This brief research note provides a radical update of Maroon population figures, which have nearly doubled during the past decade. Based on official 2012 Suriname and Guyane census data, projected two years forward, it offers a picture of the location and size of each of the Maroon peoples of Suriname and Guyane as of 2014. They now number some 210,000 people and constitute 23 percent of the population of Suriname and 26 percent of the population of Guyane.
A little over a decade ago, I published detailed estimates of Maroon population figures, including rough geographical distributions (Price 2002). They were summarized in the following table and accompanying note.
* For the Ndyuka, “Suriname ‘interior’ ” includes both the Tapanahoni/Lawa and the Cottica regions, with the population divided almost exactly evenly between the two. For the Saamaka, “Suriname ‘interior’ ” includes villages both above and below the lake. In addition to sites listed in the table, a growing number of Maroons—perhaps several hundred—now reside in the United States, principally in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Boston, and a small number of Alukus reside in metropolitan France.
New figures from the 2012 Suriname census as well as personal observations in Guyane and the Netherlands suggest that a radical update is already in order.
My 2002 table gave a total of 71,000 Maroons living in Suriname, very close to the 2004 Suriname census count of 72,000. But the 2012 Suriname census enumerates 117,000 Maroons and the Suriname newspaper de Ware Tijd writes of their “explosive growth” and a “baby boom” that has suddenly elevated Maroons to a position well ahead of Creoles as “the second largest ethnic group” in the country (trailing only Hindustanis, who “remain the largest group with 148,000 people”) (Pross 2013).1
The Suriname government figures are inconsistent, showing 26,000 Maroon births and 10,000 returning Maroon migrants for the intervening period—which, even if there had not been a single Maroon death, does not account for the spectacular rise in population between the two censuses. It would seem that the 2004 government census of Maroons (and my own 2002 figures!), as well as perhaps government figures on Maroon births, represent severe undercounts, since an eight-year rise from 72,000 to 117,000 would imply an impossibly high growth rate of 6.3 percent per annum.2 We need to arrive at a more realistic growth rate to understand the actual situation. Let us begin by accepting the government’s 2012 figure of 117,000 Maroons in Suriname—even though it is far more likely to be an undercount than an overcount.3
In my earlier article, based on information from INSEE (the French statistical bureau), I adopted a rate of natural increase for Maroons in Guyane of 4.2 percent per annum and there are indications that it has now attained 4.5 percent. Since Suriname’s health services hardly rival those of Guyane, we might estimate the corresponding rate in Suriname at 4 percent. Making adjustments for the fact that there has been considerable outmigration from traditional territories toward greater Paramaribo (including Para) and continuing emptying-out of upriver Ndyuka villages toward both greater Paramaribo and Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni,4 Maroon population and geographical distribution figures would break down roughly as follows:
* For the Ndyuka, “Suriname ‘interior’ ” includes both the Tapanahoni/Lawa and Cottica/Moengo regions, as well as the (former) Sara Creek villages. For the Saamaka, “Suriname ‘interior’ ” includes villages both above and below the lake. In addition to sites listed in the table, an ever growing number of Maroons—many hundreds—now reside in the United States, principally in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Boston, as well as elsewhere in the world, and a small number, mainly Alukus, reside in metropolitan France. The increase in the Maroon population in the Netherlands is a combination of natural increase and immigration.
When Sally Price and I began work among Maroons some fifty years ago, their total population (Suriname plus Guyane) stood at about 40,000 (Price 1976: 3-4). By 2000, that figure had passed the 100,000 mark. And during the last decade it has nearly doubled.
Referring to the table for 2014, we find:
The Maroon population living in Suriname = 127,000, with roughly 56,000 Ndyukas and 58,000 Saamakas. Maroons make up 23 percent of the population of Suriname.
The Maroon population living in Guyane = 67,000, with roughly 27,000 Ndyukas and 25,000 Saamakas. Maroons make up 26 percent of the population of Guyane.5
And the total population of Suriname and Guyane Maroons, spread around the world (I have Maroon Facebook friends in such places as South Africa and China), including about 90,000 Ndyukas and 90,000 Saamakas, now stands at some 210,000.
1 If the respective rates of natural increase (natality minus mortality) that have maintained during the past eight years were to continue for the next twenty, Maroons would pass Hindustanis as the largest ethnic group in Suriname.
2 The Director of the Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek, Iwan Sno, attributes the 2004 undercount, and the surprising differential between the 2004 and 2012 figures, in part to many Maroons not identifying themselves as such in 2004 but, in the intervening years, becoming proud of their Maroon identity (Lith 2013; Pross 2013).
3 Census taking among Maroons is a fraught endeavor, not least because many are inveterate transnationals and an ever-increasing number have dual residence between the coast and interior. It is difficult to count a moving subject.
4 I thank Dale Battistoli for helping me think through some of these changes.
5 Because the French census does not enumerate ethnic groups and counts only legal residents (thus excluding most of the resident Saamaka population), the Maroon figures for Guyane may be severe underestimates. Moreover, official 2012 figures for the majority-Aluku communes of Apatou, Maripasoula, and Papaichton total over 18,000, so the true number of Alukus is likely to be considerably higher than in my table (INSEE 2012). Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, which has an official population of 38,000, would appear to have a Maroon population of at least 25,000, divided (in descending order) among Ndyukas, Saamakas, Alukus, and Pamakas.