views updated


The Djuka are one of six tribes of Maroons (also known as Refugee Blacks or Bush Negroes), descendants of African slaves brought to Suriname as plantation laborers in the late seventeenth century. In the years before emancipation, large groups of slaves escaped from the plantations, and the Djuka settled in southeast Suriname, on the banks of the Ndjuka Creek, in the area between the Marowijne and Tapanahoni Rivers. The Djuka are distinct from other tribes of Maroons in language (they speak the Creole language Ndjuka), history, religion, and cultural traditions. A peace treaty was signed between the Dutch colonists and the Djuka in 1760: In return for autonomy, the Maroons were to abstain from acts of aggression against the plantation colony and not enter negotiations with other groups. After the treaty, the Djuka began to leave their first settlements, moving to new villages along the Tapanahoni River, which they named "River of the Ndjuk." This locale offered access to more resources and the ability to interact with other groups. By the beginning of the 1800s many of the Djuka found work in the colony. Males earned a living as lumberers, and through the timber trade they became a substantial part of the colonial economy.

The colonists felt ambivalent about their presence: Whereas the peace treaty was meant to keep the former slave groups away from the colony, the Djuka became valuable trading partners to the Dutch. The uneasy relationship between the Maroons and the colonial government continued over the years. In 1986 civil unrest between the Surinamese government and the Djuka escalated when a massacre of at least thirty-nine civilians at the Djuka village of Moiwana occurred. In 2005 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Surinamese government guilty of human rights violations for the massacre and ordered reparations to survivors. In the early twenty-first century the Djuka and the Saramaka comprise the largest two Maroon tribes, with estimated populations of 15,000 to 20,000 each.

See alsoMaroons (Cimarrones); Suriname and the Dutch in the Caribbean.


Huttar, George L., and Mary L. Huttar. Ndyuka. London; New York: Routledge, 1994.

Thoden van Velzen, H. U. E, and W. van Wetering. The Great Father and the Danger: Religious Cults, Material Forces, and Collective Fantasies in the World of the Surinamese Maroons. Dordrecht, Netherlands; Providence, RI: Foris Publications, 1988.

                                             Alison Fields