine, oracle--755, 778, 789

ODIN--Aluku tribal god--776

palaver--clan councils--614, 623, 627


SWELI--sacred bundle and oracle--778, 787

WISI--witch--754, 787

YOOKA--souls of the deceased--775

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