Indian Settlements

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Indian immigration continued to be financed by the Government into the 1860s. Much of this financing was raised through loans obtained in Great Britain, by advances from the British Government, and from the general revenue of the Colony. But this system created financial problems and in 1864 a decision was taken by the British Guiana Government to create an Immigration Fund to finance the cost of immigration. This Fund was draw from general revenue, duties levied on estates' supplies, indenture and re-indenture fees paid by planters, fees paid for renewal of certificates of exemption from labour, and fees for the registration of Indian marriages. The amount paid into this Fund grew significantly with each succeeding year.

By 1869, about 30,000 Indians had become qualified for return passages. The estimated cost of these passages was over a quarter of a million dollars which was an expense the Government could not easily bear. Further, repatriation to India was depleting the plantation of the labour force while the Government was losing money by paying for the return trip. To prevent the reduction of this work force, the Government promoted the idea of granting land to the Indians instead of the return passage.

This idea was originally proposed by the Immigration General, James Crosby, but Indians had not made a decision to settle permanently in Guyana. It was not until 1877 that they began to seek permission from the Government to purchase abandoned estates. In 1880, the Government purchased Huist Dieren, an abandoned estate in Essequibo, and divided it into lots which were offered to some Indian families in exchange for the return passages to India.

In 1882, the new Governor, Sir Henry Irving, halted this scheme since he felt it was costing the Government too much to purchase the land. He devised a scheme by which lands owned by the Government (i.e., Crown lands) were to be sold at cheap prices to Indians. However, such purchases did not mean that the Indians were surrendering their right to their return passages. Many Indians liked Irving's policy and very soon Indian settlements were formed at Cotton Tree (West Berbice), Brighton (Corentyne) and Maria's Lodge (Essequibo), among other areas.

But Irving's plan did not receive full support from the planter class, and after he completed his term and departed from Guyana in 1894, the original plan of giving land to Indians in exchange for the return passages was re-introduced. Under this arrangement, the Indians were to be selected by the Government for lands in some settlements to be created. It was as a result of this change that Helena (East Demerara), Bush Lot (West Berbice) and Whim (Corentyne) were purchased by the Government and house lots and farm plots were given to selected Indian families in 1897.