Reference book looks at Guyana's Amerindians


GEORGETOWN, Guyana ? Guyana's Amerindians are the subject of a recently published reference book. The "Dictionary of Guyanese Amerindians" contains more than 5,000 entries to define and explain a host of terms related to South America's native peoples. Some such words commonly used in English include barbecue, buccaneer, cannibal, coca and shaman.

The dictionary was compiled by Lal Balkaran, an auditor by trade. A Guyana native, Balkaran developed as a young man an interest in South American Indians in general and Guyana's Amerindians in particular. The book is the culmination of several years of research and has been praised for its thoroughness.

"This book provides easy information for anyone who wants to learn about the Amerindians of Guyana," said Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Guyanese ambassador to the U.S. "[It] furnishes enough background data for the serious researcher who may want to indulge in more in-depth research into the history and culture of these proud people,"

In addition to the dictionary definitions, the volume contains an Amerindian time-line of events from 11,000 BC to the present, several maps, appendices and photographs. While the book's focus is primarily on the nine tribes in Guyana, the Ackawaois, Arawak, Arehune, Carib, Macushi. Patamona, Wai Wai Wapishana and Warrau, it also covers terminology related to other South American tribes.

Blakaran's Dictionary also contains entries on early explorers and missionaries, anthropologists, and a "Who's Who" of Amerindians.

Guyana contains 83,000 square miles and is the only English-speaking country in South America. Formerly known as British Guiana, it is located on that continent's northeastern coast and borders Venezuela on the northwest, Brazil on the south and west, and Suriname on the east. Its capital city is Georgetown. According to figures from Guyana's 1991 census, Amerindians numbered 49,293, comprising 6.8 percent of the country's population. The tribes are scattered throughout the country's forested and savannah regions. Those living in the forests are involved largely in boat building and mining for gold or diamonds. Many of the savannah Amerindians work as vaqueros, or cowboys.

The Dictionary is available through its publisher, LBA Publications of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.