Wednesday, 28 September 2011

More Information About Djukas

More Information About Djukas

A. Hyatt Verrill.

New York Times; Sept. 11, 1927; pg. X14. Researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle Sept. 2011.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

I have been much interested in the articles on the Djukas of Dutch Guiana written by Dr. Morton C. Kahn, in The Times. I am particularly interested as I have visited these people and have collected material from them in the interests of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation of New York.

I wish, therefore, to call attention to one or two errors in the article. In the first place, Dr. Kahn's collection of utensils, &c, is not by any means the only one nor the first one in this country. The Museum of the American Indian has a very large and representative collection of utensils, weapons, art, clothing, ornaments, musical instruments, gods, &c, which I collected in 1924, and in addition has a smaller collection made a number of years ago. There are also several private collections made by members of the staff of the Aluminum Company of America.

Dr. Kahn states that the art of the Djukas is African art. One of the most remarkable features of the Djuka culture is the fact that instead of reflecting African culture or being strongly influenced by the arts and cultures of the neighboring aboriginal Indians, as might be expected, the Djuka culture is quite distinct from any other and their art possesses its own individuality. Even in their marriage, burial and other customs and in their religion the Djukas differ from other races.

Dr. Kahn speaks of the terror which his camera inspired and how difficult if not impossible it was to obtain photographs of the Djukas. My own experience has been that the Djukas, even in the more remote districts, are sufficiently sophisticated today to realize that photographs of themselves are worth paying for. While they will hide or raise strenuous objections if a camera is brought into action without payment being offered, I have yet to find a Djuka who will not face a camera in exchange for a guilder or its equivalent in trade.

Dr. Kahn also neglects to mention the Djukas' exceedingly interesting and unique social, political and funeral customs. The Djukas are divided into a number of distinct tribes or clans, each in many respects independent but all under the sovereignty of the Gran-graniman or king, who is recognized by the Dutch Government of Surinam as an independent potentate. He is regarded as the religious as well as temporal head of all the Djukas and is surrounded by mysticism and rarely is seen by his people.

On the occasion of the inauguration of the present Governor of Dutch Guiana the Gran-graniman journeyed to Paramaribo to take part in the ceremonies. And owing to the fact that he considered it would be unbecoming to permit his subjects to see his royal personage twice in one year, he was forced to return by a very circuitous route.

A. Hyatt Verrill.

New York, Sept. 6, 1927.

Panama and Nicaragua not the only routes for canal

A. Hyatt Verrill lived in NYC during the 1920's and 1930's, when he was not 'in the jungle'. Alan Schenker has come across a number of articles and letters to NY Times. These do give one a sense of the star status that Verrill had during this period.

Panama and Nicaragua not the only routes for canal.

One Across Darien Believed to Be Practicable And Serious Consideration Should Be Given to Colombia

A. Hyatt Verrill,

New York Times; Apr 8, 1928. Researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, Sept. 2011.

To the Editor of 'The New York Times:

As one familiar with the countries and conditions, and having lived for many years on the Canal Zone, I have been deeply interested in the controversy and the discussions regarding a new Nicaraguan canal versus alterations in the present Panama Canal.

In the first place, it seems to me that in all the opinions I have seen the main point of the question of increasing the capacity of the present canal has been completely overlooked. It seems to be a generally accepted idea that the present canal's capacity could be greatly increased by operating it for twenty-four hours a day, and that its capacity could be more than doubled by adding more locks, or by converting it to a sea-level canal.

During the rainy season—from May until December—the canal could be operated day and night, or enlarged locks could be built, which would double the capacity. But during the dry season the question of water is a most vital one. Even now the level of Gatun Lake is often so low as to leave little margin of safety, and not infrequently the water must be drawn from one lock chamber to another, or one set of chambers shut off, in order to conserve the water in the canal. This shortage will be partially overcome when the proposed Alajuela dam on the upper Chagres River is completed. But, were the number of locks increased and the canal widened, there would not be a sufficient water supply to operate them unless the present height of Gatun Dam was increased.

A Costly Operation.

This would not only be vastly expensive, but would necessitate building many smaller dams or "saddles" in various low spots over a wide area, and in addition it would mean flooding a wide extent of country with all the attendant expenses. It is doubtful if to do this would not cost more than to build an entirely new canal. Those who advocate transforming the present canal to a sea-level route overlook several very important matters.

In the first place, the entire hydroelectric system of the Canal Zone would have to be scrapped and rebuilt, with new dams, reservoirs. &c. for at the present time this is dependent upon the power from Gatun Lake. Moreover, it would necessitate dredging the canal for a depth of approximately eighty feet below its present depth, not only across the whole of Gatun Lake, but also through Gaillard Culebra Cut.

To do this without cutting away the hills on both sides would be to invite disastrous slides, the removal of which, or rather the constant operation of dredges in the cut, annually costs a sum that would go far toward the construction of a new canal.

Finally, I cannot understand how it would be possible to keep the canal open while it was undergoing alterations to transform it to a sea-level canal, for the dredging operations in Gaillard Cut, if carried on for this purpose, would completely block transit, not to mention the problem that would be presented when it came to destroying Gatun Lock and dam and draining the lake after the new sea-level channel was completed.

Do Volcanoes "Wane"?

Referring to the question of the Nicaraguan route, we are faced with the question of the volcanoes. Although it is claimed that these are no great danger and are "waning." can any one definitely say that any volcano, and more especially an active one, is waning or that it is not the gravest danger imaginable? Mount Pelee, in Martinique, had not only been "waning," but apparently dead for over a century, and yet it proved dangerous and devastating. Suppose such an eruption took place in a canal thronged with shipping and with thousands of men and women within eight or ten miles of the volcano? An eruption that would destroy shipping or the canal might, it is true, never occur; but, on the other hand, it might happen at any moment. Is it wise to invest half a billion or more in an enterprise which might, at any moment, be utterly ruined, not to mention the less of life and property? And would any one feel safe and secure when navigating waters within a few miles of an active volcano?

Finally, it is a well-known fact that the western slopes of Nicaragua are cut by many great fissures and faults, and several eminent authorities have declared that if a canal were cut through this section the entire waters of the canal would vanish into the earth through one of these cracks.

Meanwhile, every one interested appears to have quite overlooked other and more practicable routes for an interoceanic canal. The route across Darien from the Caribbean to the Gulf of San Miguel is the shortest route of all, and was seriously considered when we took over the job of building a canal through Panama. Here navigable waters reach to within some twenty-odd miles of the Caribbean, and in this district there are no volcanoes, few earthquakes and no great engineering obstacles. Moreover, it is in the territory of Panama and hence no treaty nor political difficulties would crop up.

Still another feasible and advantageous route is that through Colombia. This would follow the Atrato River for a greater part of the entire distance across to the Pacific and would present no serious obstacles. Practically the only cutting would be a tunnel less than ten miles in length, and, while the idea of a tunnel large enough to accommodate big ships may seem appalling to some, we must not forget that Gaillard Cut is nothing but a huge tunnel minus a top and that to cut such a tunnel is no more expensive, under present engineering conditions, than it was to make an open cut of the same size a dozen, or fifteen years ago.

Finally, either of these routes would result in opening up and developing extremely rich and fertile areas of land, and would go far toward paying for itself through the returns from freights, charges and other receipts which would result from the exploitation and development of the adjacent country.

A canal in either of these districts would be not only a short cut from ocean to ocean, but a highway of commerce and industry and an outlet and feeder for thousands of square miles of country rich in natural resources, in opportunities for agriculture, lumbering, fruit-growing and innumerable other industries. Roads and railways would soon be built from interior points to such a canal, whereas the present Panama Canal, or even a Nicaragua canal, would of necessity remain primarily nothing more than a canal and not a commercial nor industrial project.

A. Hyatt Verrill,

New York, April 2, 1928.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

In Unknown British Guiana -Part 5

This is part 5 of Verrill's Guiana travels, Part One is here and a link to all Verrill's work is here---this is a nonfiction series. Link to PDF of this story./drf
THE WIDE WORLD MAGAZINE, JANUARY, 1919. Researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, September 2011.
It is no exaggeration to say that British Guiana, a vast stretch of territory on the shoulders of the South American Continent, is one of the least-known portions of the globe. Here are great primeval forests, mighty rivers, huge waterfalls, extensive plateaus, and great mountain ranges, where dwell strange Indian tribes and quaint animal life of which virtually nothing is known. The Author, who has made it his business to penetrate into the unknown interior of this land, has specially written for “The Wide World Magazine" an account of his journeys and adventures, which will be found of absorbing interest. He discovered large rivers and mountains whose existence was unknown, and stumbled across primitive races who had never seen a white man before. His striking photographs give an added value to a fascinating narrative.
ALTHOUGH the north-west district of British Guiana has been fairly well explored and mapped, yet it holds much of interest to the geographer, the naturalist, the geologist, and the ethnologist. Moreover, travelling in the north-west is much easier and less dangerous than in most portions of Guiana, for it is mainly low, flat country with few hills, and the rivers, being unimpeded by falls or rapids for long distances, are navigable for steamers and launches for nearly a hundred and fifty miles inland, while the streams are so numerous that one may visit nearly every part of the district by boat.
Until quite recently the north-west was claimed by Venezuela, and it was not until 1899 that it was definitely awarded to the British by the Boundary Arbitration Commission at Paris.
The present boundary line is formed mainly by the Amakura River, and, oddly enough, this arbitrary boundary seems to be a natural boundary as well, for there is a distinct line of demarcation between the two neighbouring countries in flora, fauna, geology, and people.
Thus, while the head-waters of the Yarikita River and the Aruau are separated only by a low sand-ridge less than three-fourths of a mile wide, yet many of the aquatic plants of the two streams are distinct, and species found on the Venezuelan watershed do not, and will not, thrive on the Guiana side, and vice versa. So, too, many of the birds found west of the Amakura are rare or lacking east of that river, and certain of the aboriginal Indians look upon the Amakura as the boundary to their tribal territory. This is the case with the true Caribs and the Chiamas, and although civilized members of the two tribes may be found on the other's territory, yet the primitive Caribs are confined to British Guiana and the primitive Chiamas to Venezuela all along the Amakura.
As in all other parts of British Guiana, lack of adequate transportation has greatly hampered the development and prosperity of the north-west. Although the mouth of the Waini River is scarcely one hundred miles from Georgetown, yet to make the journey one must travel in a small, uncomfortable, poorly-conducted steamer for twenty-four hours or more.
Entering the Waini, the traveller looks upon a vast area of mud flats and swamp, covered by a dense growth of mangroves. But as the steamer leaves the river and enters the Mora Passage the swamps rapidly give place to dry land and forest. This Mora Passage is a natural canal, or "itabu," connecting the Barima and Waini rivers, and is very deep—one hundred feet or more—and yet is so narrow, and with so many sharp turns, that there seems scarce space for the steamer to pass between the walls of verdure; and one constantly expects the vessel to crash into the forest. It is an interesting trip, and the stranger's interest is constantly aroused by the wealth of rank tropical growths, and the flocks of gorgeous scarlet ibis, which are always in sight, either flapping lazily ahead in a wonderful cloud of vivid red, or alighting upon the waterside trees, where they appear like masses of intense vermilion flowers, and marvellously beautiful against the background of greenery.
Morawhanna, the chief port of the north-west, is a tiny town on the eastern bank of the Barima, a few rods above the mouth of the Mora Passage; but, small as it is, it is the most cosmopolitan spot in Guiana. From this little outpost of civilization launches ply up the rivers to Mount Everard and Arekaka on the Barima, to the estates and plantations on the Aruka, and to the sawmills on the Waini; while an occasional boat makes the trip to the head of the Aruau, where goods are portaged over to the head of the Yarikita, and thence to Venezuela.
There is one great drawback to the northwest district, and that is rain. According to popular tradition and belief, there are two wet and two dry seasons in Guiana; but in the north-west there are two wet and two wetter seasons. To be sure, during the so-called dry months the rivers are lower than in the wet season, and one may have some pleasant weather; but I have travelled over the district in both seasons and have invariably been drenched from start to finish of my trips. On one expedition it rained incessantly for twenty-one days and nights, and only on three days did the sun break through the clouds for a few brief moments. Travelling and camping under such conditions are most trying. The rivers rise and flood the level, forest-covered land, and to leave the boat means to flounder through mud and water up to one's waist. It was impossible to dry our clothing; blankets or hammocks were wringing wet; food moulded and supplies spoiled; it was often impossible to find dry fuel or to build fires for two days at a time; our matches were ruined and we were compelled to fall back upon the primitive Indian method of making fire with two sticks; and, worst of all, it was next to impossible to find a camping-spot. Indeed, on several occasions my tarpaulin was spread between trees on floating islands—accumulations of leaves and roots—which tipped and rocked if several of us stood near one side, and which had a disconcerting habit of breaking away from the surrounding forest and drifting down stream while we slept.
But, as a rule, we could not even find such accommodation, and we were obliged to paddle up tortuous, tacuba-choked creeks for miles in search of isolated Indian settlements, which were frequently reached long after midnight. And, in addition to such little inconveniences, there are other difficulties brought about by the excessive rise of the rivers. In the main streams the current becomes so swift that it is impossible to make headway against it, even with a motor. On one occasion I attempted to run up the Barima, and although my boat was capable of making eight miles an hour in still water, yet for two hours the boat remained practically motionless, and finally I gave up the attempt. In navigating the smaller streams and creeks during rainy weather one is obliged constantly to cut a way through fallen trees and a tangle of vegetation which at other times would be far above the level of the water. At such times it is often necessary actually to hew a passage through the jungle, and three miles a day is good progress; while, to add to the travellers troubles, biting ants, scorpions, and centipedes fall in showers from the retreats to which they have been driven by the flood.
Many a time have I been obliged to jump overboard into four feet of mud, while my men unloaded the boat and destroyed the unwelcome voyagers who had taken possession of our craft.
But such matters are mere incidentals and all in the day's work when travelling through the Guiana bush, and one soon becomes accustomed to them.
My first expedition into the north-west was made with the object of visiting the Carib Indians, who are almost entirely confined to the interior of this portion of British Guiana. On a later expedition I visited the Warraus of the swampy coast-lands and the Chiamas of the Venezuelan border, and also excavated numerous prehistoric mounds in the district, with very interesting results.
Although many Indians may be seen at Morawhanna, and there are camps and villages scattered all along the rivers, yet these are civilized, uninteresting vagabonds who, as is invariably the case, acquired all the vices of the whites and blacks when they donned the garb of civilization. To find the Guiana aborigine in his unspoiled, primitive state one must journey far from the beaten track, and my objective-point in the north-west was the wild, little-known country between the head-waters of the Barima and the upper Cuyuni rivers.
From Morawhanna a noisy, malodorous kerosene launch carried me and my belongings for some fifty miles up the Barima to Mount Everard—a low hill of lateritic formation, which, with a similar eminence on the other side of the river, known as Mount Terminus, is the first high land one sees on the Barima.
Mount Everard—named in honour of Sir Everard Imthurn, whose house still stands above the landing-place—is a tiny settlement consisting of three or four huts, a couple of shops, and a few rude open sheds, and is only of importance as a stopping-place for gold-diggers and balata-bleeders bound to or from the interior.
Continuing our journey, our ancient rattle-bang craft roared and pounded its noisy way up stream for twenty hours, until Arekaka was reached, about one hundred miles from Mount Everard and at the head of navigation on the Barima. Arekaka is a small settlement of little importance. From here a twenty-eight-mile road has been built across country to Towakaima, on the Barima.
The Government warden at Morawhanna had kindly offered me the use of the Government mule at Arekaka, and I looked forward to a very easy trip over the road to the Barima. Had I dreamed what was in store for me I would have avoided that beast as I would the plague, for he was the most obstinate, contrary, perverse, and abominable creature that ever stood on four legs, and it required far more exertion to keep him going than to walk.
When a bridge was reached—and there proved to be something over two hundred on that miserable road—it was necessary to dismount and lead the beast across the slippery, shaky structure, and at the first night's camp he broke loose and led us a chase of several miles through a drenching rain. Not content with this, he had a playful habit of walking on the very verge of every precipice we passed, as if intent on trying to see how far he could tempt Providence. His only redeeming feature was that he was not gun-shy, and as the forest roadside teemed with game I shot enough to supply all our needs without moving from the saddle.
Twenty-eight miles may seem a short distance, but when travelling with Indian carriers loaded with one hundred pounds each and riding over a slippery, muddy road through a tropic jungle in drenching rain, twelve miles a day is good going. On the afternoon of the second day Sam (my black boy-of-all-work) and myself had far outdistanced the Indian droghers, when we found a huge fallen tree barring our way, only four miles from our destination.
The mule could not go under the tacuba and he refused to climb over. We had neither hatchet, axe, nor cutlass, and the rain was pouring down in sheets. Sam was carrying the lantern, and we made futile attempts to start a fire by means of kerosene, but everything was so sodden and it was raining so hard that even when a fire was started the flames were extinguished in an instant.
For hour after hour we waited, cold, wet, hungry, and miserable, each moment expecting the Indians to arrive with axes and machetes, until finally, at 10 p.m. deciding they had camped for the night, we tethered the source of our troubles in the bush and started forward on foot. It was fortunate for us that we had the lantern, for by its flickering gleams we managed to avoid breaking our necks on fallen trees and limbs, and succeeded in keeping to the road without tumbling into the river or the ravines which bordered the path.
Never have four miles stretched into such an interminable distance. At last we heard the yelping of dogs and caught the gleam of a fire, and knew we had reached Towakaima. The dogs and fires were in a tiny Indian logi, or camp, and, passing this, we clambered up the steps of the Government rest-house and threw ourselves down in the welcome shelter of the gallery.
We had had nothing to eat since daybreak, we were chilled and wet through, we were utterly exhausted, and all our provisions, dry clothes, and hammocks were with the Indians somewhere on the road.
Stripping off our wet garments, we dried them slowly over the lantern, and then prepared to sleep upon the bare floor. Hardly had we settled down when a voice called out of the inky darkness, and in response to our reply a light gleamed in a hitherto invisible shack, and presently arrived a black man. He proved to be the Government caretaker and the sole representative of law, order, and civilization in the district, and to us he proved a friend indeed. In a few moments he had provided us with clean, dry garments, blankets, and hammocks, and then busied himself preparing a welcome, if simple, meal.
Our troubles were over for the night, and soon after daybreak the Indian carriers arrived, and with them the accursed mule.
It appeared as if good luck was with me after all, however, for Shepard, the warden, told me there were a number of Caribs camping near, and that they were all going up the Barima to a grand Cassiri feast and dance. The dance, it seemed, was a very important affair, and was being held as part of the ceremonies attendant upon deserting a camp where a woman had died two months previously.
Most of the Guiana Indians desert their homes or villages when one of their number dies, the body being buried in the hut of the deceased; but the Caribs go a step farther, and, burying their dead in their provision fields, abandon crops, fields, and village after two months' time, and celebrate the occasion by a feast and dance as a sort of farewell to the spirit of the departed.
Shepard also told me that he had been expecting us since the day before our arrival, as some of the Caribs had told him a white man was coming to take them to the war. This advance notice of my movements puzzled me, for no one had passed us on the road and no word had been sent ahead. Later, I discovered that the Caribs have a marvellously perfect method of signalling by means of blasts upon a large fresh-water shell used as a horn, and that my departure from Arekaka had been signalled to Towakaima, twenty-nine miles distant. As the noise produced by blasts on the shell is not audible for more than a few miles, I have no doubt that the message was relayed from one Indian to another, for there are numerous individuals and families dwelling in the bush between the two settlements.
The explanation of the Caribs' belief that I was coming to carry them to the war proved somewhat humorous. It appeared that in their wireless code there was no provision made for signals meaning I was studying Indians and collecting specimens, the nearest approach being a signal denoting “catch," and as the Caribs could see no other reason for an armed white man "catching" Indians, they assumed it was to conscript them.
While Shepard was telling me of the forthcoming dance, several Carib women passed down the trail, on their way to the river for their morning bath, and at Shepard's call three of them approached the house, followed by a couple of men
They were fine-looking people and far superior to the other Guiana aborigines in physical development and features. In colour they were clear brownish-yellow, much lighter in tint than the other tribes, and there was little of the Mongolian in their faces. One very old woman was naked save for a lap or breech-clout of blue cotton, but the other girls and women were all clad in single skirt-like garments, suspended over one shoulder. These I afterwards learned are donned only when near the settlements, or when walking through the bush, the women at other times wearing only their cotton breech-cloths. Around their necks were immense coils of beads, and their legs were decorated with fringed and cotton bands woven tightly about the limb. All had their lower lips pierced and carried pins in the aperture, and as they chatted they would slip these pins out and in their lips by means of their tongues in a most remarkable manner. The men were naked with the exception of long fringed and beaded laps held in place with woven cotton belts, and all were armed with long, powerful bows and arrows, while several carried lances or javelins of Etah-palm tipped with ten-inch steel heads.
The women's hair was coiled upon their heads, while the men wore theirs cut short, except for a tuft of long hair over the forehead. This scalp-lock-like tuft is typical of the Caribs, and to it is attached the white down of the king vulture, the tribal emblem of the true Carib.
The Caribs, shy and reticent at first, became very friendly when I spoke to them in the dialect of the Dominican Caribs. They willingly consented to be photographed, and agreed to take me and my party to the Wanu dance in the afternoon. Then, chattering and laughing like a bevy of children, they scampered off to their delayed bath.
An hour later we strolled over to their camp and found our Carib friends absolutely unrecognizable in their festive attire. Their smooth yellow skins were painted vivid red with anotto and grease, their faces were decorated with wonderful designs in blue, black, scarlet, and white, their hair was wound and tied with bright-hued ribbons, great necklaces of jaguar and peccary teeth were about their necks, and their cheeks and foreheads bore great tufts of the white vulture down. Altogether they presented a most wild and savage appearance, and it was hard to believe we were not in the heart of the jungle amid untamed cannibals.
Some time was devoted to distributing presents to the score or more of Caribs at the camp and to securing measurements and photographs, and then, everything being in readiness, we embarked in the big Carib woodskins and started on our journey tip the Barima.
For some distance we paddled up stream until the first falls were reached, where all disembarked, and loads and woodskins were portaged around the cataract and the journey was resumed. Suddenly, through the silence of the wilderness, came a faint, far-away sound, a rhythmic, pulsating beat, and though so thin and dim that it seemed felt rather than heard, yet it was unmistakable—the measured boom of an Indian drum. And as again the throbbing sound was borne to us on the bosom of the forest-bordered river my pulses quickened, for there is something indescribably wild, something that savours of primitive, savage man, of cannibal feasts and weird orgies, in the sound of an Indian tomtom quivering through the still and humid air of a tropic jungle.
Then, as our craft swept towards the half-hidden entrance to a narrow creek, the resonant throb of the drum-beats reverberated louder and louder, until, in a moment, the river was lost to view, and, rounding a bend in the creek, the woodskin was run gently upon the muddy shore beside a dozen others of its kind.
Up from the landing-place a gigantic fallen tree formed a natural bridge and pathway to the summit of the bank, and in single file we picked our way along the slippery log and entered a narrow, winding trail through the forest. Ever louder boomed the drum as we proceeded, and presently, emerging from the woods, we came forth upon a good-sized clearing, within which stood half-a-dozen benabs, or native dwellings.
Close at hand stood a neatly-wattled hut; adjoining it was a large, open benab, and in its shelter, standing about, reclining in hammocks, or squatting on low carved, wooden stools, were a score or more of women. Some were clad only in their laps, others were garbed in their single bag-like garments, but all were arrayed in barbaric finery and were gorgeous with paint and colour. A few yards distant, beneath another thatched shed were the men, one and all hideously painted, while upon the forelock of each, as well as on each woman's forehead, was the tuft of snowy king vulture down, the symbol of their race.
At the entrance to the men's benab was seated a very tall and splendidly-built Carib, wearing the ornamented, fringed, and tasselled cotton crown of a chief, and holding between his knees a drum of cedar and baboon hide, upon which he beat the monotonous rhythm of the Wanu dance with human bones for drumsticks.
Close by stood two great troughs of paiwarrie, and constantly to and fro between these and the men and women passed a young girl, with her face curiously adorned with scarlet—the "paiwarrie governor," whose sole duty was to keep the drinkers' calabashes ever filled with the vile liquor.
Although I had come unbidden and unannounced, yet the Caribs showed no surprise at my arrival, and while at the time I attributed this to true Indian stoicism, I learned later that my coning had been signalled to the camp by shell-blasts from Towakaima. Seating myself in an unoccupied hammock, I accepted the proffered calabash of paiwarrie, for to refuse this is to offend and insult the Indians beyond words; and while a squeamish person might refuse to swallow the beverage—knowing how it is prepared—yet, if one is to win the Indians' confidence and obtain an insight into their lives, all such scruples must be cast aside and one must do as they do as far as possible.
A liberal distribution of presents soon established friendly relations, and even old Komwari, the chief and master of ceremonies, unbent from his surly aloofness and, vowing I was his brother, took me in charge and placed his benab at my disposal. He was a very intelligent old chap, a peaiman, or medicine-man, as well as a chief, and, as he spoke both Spanish and English in addition to his own tongue, he proved a most valuable friend, and furnished me with vocabularies, folk-tales, and general information, besides disposing of his choicest possessions to add to my collection. Moreover, he stated that if I would accompany him and his people to the Takutu I would have an opportunity of seeing "much plenty” Caribs who were truly primitive—an invitation which I lost no time in accepting.
The dance had not as yet commenced, and I wandered at will among the people and explored their benabs, much to the delight and amusement of the Caribs, who thought it great fun to watch me rummaging among their goods and chattels, stowed in baskets and hidden in out-of-the-way nooks and corners. The Guiana Indians possess an enormous amount of curiosity, and whenever I arrived at a camp or village they invariably went through my belongings with a thoroughness which would shame the most officious Customs officer; but they are absolutely honest, and replaced every article with the greatest care. Evidently they judged others by themselves and thought it nothing strange that a white man should wish to paw over their things, and whenever I brought to light some choice specimen of bead or feather work they would go into peals of laughter. Indeed, they seemed to look upon my specimen-hunting as a sort of "hide the thimble" game, which they enjoyed almost as much as haggling over the trades when my house-to-house search was ended.
But the Caribs’ interest in my movements did not interrupt their drinking, which continued without pause. Much to my surprise, however, there were no signs of intoxication, although the Indians had consumed enormous quantities of the sour, ill-smelling paiwarrie. The only visible effect of the liquor was to produce a lethargic, listless, dull condition, the men and women lying or sitting motionless and silent, but with no signs of drowsiness, and apparently wrapped in the most serious and profound thoughts. They were often so inert that they would not trouble to lift the drink to their lips, but, opening their mouths, waited for the serving-maid to pour the liquor down their throats.
In an hour or two after my arrival the paiwarrie began to exert its secondary effect: the lethargic, morose attitude of the Caribs gave way to laughter and gaiety; they chattered and sang; the droning boom of the drum became a lively tattoo; rude fiddle-like instruments squeaked; bone flutes added their shrill notes to the barbaric discord; and the boys and girls commenced to prance about, turning and twisting, stamping their feet, and stepping high in time with the drum-beats.
Soon the men joined the dance, always in couples, and, casting aside their single garments, the women followed in rapid succession. Each sex, however, formed a separate group, the women and girls dancing on the smooth open space before their benab and the men occupying a similar space before their shelter, while the boys dashed about here, there, and everywhere, shaking calabash rattles and yelling like fiends.
Doubtless there were definite steps and figures to the dance, and these unquestionably had their symbolic meanings, for the “spree" was of a ceremonial character; but only a Carib could have interpreted the intricate movements and the mad gyrations of the dancers or the significance of the various forms of ceremonial clubs wielded by the men. To civilized eyes it appeared a confused jumble of leaping, prancing, naked bronze figures; a kaleidoscopic whirl of colour and a deafening din of yells, shouts, the piercing sound of flutes, the thumping of wooden clubs, the stamp and shuffle of bare feet, and the whir of rattles, the whole punctuated and impelled by the resonant hollow boom of the drum.
For a time I, an interested spectator, watched, making notes and taking photographs as opportunity offered; but as paiwarrie was constantly pressed upon me, and as I had no desire either to drink more or to offend the Caribs by refusals, and as there was nothing more to be accomplished, I prepared to leave the dancing, half-drunken throng to themselves. We had been given the chief's house, but realizing that it would be impossible to obtain any rest while festivities continued, I decided to drop down the river a few miles and go into camp until old Komwari was ready to start on his promised journey into the Carib country.
But my "civilized" Carib boatmen could not be coaxed, cajoled, or threatened into leaving—such an event as a paiwarrie spree did not fail to their lot every day, and they were determined to make the most of their opportunity. Luckily, one of my men was a Waika, and, being unfamiliar with the Carib tongue or Carib ways, found himself a mere wallflower. With him and trusty Sam I slipped away unnoticed, and, embarking in my woodskin, dropped down the river to a promising camping-spot. As we drifted down with the current in the waning light the distant boom of the drum was borne to us on the breeze, and far into the night the faint, faraway reverberations told us that hilarity still held sway among our Carib friends.
(To be continued.)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

In Unknown Br. Guiana 3

We have identified a significant series of articles on A. Hyatt Verrill's explorations in British Guiana (Guyana). The first two stories have yet to be located, but Alan Schenker has provided some of the later explorations.




From The Wide World Magazine, November 1918, Collected by Alan Schenker, Digitized by Doug Frizzle September 2011.

It is no exaggeration to say that British Guiana, a vast stretch of territory on the shoulders of the South American Continent, is one of the least-known portions of the globe. Here are great primeval forests, mighty rivers, huge waterfalls, extensive plateaus, and great mountain ranges, where dwell strange Indian tribes and quaint animal life of which virtually nothing is known. The Author, who has made it his business to penetrate into the unknown interior of this land, has specially written for "The Wide World Magazine" an account of his journeys and adventures, which will be found of absorbing interest. He discovered large rivers and mountains whose existence was unknown, and stumbled across primitive races who had never seen a white man before. His striking photographs give an added value to a fascinating narrative.

Part III.

OF all British Guiana rivers the Demerara is commercially the most important. Its banks are cultivated for many miles above Georgetown; it is navigable for ocean-going vessels as far as Wismar, some sixty-five miles from the sea, and river steamboats make regular trips forty-five miles farther to Malali. And yet its upper reaches are almost unknown, and its source remained undiscovered until the head-waters were explored by the author in January, 1917.

This is the more remarkable inasmuch as the Demerara is a comparatively short river, its total length being little over two hundred miles in a direct line, and its source is scarcely thirty miles above Canister Falls, or about one hundred miles beyond Malali. The river beyond the falls has never been surveyed by the Government, and its course as indicated on the maps is purely guesswork. As a consequence, the maps are exceedingly inaccurate, the river following a very different course from that shown; numerous creeks that appear on the maps do not exist; others are many miles out of position, and large lakes and savannas are not indicated at all; while Canister Falls is miles out of its true location on the best maps.

My inquiries in regard to the Indians on the Demerara elicited no definite information, local knowledge of the aborigines proving even more vague and uncertain than knowledge of the river itself. By some I was assured that there were no uncivilized Indians on the river; others affirmed that there were, and no two people could agree as to the tribes to be met above Malali; while one man, who had walked across from the Essequibo to the Berbice, told of meeting Indians of an unknown tribe whose customs, decorations, and appearance were totally distinct from any Indians known to me.

Finally, however, I had the good fortune to meet an Indian who lived far above Great Falls and who proved to be a Makushi. He stated that there were "plenty much" Indians about the head-waters of the river; that many were still uncivilized, and that among them were individuals of numerous tribes. He had brought down a number of curios to sell, and among them several paddles, stirrers, and other articles of a type unlike anything I had found in British Guiana.

These he said were brought from "too far topside" (meaning an indefinite place) by Akawoia traders, but he could, or would, not furnish any information as to the identity or location of the people who made them. Moreover, he flatly refused to accompany me on an expedition into the unknown district, averring that the country was "peai" (or supernatural), that the river came from a "hole in the mountains” and that it was a district inhabited by weird savage monsters, half-man and half-jaguar.

Convinced that there was abundant and interesting material to be found in the unknown district, I determined to explore the headwaters of the Demerara, discover the source, and visit the Indians of the adjacent country.

But I soon found that the difficulties in the way of carrying out my plans were almost insurmountable. Even the civilized Indians about Wismar looked upon the unknown district with as much superstitious fear as my Makushi informant; while the fact that it was the holiday season, which the Bovianders were fully occupied in celebrating by indulging in prolonged sprees, made it impossible to secure a boat-crew of these efficient coloured men. Luck favoured me, however, and by merest chance I found four young fellows who agreed to "take a walk topside," as they expressed it, the love of adventure proving more potent than the lure of good wages.

To be sure, I was woefully short-handed, four men being but half a crew, and only one of my men was a pure Indian—a civilized Akawoia—the others being of mixed Indian and negro blood. But they were all good men, young, light-hearted, happy-go-lucky, and tireless, and throughout the trip, which proved the hardest and most trying in all my experience in the tropics, they never grumbled and never failed.

I had been assured in Georgetown, and also at Wismar, that I should have no trouble in obtaining a boat or coorial at Malali; but upon reaching that little jumping-off place of civilization, my chagrin and disappointment may be imagined when I found that not a coorial, bateau, ballyhoo, or even a woodskin, was to be had for love or money, while the only craft available was a heavy river-boat belonging to the Consolidated Rubber Company, which had been sunk for months.

When this boat was at last raised and baled out it was found to be fairly serviceable, and although it leaked like a sieve and was water logged and heavy, yet it was our only chance, and I was obliged to make the best of it. Paddles there were none, and we were compelled to fashion makeshift oars by lashing blades hewn from hard wood to saplings; clumsy, heavy, and unwieldy, to be sure, but capable of propelling the boat in still water; while for the rapids and in narrow stretches of river we depended upon push-poles.

Thus equipped we set forth at last, and having successfully won our way through the rapids at Malali we left the little frontier settlement astern and headed up the stream towards the head-waters and the unknown.

For many miles above Malali cultivated lands were scattered along the river-banks, and we constantly met coorials and woodskins filled with a motley array of Arowaks, Portuguese, Bovianders, and negroes. All were arrayed in their best and bent on merrymaking, and in nearly every craft were rude musical instruments of one sort or another, while the roistering occupants made the river resound with their noisy songs. Many villages and settlements of civilized Arowaks were also passed, and in all holiday revels were in full swing.

But by the third day we had left all these signs of civilization behind, and soon after noon reached a landing-place where several wood-skins gave promise of a village in the neighbouring "bush." From the waterside a well-marked trail led inland, and following this we came to a clearing and a number of benabs, or native huts. The inhabitants were Akawoias, and the dirtiest, most slovenly, and unattractive lot of aborigines it has ever been my misfortune to meet. Both men and women were dressed in ragged, filthy European garments, and all were in the early stages of a paiwarrie spree, paiwarrie being the favourite alcoholic drink of the Indians.

But while outwardly civilized they were far more primitive in some respects than many of the more uncivilized Indians, and the women were elaborately painted and tattooed, while drums, dance-sticks, rattles, and other aboriginal utensils were everywhere in evidence.

I soon found this camp was merely an outlying portion, a sort of suburb, of the settlement, and the numerous hammocks, slung between trees in the surrounding woods, were many visitors to the village. The main camp consisted of about a dozen benabs, while in the centre of the village was a large oval structure, over sixty feet in length—the great-house of the village. The place swarmed with men, women, and children, for the feast was in full swing. It was a strange commingling of Christianity and paganism, for the Red men were celebrating Christmas and New Years Day with aboriginal accompaniments, following the Parasara dances and Bimiti running in villages far up the river.

In the centre of the great-house was an enormous tree-trunk, hollowed out into a huge trough and with the two ends carved into grotesque semblances of human heads. This immense receptacle, which held about five hundred gallons, was completely filled with evil-smelling paiwarrie, and every man, woman, and child was trying his or her best to drain the trough to the dregs. As yet, however, few of the Indians were intoxicated, although they were boisterous, good-humoured, and jolly from the effects of the liquor, while many, of the younger set were dancing and prancing about to the boom of drums, the shrill notes of reed and bone flutes and whistles, and the noise of rattle-sticks and "shake-shakes."

Although it was nominally a village of the Akawoias, yet no fewer than six tribes were represented in the crowd, and Makushis, Wapisianas, Akawoias, Patamonas. Arekunas, and Arowaks drank, danced, and fraternized on the best of terms. Among this choice assortment I noticed a very old man, who was apparently recognized as the village "governor," and, hoping to secure information regarding the head-waters of the river and its inhabitants, I questioned him at length. He was unusually intelligent, but as superstitiously afraid of the mountainous district at the river's source as the other Indians.

Sketching an outline of the peculiar paddles I have already mentioned, I showed the drawing to the old chief, asking if he knew who made such paddles or could tell me whence they came.

At the first glance he replied "Akurias," and informed me that the tribe dwelt far to the south about the head-waters of the Berbice. He had been among them, he stated, and added that I might find a few beyond the head of the Demerara, as he thought there was a camp of the tribe in the bush in the unknown district.

I was highly elated at this, for while the information was most indefinite, yet I was convinced that if Akuria paddles could be brought down the river I could trace them up to the place of their origin. As there was little to be gained by remaining among these carousing Indians, I soon left the camp and pushed on upstream, resting that night near the abandoned village site of Kenaimapoo. Camp was made a short distance above this spot, where, on a hill above the river, we found a solitary logi, or open-sided thatched hut, occupied by two Indian women and their several children. Soon after our arrival two bucks arrived in woodskins, one of whom I at once recognized as a Carib owing to the peculiar way in which his hair was trimmed and which is distinctive of the Carib tribe.

He was somewhat loath to admit his racial identity at first, but a few words of Caribi soon won his confidence. Later I discovered that, in common with the Makushis, Wapisianas, Arekunas, and other Indians (with the exception of the Akawoias and Arowaks), he was a fugitive or renegade from his own people. I also learned that for some inexplicable reason, known only to the Indians, the Demerara is considered a safe refuge for such fugitives, and while murders and feuds may occur among the denizens of the river, yet the district is a well-recognized taboo for avengers from other portions of the country. This, no doubt, explains in great measure the worthless character of the Indians on the upper Demerara and the contempt in which they are held by the Indians elsewhere.

My Carib renegade proved a fairly decent sort of rascal, and finding we were going beyond Great Falls, he offered to help us in portaging our goods around the cataract. He stated that he and his brother were the only Caribs on the river, that they lived back in the bush a number of miles above the Falls, and that he knew of several good-sized camps on the river; but he added that we should not find many people, as they were all absent at a Parasara dance farther up-stream.

As we poled slowly up-river the next day we were joined by several more woodskins filled with Indians, and when, early in the afternoon, we reached Great Falls we were surrounded by quite a little flotilla of these frail but buoyant craft. We had been told that we should find another submerged boat of the rubber company above the Falls, but I was somewhat doubtful, and at once sent some of my men ahead to ascertain if the boat was there.

In the meantime we discharged our belongings, while our Indian friends busied themselves in emptying their woodskins and then hauled their craft on to the rocks preparatory to transporting them overland to the head of the Falls. By the time our boat was unloaded the men returned and reported the finding of the other boat, but that its condition could not be learned as it was sunk in deep water. By the aid of the Indians the heavy boxes and bags were carried through the mile or more of forest between the foot and the head of the Falls and camp was made. The next morning, by the united efforts of all hands, the boat was dragged into shallow water and emptied, and was found to be in far better shape than the one in which we had journeyed from Malali.

During the first day above Great Falls we saw no signs of Indians or villages, but we passed several large lakes not on the maps, while the forest-growth which stretched away on every hand was the heaviest I had seen in British Guiana. The following day we found several small camps by the river. The only one inhabited was that belonging to the Carib, which was occupied by his brother and several women and children.

Soon after starting the next morning we passed a tacuba, or fallen tree, on which was suspended a palm-leaf mantle worn in the Parasara dance, and throughout the day we passed various portions of Parasara costumes hung upon the numerous tacubas in mid-stream. Sometimes it was a crown, in other cases a skirt, and then, again, a mantle, the total number of pieces representing over one hundred complete costumes.

The custom of suspending these dancing suits on the tacubas is an essential part of the Parasara dance, which is held annually, the Indians believing that the garments ward off the evil spirits and supernatural beings of the rivers and appease the water-sprites, thus safeguarding travellers. For similar reasons the suits are frequently hung on trees or stumps in the provision fields or clearings, and it is considered most dangerous, and a sacrilege as well, to remove or disturb the costumes. Anyone doing so commits a serious offence, and I was very doubtful as to the results which might follow when I collected several complete costumes from their resting-places on tacubas and concealed them under my baggage in the bottom of the boat.

The Parasara dance, in its true form, is more in the nature of a religious rite than a celebration, although among the civilized and semi-civilized Indians a so-called makeshift Parasara is held as an accompaniment to any spree. The true Parasara is confined to the men, who don elaborate and weird costumes, consisting of skirt, mantle, and crown of palm-leaves, and who dance to the barbaric music of drums, flutes, and rattles. Each dancer carries a shake-shake or a rattle-stick in one hand and a dance-trumpet in the other, and at the close of the dance these are broken and destroyed. For this reason they are very rare in collections, and I was exceedingly fortunate in being able to obtain a number of different forms.

There are two kinds of rattles used: one consisting of a calabash filled with pebbles and fastened to a wooden handle decorated with tufts and streamers of parrot feathers; the other is made by winding a beltlike string of "lucky seeds" on a short stick or staff which is ornamented with a tuft of feathers at one end. The "trumpets" are sections of branches of the "Gunga-pump" tree painted with various designs in blue, pink, red, and purple, and with a rudely-carved figure of an animal, bird, or other object attached to one end.

During the dance the Indians produce a loud roaring noise by blowing into these, while others make shrill musical notes on "flutes" which closely resemble the trumpets in appearance, but which are provided with a whistling device cleverly constructed of balatagum. Each dancer is supposed to assume the character of the creature whose image decorates his trumpet or flute, while others represent the winds, thunder, or various other natural forces, and the noises, contortions, and actions of the dancers, while striving to interpret the characteristics of their various namesakes, are indescribably weird, grotesque, and ludicrous.

As soon as the Parasara dancing is over the Indians journey to another village to hold the Bimiti running. This is purely in the nature of sport and has no sacred significance. The Bimiti is in reality a curious form of foot-race with a supply of paiwarrie for the goal. A number of young men don feather mantles and are lined up at one end of the course, while at the other end is a trough of the native alcoholic drink. At a given signal the runners dash forward, each doing his utmost to gain the trough first, for the winner has the unenviable privilege of bathing in the liquor, and is looked upon as a great man. Along the course stand numerous girls and women armed with handfuls of pepper, which they throw at the faces and eyes of the runners other than the favourite each has selected. Half-blinded, the contestants trip and stumble, often rolling in a confused heap on the earth, and frequently gaining the trough in a struggling knot and all tumbling into the liquor together.

Soon after we passed the last of the Parasara suits upon the tacubas we sighted a landing where a number of woodskins were moored, and stepping ashore followed the muddy, well trodden path into the bush. Long before we came to the village sounds of revelry reached our ears, and we gained the clearing with its benabs just in time to witness the Bimiti. Fortunately, only one contestant succeeded in reaching the paiwarrie well ahead of his competitors, for anyone visiting an Indian village during a spree must partake of their liquor or give serious offence, and I thanked my lucky stars that only one buck had plunged into the beverage served to us with liberal hospitality.

Here, as in the first village, we found individuals of several tribes, but very few of the men wore any clothing save their laps, and many were decked out in full festive regalia of gorgeous feather crowns, necklets of teeth, bobs of bird-skins, and capes of ibis, curassow, or macaw feathers, while several bore heavy "kenaima" clubs of hardwood decorated with cotton-strings, tassels, beads, and feathers. In the midst of this display of savage finery and brilliant colour one individual stood out in sharp relief. He was even shorter than the short Akawoias, his skin was a pale reddish or pinkish hue, his hair was white, and a thin white moustache and straggling chin-beard adorned his face, which was wrinkled and seamed in a manner bespeaking great age. But even more striking than his appearance was his costume, for instead of the halo-like crown of the others he wore a magnificent head-dress of blue and scarlet macaw feathers standing upright above his forehead, from which long streamers of feathers hung down across shoulders and chest to below his waist.

Instantly I realized that he was of a tribe unknown to me, and to my delight he informed me he was an Akuria, that his camp was near the head-waters of the river, and that I could easily find it if I followed the minute directions he gave me. Here, indeed, was good luck, for by merest chance I had stumbled upon the trail of an almost unknown, long-lost tribe, and had actually found an Akuria in full dancing costume. I did my best to induce the old fellow to accompany us, but the attractions of paiwarrie were too great for him, old as he was. He was a born trader, however, and a sharp bargainer to boot, and he readily parted with his various adornments and possessions in exchange for knives, powder, and other products of civilization.

Although much interesting material was obtained at this village, an Indian camp during a paiwarrie spree is not a pleasant or attractive spot, and we soon left the settlement and resumed our journey up the river.

No camps or villages were seen on the first day, but the following morning we landed at the foot of a high sand-hill on which were several benabs. Some of these were of the circular savanna type, while others were square and neatly walled with slabs of bark, but the inhabitants were absent. Beyond here we found several ancient, abandoned village sites, whose extent proclaimed large numbers of Indians in days long past; but every vestige of human life and habitation had long since been destroyed by the swarms of "cushi" ants.

Little game could be found, but a couple of marudis (a kind of pheasant) were shot, and made a very acceptable change in our menu. Alligators were abundant, but were mainly of small or medium size, the largest we saw scarcely eight feet in length; and otters barked at us from a safe distance. Parrots and macaws were noticeably scarce, and toucans were seldom seen; but the beautiful Pompador cotingas, several species of hawks, bitterns and tiger-birds, herons, egrets, pigeons, and glossy ibis, as well as small birds, were very abundant. Several times, too, we caught glimpses of the magnificent harpy eagle, perched on dead trees or wheeling on ten-foot pinions far above the interminable forest. Sometimes troops of monkeys chattered at us from the verdure of the banks, and tapir and peccary tracks were seen whenever we landed, but no four-footed game ventured within sight.

We skirted several small savannas and a number of lakes, passing one morning a large savanna about ten miles long and five miles wide, which was not indicated on any map. The high forest had now been left behind, and the low, flat country was covered with a dense growth of shrub, stretching away for miles to the distant hills and mountains. Progress was slow and difficult, for the stream turned and twisted in short bends; it was choked by tacubas and sand-bars, and the men were compelled to follow a most erratic zigzag course to avoid obstacles in one spot and water too deep for their poles in another.

When the last of the savannas and ponds were passed the brush gave way to lofty trees, and once more we were in the heart of the forest. Here the river often narrowed to a few feet in width and many logs were seen, caught in the branches of trees twenty feet or more above our heads, evidences of the tremendous rise and irresistible force of the river during freshets, when the water backed up in the narrow reaches and overflowed the country for miles on every hand.

In many places the banks had been undermined and immense trees had fallen across the river, and upon these a tangle of vines, creepers, lianas, and air-plants had grown, the whole forming a dense, impenetrable barrier across the stream. Only by hewing a way through these masses could we push on, and sometimes from early morning until late afternoon we laboured steadily, hacking, chopping, cutting, and prising away these accumulations of tacubas, and scarce progressing a yard an hour.

Hitherto we had been favoured with pleasant sunny weather, but now the rain came down in torrents, and for the next ten days and nights we were constantly soaked to the skin. It was impossible to keep anything dry, and difficult even to light fires or to cook any food. We were almost eaten alive by mosquitoes, and the minute flesh-coloured "Mabuli" ticks swarmed and buried themselves in our skins by hundreds whenever we ventured into the bush in search of game.

On the second day of this abominable weather we reached a district utterly forlorn and desolate, the area destroyed by the terrible forest fires of 1913, where as far as eye could see the dead and blackened trees stood like gaunt skeletons above the tangled growth of saw-grass, brush, and creepers which covered the earth with a breast-high, impassable jungle.

Then floating masses of yellow foam were met; we knew we were nearing our goal, and early in the afternoon we shoved the boat ashore at the foot of Canister Falls. At the summit of the high sandbank were the tumbledown, deserted buildings of the Bugle Company, and we lost no time in seeking the meagre shelter they afforded. Here at least we could build fires and dry our soaking clothes and sodden hammocks, and it seemed a veritable luxury to have a roof over our heads, albeit innumerable miniature cataracts and rivulets of water found their way through the holes in the rotten thatch.

Exhausted as we were, we had little time to linger here, for provisions were becoming woefully low owing to the lack of game and fish on which we had counted, and as soon as we had eaten and our garments and belongings were dry we set forth on foot towards the source of the river and the mysterious mountains.

For some distance we clambered up the Falls, the rocky bed of the river forming an easier pathway than the forest, and ever and anon we stopped to gaze in wonder and admiration at the weird, wild beauty of the spot. Titanic boulders of the multi-coloured conglomerate were scattered about, and the solid ledges were cut into canyons and gorges, among which the stream divided and split and formed a hundred tumbling cataracts and roaring cascades, often disappearing from sight in the chasms or spreading into miniature lakes over the ledges, which gleamed and glistened through the shallow water as though studded with millions of priceless gems.

Soon we were compelled to abandon the bed of the river and enter the woods. Here travelling was difficult indeed, for the forest which clothed the mountain-side hid a chaotic mass of huge rocks and boulders, which formed the slopes. Over and under these slippery moss-grown masses we crawled, slid, slipped, and floundered, constantly plunging into or leaping across the innumerable rushing streams which issued from the crevices and caverns between the gigantic boulders. But a ducking was of no moment, for we were so thoroughly drenched that we scarcely knew when we were in the water or on the land.

At last we reached a fairly level stretch of forest upon the borders of a little tranquil lake above the head of the Falls. It was easy travelling now, and for mile after mile we tramped on, following numerous game trails, cutting a way through dense jungles, and at times proceeding along the narrow strip of shore bordering the river. Meanwhile, the ceaseless torrential downpour increased, the forest became a huge morass, and the tumbling streams from the mountain were transformed into roaring torrents. By an exhausting forced march, made indescribably difficult by the ceaseless rain, the mud, the torturing ticks, the fallen trees, and the rough, broken country, I succeeded at last in reaching the foot of the mountains. For near two thousand feet they rose above the forest, towering, butte-like ramparts; their summits worn into grotesque forms, their lower slopes a mass of broken conglomerate covered with jungle, from which a myriad streams gushed forth to form the Demerara. Amid the moss-grown, fern-draped rocks, countless cascades tumbled through the greenery, all pouring their waters into the miniature lake from which the mighty river started on its long and tortuous journey to the distant sea. In one spot a water-worn ledge bordered the pond, and from dark caverns in its face water issued in bubbling springs. Truly the Indians were right when they said the river "came forth from a hole in the mountains"; I had found the source of the Demerara, I had literally run the river to earth.

It being impossible to ascend the mountains under such weather conditions, we sought for the trail leading to the Akuria village. It was a long time before we located it, and even then we had the greatest difficulty in following it, for it divided, forked, and disappeared time and time again. Several times we followed it for weary miles, only to find that it ended in an indefinite maze of game paths or an impassable jungle. Again and again we retraced our lagging steps, and at last found what appeared to be a fresh and oft-travelled path. Backwards and forwards through the dripping, sodden forest it wound; for hour after hour we trudged doggedly on; the path seemed interminable, and a dozen times we were on the point of turning back convinced that the trail led through to the Berbice or had no end. Then we caught the distant sound of a dog's bark and, encouraged, hurried forward. Presently we reached a large new clearing, and our spirits rose, for, hanging upon a stump, like the skeleton of a scarecrow, was a Parasara suit, and we knew that Indians were close at hand.

Rapidly we hurried forward, and a moment later came in full view of the Akuria village. In a small clearing, bare of vegetation, it stood, sharply outlined against the dark forest beyond, and thus hidden, here in the depths of the unknown bush, this tiny settlement of a disappearing race was picturesque to a degree, perfect in its setting, and fascinating to me for its strangeness, for it was totally different from any Indian camp I had ever seen.

In the centre stood an enormous circular house, some sixty feet in diameter, and with its steep conical roof of palm-thatch ending in a central post full fifty feet above the ground. Clustered about this central structure, in more or less circular array, were a dozen or more smaller buildings, mostly square or rectangular, with peaked thatched roofs and open sides. Our approach had been noted, and from the great round benab a number of brown-skinned children and a man or two peered curiously forth, while with blows and sharp words they quieted and drove off the snarling, snapping curs which disputed our way.

Stooping low we entered the building, leaving the sopping, rain-filled, dismal world behind, and looked curiously about. Between the supporting posts were slung a score of hammocks, and every post was decorated with strange devices in black and red pigments, each the totem or family mark of the Indians who occupied that section of the building. On the rafters overhead were stored bows and arrows, blow-guns, and quivers of poisoned darts, a few ancient muzzle-loading guns, and some decorated drums. About the earthen floor were scattered calabashes, rough unglazed pots, cassava graters and sieves, baskets, and rudely-carved wooden stools, while in the thatch were tucked half-finished arrows, bunches of curassow and macaw feathers, skulls and teeth of animals, beautifully-carved stirrers, cotton spindles, and various small articles. Here and there a gorgeous feather head-dress, or a sheaf of bright-hued feathers, gave splashes of brilliant colour to the smoke-browned interior, and near each hammock a fire glowed brightly and filled the atmosphere with pungent, aromatic smoke and a most welcome warmth and dryness. Everything was wonderfully neat and clean, a marvellous contrast to the filthy, evil smelling benabs of the drinking Akawoias down the river.

At first sight the big benab seemed deserted, for only one or two men, a couple of women, and a few children were visible, but the "hang" of the hammocks was suspicious, and an investigation disclosed a girl or woman shyly, hiding herself in each cocoon-like refuge.

Oddly enough, some of these Akuria women wore garments of a sort; some a single, skirt-like frock suspended from one shoulder, others a petticoat-like skirt of scarlet cloth, while the majority were clad only in their beautifully-woven "queyus," or bead-aprons, and their smooth brown skins. The men wore naught save their laps or loin-cloths, of scarlet cloth, and men and women alike were undersized, heavily built, pot-bellied, and very homely—even for Indians. Most of the villagers, it transpired, were absent, tilling the fields or hunting, and at a word from one of the women several boys and girls scurried out into the rain to notify the other Akurias of our arrival.

Meanwhile, we carried on a conversation with those present in the Akawoia tongue, and gradually, curiosity overcoming their shyness, the occupants of the hammocks emerged from their chrysalides and drew near, and soon all were chatting and laughing over the presents I distributed.

Presently the men and women arrived from the fields, and the great-house was filled with a score of the Indians, a gathering of dwarfs seemingly, for many of the women were under five feet in height, and the men were little taller, the tallest man being five feet four and a half inches and the tallest woman five feet two inches, while the average height of the men proved to be five feet two inches and of the women five feet.

In colour the Akurias ranged from a clear brownish-yellow to a pronounced red—the only really "red" Indians I have ever seen; but the predominant shade was a pinkish-brown or madder, very different from the other Guiana tribes. They were a wonderfully good-natured, light-hearted lot, despite their gnomish appearance, and while many were repulsively ugly owing to the disfiguring scars of smallpox, yet others, especially the younger members of the tribe, were beautifully built and remarkably good-looking bucks. But whatever their physical appearance, they were marvellously interesting as representatives of a tribe of which little or nothing is known and whose presence in British Guiana has not been suspected hitherto.

In some respects the Akurias are very distinct from all other tribes of Guiana. Thus they are communistic, the large benab in the centre of the village serving as a common meeting and living room for all, with the exception of those who are ill, newly-married couples, women about to bear or who have just borne children, and men confined to their hammocks through the curious custom of couvade. These occupy the small buildings scattered about the clearing, each of which belongs to a family, the single men and women having no benabs of their own. Fields, crops, and provisions are owned in common, and all members of the village take part in tilling the soil, hunting, felling trees, and building houses; but weapons, utensils, ornaments, etc., are the private property of individuals. In weapons, ornaments, accessories of dances, and physical characters, as well as in their customs and mode of life, the Akurias are distinct from every other Guiana tribe.

The old Peaiman, or chief of the village, was suffering tortures and was almost blind from ophthalmia, and after some time I succeeded in inducing him to submit to my treatment. A twenty per cent. solution of argerol was dropped into his eyes, and his improvement was so rapid and his relief so great that he was firmly convinced I used sorcery. His respect for my power and his appreciation of my services were so great—as he expressed it, my peai was stronger than his—that he presented me with his most sacred and cherished possession—his balata mask, although before so doing he went through a weird and mystical process of removing its magical power. Then, not satisfied that he had amply repaid or appeased me, he explained how the mask was used.

The "governor" appeared to command little respect from his subjects, and was evidently a ruler in name only. I was told that no Akuria had more than one wife—which did not surprise me when I looked upon the fat and far from attractive ladies of the village—and that there were no marriage or burial ceremonies. As far as I could learn, the people had no legends as to the origin of the tribe.

So interesting did the Akurias prove, and so much of value and novelty was obtained at their village, that all the hardships and sufferings of my trip were forgotten; but they came back to us with redoubled force when, bidding farewell to the Akurias, we again set forth on our way towards civilization. Of the return trip little need be said. It was a succession of nightmarish days, of deluging rain, of unspeakable hardships and discomforts, of pestilential insects, of poor and insufficient food, and of sleepless nights.

Never have I felt more thankful than when, at last, we reached Malali and for the first time in many weeks we could dry our clothes, could sleep in dry hammocks protected from constant drenchings, and could secure decent food. But the hardships, the swarms of Anopholes mosquitoes, and the long and constant exposure had won, and for days after my return I was down with a nearly fatal dose of malignant malaria, my first attack in fifteen years. But such things are all in the day's work of those who would wrest Nature's secrets from the depths of the vast tropical bush. I had accomplished my purpose; I had been where no other white man had trod, I had found an unknown tribe, I had been to the Demerara's head. The results were all that mattered, and I felt that the end justified the means.

(Next month the Author will describe his journey through the wilderness to the little-known Kaietuerk-Falls);

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.