Indigenous peoples in Suriname

Indigenous peoples in Suriname number 20,344 people, or approximately 3.8% of the total population of 541,638  (census 2012). The four most numerous Indigenous peoples are the:

  • Kali’ña (Caribs)
  • Lokono (Arawaks)
  • Trio (Tirio, Tareno)
  • Wayana

In addition, there are small settlements of other Amazonian Indigenous peoples in the south-west and south of Suriname, including the:

  • Akurio
  • Apalai
  • Wai-Wai
  • Katuena/Tunayana
  • Mawayana
  • Pireuyana
  • Sikiiyana
  • Okomoyana
  • Alamayana
  • Maraso
  • Sirewu
  • Sakëta

The Kali’ña and Lokono live mainly in the northern part of the country and are sometimes referred to as “lowland” Indigenous peoples, whereas the Trio, Wayana and other Amazonian peoples live in the south and are referred to as “highland” peoples. 

No legislation on indigenous peoples' rights

Suriname is one of the few countries in South America that has not ratified ILO Convention 169. It did vote in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, but the legislative system of Suriname, based on colonial legislation, does not recognize Indigenous peoples, and Suriname has no legislation governing Indigenous peoples’ land or other rights.

This forms a major threat to the survival and well-being, and respect for the rights, of indigenous peoples, particularly given the strong focus that is now being placed on Suriname’s many natural resources (including bauxite, gold, water, forests and biodiversity). 

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Suriname to learn about major developments and events during 2015