Female Initiation among the Maroni River Caribs1


  • 1

    The fieldwork on which this article is based was carried out in the villages Christiaankondre and Langamankondre, on the Surinam shore of the Maroni, near its mouth. I am indebted to the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO) for making the fieldwork possible. I am indebted to Professor A. J. F. Köbben, University of Amsterdam, for reading an earlier draft of this paper.


Cross-culturally it has been demonstrated that there is a relationship between female initiation rites on the one hand, and matri-local residence and an important contribution of women to subsistence on the other. It is the purpose of this article to describe the initiation rite for girls among the Caribs of the Maroni River, Surinam, against this background. Matrilocal residence among the Caribs is pronounced, and the economic role of women is important. The rite, taking place about a week after the menarche, is in its symbolism almost completely concerned with the female economic role. The Caribs realize this, but they do not realize the effect of residence. [puberty rites, female matrilocal residence, Caribs, menarche, economic role of women]