AMERINDIAN LOYALTY TO THE BRITISH
When the British took possession of the colonies of Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice from the Dutch, they continued the system of their predecessors, as far as possible, in administration of Amerindian affairs. The Amerindians, on the defeat of the Dutch, had retired to the remote districts of the interior, and it was the aim of the British to attract them to the areas near and on the coast.
The Court of Policy, (the local governing Assembly), in 1803 took careful consideration of the position of the Postholders and decided that their retention would be beneficial. The Postholders were instructed to use their best endeavours to pacify the Amerindians in the event of any discord. With a view to encourage friendly relations with the tribes, the Postholders were to distribute gifts to them on certain occasions and to prevent the colonists from subjecting them to forced labour.
"Protectors of Indians" were appointed from about 1803. They acted as a means of communication between the Postholders and the departments of the colonial Government, and it was their duty, among other matters, to supervise the Postholders and to report misconduct on their part. The Protectors were paid no salary and were chosen from among the most reputable citizens in the district for which a Postholder was appointed. It was to them and the Postholder that the colonial Government looked for information and guidance on Amerindian questions.
The exercise of jurisdiction over disputes and offences by British officers and courts of laws was greatly extended by the British. Amerindians readily submitted to British jurisdiction, tacitly in most cases, but sometimes in consequence of an express agreement with a tribal chief.
In 1779 the Dutch Government had officially recognized the Amerindian chiefs by a formal distribution of commissions and symbols of offices. The British Government continued this policy but later found that the permission to choose their own chiefs led to the election of "unsatisfactory" persons. As a result, during the governorship of Sir Henry Light which ended in 1848, the appointment of chiefs, or captains, was vested in the executive Government of the colony.
During the early period of British administration, there was a continuous growth of employment of the Amerindians as labourers. As time went on, in the Pomeroon District, to a great extent they actually took over this role from the African population.
Amerindians were employed in the cultivation of annatto, cassava and yams, in cutting grass and bush, in thatching the Post houses and similar work. The Arawaks were very useful as labourers, though they disliked the manufacture of sugar and any type of field work, to which the Warrous and the Akawois did not object.
Missions in Amerindian areas
To instruct the Amerindians in Christianity, British Missions were established. In 1831, one was established by the Church Missionary Society at Bartica Point. A church was erected and instruction commenced in the Creole Dutch dialect. On the following year, the Society established another Mission south of Pirara between the Essequibo and Takutu Rivers. Towards 1840 three other Missions were established on the Essequibo - one at Urua on the Rupununi, another at Waraputa on the Essequibo above the mouth of the Potaro, and a third at Karia Karia on the lower Essequibo near Fort Island. Between 1840 and 1845 other Missions were established on the Waini, Barima and Moruka Rivers, and at Kabakaburi on the Pomeroon. At all these Missions, schools were built and, in addition to religious instruction, academic subjects were taught to the Amerindian children.
One of the most important Mission settlements was at Santa Rosa Mission which was established on the left bank of the Moruka, about 26 miles from the sea. The inhabitants were chiefly Arawaks who, in 1817 and the following years, in order to avoid the struggle between the Spaniards and the revolted Spanish colonies, had migrated from the Orinoco and settled at Moruka. In 1833, these Amerindians, about 300 in number, who professed the Roman Catholic faith, were granted an area of land to develop a permanent settlement. Between 1840 and 1850 some of them returned to the Orinoco and a decline of the settlement stepped in, but from 1875, after the church was rebuilt, it began to flourish again.