preface
Although we speak a number of languages, the one we learned dur-
ing the 1960s while living in the Suriname rainforest is the one— other
than our native English— that we most often use with each other. It’s
also a frequent dream language for us both. Our hosts, the Saamaka
Maroons, call it Saamakatongo, or simply Saamaka. (Saamakas are the
descendants of Africans brought to Suriname in chains who rebelled
and escaped in the late seventeenth and early eigh teenth centuries and
established an in de pen dent society in the tropical forest.)1
For po litical reasons (death threats from the dictator/president of
the country), we haven’t been able to set foot in the Republic of Suri-
name since 1986. Since then, our ongoing fieldwork with Saamakas,
the source of our knowledge about present- day life in their villages, has
been conducted from the somewhat excentric perspective of neigh-
boring Guyane (French Guiana). Following the Suriname Civil War of
1986–1992, about a third of Saamakas moved there permanently, re-
turning periodically for visits to their home villages in Suriname. That
turns Saamaka territory, as we knew it in the 1960s, 1970s, and early
1980s, into something of a dreamworld for us.
Yet we’re still haunted by our Suriname experiences, preserved in
ethnographic fieldnotes as well as recordings and photos . . .  and
memories. This book revisits the life we experienced in Saamaka, par-
ticularly during our initial fieldwork of the 1960s— scenes of our youth
and a Saamaka world considerably dif er ent from that of today.
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