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The Lokono or Arawak are an Arawak people native to northern coastal areas of South America. Today, approximately 10,000 Lokono live primarily along the coasts and rivers of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Barbados and French Guiana.[2] They speak the Arawak language, the eponymous language of the Arawakan language family, as well as various Creole languages, and English.[3][4][5]

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups


[[File:The Lokono Artists Group.jpg|thumb|The Lokono Artists Group] Historically, the group self-identified and still identifies as 'Lokono-Arawak'by the semi fluent speakers in the tribe, or simply as 'Arawak' (by non speakers of the native tongue within the tribe) and strictly as 'Lokono' by tribal members who are still fluent in the language, because in their own language they call themselves 'Lokono' meaning 'many people' (of their particular tribe), with 'Lokobe' meaning 'some people' (of their particular tribe), 'Loko' means 'one person' (of their particular tribe) as well as the name of the language they one would say 'Da Jiabo Loko' to mean 'I speak the language' (of our tribe), the term 'Arawak' does not exist as a word anywhere in the Lokono language, and instead was given to them by the Warrau tribe of the Orinoco delta who had more frequent contact with the Spaniards of Trinidad since the early 1500s, and the name 'Arawak' was subsequently adopted by all other Europeans in the Caribbean to refer to the Lokono. About 10% or 1,000 of the 10,000 Lokono alive are fluent in their language, all aged 50 and over, with another 10% of varying ages - but mostly 30-50 in age range being semi fluent, and 80% under 30 years of age being unable to speak their native tongue but only able to speak English, Dutch, French or Spanish - as Lokono is not taught in any school system in any country. [6]

In the 19th century, when Western scholars had established that the major indigenous population of the [Caribbean] during European contact (now known as the [Taíno] were culturally and linguistically related to the South American Lokono-Arawak, ethnologist [Daniel Garrison Brinton] proposed calling the Caribbean people "Island Arawak". Subsequent scholars shortened this convention to simply "Arawak", thereby causing confusion with the mainland people.[7]

In the 20th century, scholars such as Irving Rouse began using the older term Taíno for the Caribbean peoples to distinguish them from mainlanders. The mainland Arawak call themselves "Lokono" (also spelled "Locono" and "Lokomo"); this has become more common in scholarly literature since the late 20th century./ref>[7][8]


The Arawakan languages may have developed in the Orinoco River Valley, and subsequently spread widely as speakers migrated, becoming the region's most extensive language family by the time of European contact.[9] The group that identified as the Arawak or Lokono settled the coastal and river valley areas of what is now Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Barbados and parts of the island of Trinidad.[8][7][10][11]

While the Spanish rapidly colonized the Caribbean islands, the Lokono and other mainland peoples resisted colonization for a much longer period. The Spanish were unable to subdue them throughout the 16th century. However, with increased encroachment from other European powers in the early 17th century, the Lokono allied with Spain against the neighboring Kalina (Caribs), who had allied with the English and Dutch.[12] Subsequently, the Lokono engaged in trading relationships with the Europeans, an arrangement that led to prosperity. However, economic and social changes in the region in the early 19th century, including the end of the plantation economy, adversely affected the Lokono, and their population began to decline.[1]

In the 20th century, the Lokono began to supplement their traditional agricultural economy by selling fish and lumber and through migrant labor, and their population has begun to rise again. There are approximately 10,000 Lokono living in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, as well as thousands of others with Lokono ancestry.[1]


Traditional Lokono practice an animist spirituality, which is not the same as any man-made Religion, as one can join or leave a religion, but one is born with a natural spirituality, an inherent knowledge of what are positive actions that should be done, and what are negative actions that should not be done. The greatest virtue taught to every traditional Lokono child is generosity and love for family, clan, and tribe. Historically, The Lokono people practiced an animist shamanism, among the core beliefs are that every physical object has a spiritual carbon-copy of it, that is it exists in tangible form as well as simultaneously existing in an exact replica intangible spiritual form. The Shaman/Medicine Man (Semichichi) is not 'Gods representative on Earth', the Shaman is the tribes go-between from the physical world and the spirit world. The role of the Shaman is to answer questions or seek assistance for other tribal members, not to dictate ideas or opinions to others, each Lokono can communicate directly to the Creator Deity 'Adayahirli' which is often accorded the fatherly prefix 'Awa', as the Earth itself is spoken of in a feminine gender. The Moon(Kaachi) and Sun (Hadali) are also spoken of in masculine genders, as they join the Earth mother (Onabo-oyo Koyaha) to create life in the physical world (plants cannot grow without being 'fertilized' by sunlight) and women's childbirths tend to cycle with the moon, the tides also are Moon (Kaachi) assisted. Lokono women (Hiaro) are considered to be spiritually superior to Lokono men this is why the certain work or activities in the tribe are considered beneath the dignity of women, such as grave-digging, hunting and killing other living things, with fish being the sole exception, Lokono women and men can kill fish, but only the men can hunt and kill other animals, both genders can gather fruit and crops, though certain crops only women are supposed to plant the seeds, and only men may dig the holes in the ground that the women will then plant in. There are strict gender roles in traditional Lokono society. The belief is that everything in the physical world can be said to have a spirit component to it, but only humans have what can best be described as a third immortal conscious energy core or true self, that comes from the spirit world into the physical world, and can chose to temporarily or permanently remain in the spirit world (Ayonbanan) after leaving the physical world, the spirit world is seen as the 'real world' and true place of origin for all life, or return to the physical world in a new and different human body, at a different time, to temporarily inhabit it and dwell among the living once again. [13]

The use of Tobacco (Yuri) was central to this ancient belief system, however Tobacco being a sacred plant was never traditionally smoked for recreational purposes, but only during prayers for the physical or spiritual healing of others. It is also taboo to mix Tobacco with any other substance to smoke while praying. So whereas a hand rolled Tobacco leaf cigar would be sacred, a factory made commercial cigarette would be sacrilege. Tobacco smoke is also used in blessing and purification ceremonies such as in Lokono girls 9 day long and Lokono boys 4 day long puberty rituals, as well as when the followers of traditional Lokono spirituality gather together for ritual occasions, the lit Tobacco cigar would be passed around the circle of Lokono persons in the circular traditional Bahi (house), as the circle is considered the most sacred shape, and each person would smoke it briefly as it is believed that there will be no lies between those smoking the Tobacco, or the transgressor would incur a personal misfortune for breaking this taboo.

Pakuri Village in Guyana (population 1700 Lokono) is the only Lokono community left that has a traditional Bahi dedicated solely for the purpose of traditional animist spirituality. It exists at Ayonto Hororo at the most southern permanently inhabited family homestead in the 240 square mile autonomous tribal territory, about 5% of the tribe still follows traditional animist spirituality, some in secret, others openly at Ayonto Hororo, due to the fact that it was driven underground by European Christian Missionaries who tried to eradicate traditional Lokono spiritual beliefs.

The traditional Lokono animist belief is that one cannot be trained to become a Shaman/Medicine Man (Semihichi), but a child who exhibits the necessary gifts and qualities of one destined to become a Shaman, can be guided and assisted in his learning by one who already is a Shaman. Women were not recorded as ever having been Shamans in Lokono culture, though knowledge of plant cures was not gender-specific.

The gifts a child destined to be a Shaman included being gifted from early childhood with accurate premonition dreams, visions, the ability to heal by touch and by auto-suggestion etc.


</ref> Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 143, Handbook of South American Indians, Volume 3, the Tropical Forest Tribes, published in 1948; pages 825-858</ref>


  1. ^ a b c Olson, James Stewart (1991). The Indians of Central and South America: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 211. ISBN 0313263876. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  2. ^ Taylor, Patrick (2013). The Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions: Volume 1: A - L; Volume 2: M - Z. University of Illinois Press. pp. |pages=90. ISBN 9780252094330.
  3. ^ Rybka, Konrad (June 2015). State-of-the-Art in the Development of the Lokono Language. University of Hawaii Press. OCLC 919313664.
  4. ^ "Suriname". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  5. ^ Brown, E. K. Ogilvie, Sarah. (2009). Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world. Elsevier. ISBN 9780080877747. OCLC 264358379.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ An Arawak-English Dictionary by Canon John Peter Bennet 1989
  7. ^ a b c Olson, James Stewart (1991). The Indians of Central and South America: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 29. ISBN 0313263876. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos. Yale University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0300051816. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  9. ^ Hill, Jonathan David; Santos-Granero, Fernando (2002). Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia. University of Illinois Press. pp. 1–4. ISBN 0252073843. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  10. ^ "An Arawak Village for Barbados". Caribbean Life. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  11. ^ "1492 and Before - Amerindians in Barbados". Totally Barbados. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  12. ^ Hill, Jonathan David; Santos-Granero, Fernando (2002). Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia. University of Illinois Press. pp. 39–42. ISBN 0252073843. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  13. ^ Amazonias Mythical and Legendary Creatures in the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawak Oral Tradition of Guyana
  14. ^ Lokono Animist Traditionalists group, Pakuri Village, Lokono-Arawak Territory, Guyana, South America contacted via Instagram @eagleclanarawaks