The Saamaka, one of Suriname’s six Afro-descendant maroon groups, have lived in the rainforest since they escaped slavery in the colonial era, adapting Indigenous foods and materials to survive in a new environment. In 1762 the Dutch signed a treaty that recognized Saamaka freedom and autonomy one hundred years before the abolition of slavery. However, the Saamaka have struggled against persistent attempts at ecocide by the Dutch colonial government and then, since independence, by the Surinamese state. This article highlights the plight of tribal and Indigenous groups in Suriname, especially the Saamaka, who have protested against logging and mining by demanding rights to their lands. The article relies both on qualitative interviews with maroon and Indigenous groups as well as Surinamese literature, especially Anton de Kom and Cynthia McLeod, to understand the Saamaka’s own ecological awareness vis-à-vis their representation as forest peoples. The article critiques alphabetic literacy as limiting of Indigenous and maroons’ use of orality, which emphasizes collectivism. The interviews show the innovative techniques through which Indigenous and Black ecologies define the relationship of humans to their environment in the Guiana Shield. Indigenous and maroon cartographic and spatial practices are confirmed through interviews and storytelling.

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