|Aluku or Boni|
|Native to||French Guiana, Suriname|
|unknown (33 cited 1980 census)|
Aluku (pronounced ah-loo-koo) is the name of a Bushinengue ethnic group living mainly on the riverbank in Maripasoula in southwest French Guiana. The group is sometimes called Boni, referring to a notorious leader, Bokilifu Boni (described as a former mulatto slave).
The Aluku is a legendary ethnic group in French Guiana whose people are descended in part from African slaves who escaped in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries from the Dutch plantations in what is now known as Suriname. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, they settled alongside the riverbanks of Lawa Maroni, which now forms the border between French Guiana and Suriname. There were at least two other groups of escaped Africans in the area, Saramaka people and the Ndyuka people, who eventually assimilated with the Aluku to form a new ethnic group.
In the late eighteenth century, the Aluku occupied the region of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, Apatou, Grand-Santi; the largest piece of the territory still occupied is called Fochi-ké (First Cry), better known as Aluku, located in the region of Maripasoula, consisting of:
- the municipalities and city of Maripasoula and the capital city of Papaïchton, and the traditional villages of Kormontibo, Assissi, Loca, Tabiki, and Agoodé, in French Guiana;
- Cottica, in Suriname.
Traditionally, the Aluku people lived by hunting and gathering and fishing. Currently they appear to have succumbed to modernity, the market economy, and a society of consumption. Some are hired as river boat drivers by the Army. According to Bernard Delpech (in Les Cahiers d’Outre-Mer, nº 182), the Aluku have undergone "destabilization of the basic traditional material, cultural transformation, altering the rules of collective life".
Aluku is the eponymous term for their language, which may have more than 5,000 speakers; however, the 1980 census in French Guiana did not reveal exact counts, as many of the responders were also bilingual with French. The language is now in danger of extinction.
The Aluku language is a creole of English (inherited from the British colonies in Suriname) as well as Dutch, African languages, and more recently French. It was influenced by the languages spoken by the Pamaka and Ndjuka, and it is similar to the languages spoken by the Paramaccan and Kwinti and the Jamaican Patois.