Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Saramaka are one of six Maroon (or "Bush Negro") groups in Suriname. The ancestors of the Saramaka were slaves who escaped into the dense rain forest where for nearly 100 years they fought a war of liberation before gaining emancipation in 1762. They speak variants of a Creole language called Saramaccan. The Saramaka live in the northern extension of the Amazonian forest along the Suriname River and its tributaries, the Gaánlío and the Pikílío. For subsistence, the Saramaka depend on shifting (swidden) horticulture, hunting, and fishing, supplemented by wild forest products and a few key imports such as salt. Men make periodic work trips by to the coast to bring back Western goods.


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South America --Amazon and Orinoco



OWC Code


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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 Saramaka file contains seven documents, including five books by the anthropologists Sally and Richard Price. The earliest work is a travelogue-like account of Saramaccan beliefs and practices by the anthropologists Melville and Frances Herskovits, who did their field work in 1928 and 1929 (Herskovits 1934, no. 6). Another early work is a Dutch translation of a study of Saramaccan cultivation and food preparation (Geijskes 1954, no. 7). Two of the books by Richard Price are histories based on oral and written accounts and cover the period from the establishment of the plantations in Suriname, in the late 1600s, to the Peace of 1762 (Price, R.1983, no. 4) and the following period from 1762 to 1820 (Price, R. 1900, no. 5). Another work is Richard Price's published dissertation on Saramaccan social structure and organization (Price 1974, no. 3). Sally Price (1993, no. 1) has written about Saramaccan art and gender relations. The Prices co-authored a work on Saramaccan folk-telling (Price 1991, no. 2). The books on Saramaccan folk-telling and oral history are rare in the anthropological literature in the use of verbatim material and original voice of native informants. For more detailed information on the content of individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations proceeding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Saramaka" by Richard Price and Sally Price, in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 7. 1994. Johannes Wilbert, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis was written by Ian Skoggard, 1997.

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

APÍNTI-talking drum-534

BASIA-attendants to chief-624



GAAMÁ-tribal chief-614, 619, 622

KANGAA-trial by ordeal-627


KÚNU-avenging ancestral spirit-613, 775, 776

KABITÊNI-lineage and clan chiefs-613, 614


NÊSÉKI-guardian spirit-775, 776


Old-Time People-173, 775

PAPÁ-story-telling and singing contests-5310

Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard

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