Emerillon people

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Emerillon (or Emerilon, Emerion, Mereo, Melejo, Mereyo, Teco) are a Tupi–Guarani-speaking people in French Guiana living on the banks of the Camopi and Tampok rivers. Their subsistence is based on horticulture, hunting and bow- and arrow-fishing. As of 2001 they numbered about 400 individuals.


More nomadic than the other tribes of the area, the Emerillon remained within the surroundings of the Maroni River. Their villages, usually located at a distance from the rivers for protective the from raids, were moved frequently due to soil exhaustion, warfare, and several costumary reasons, like the death if an inhabitant. Internal warfare was common and the members of the tribe practiced cannibalism as a means of revenge.

The Emerillons' first contact with the Europeans occurred in the 18th century, when they numbered just about as many individuals as now. They were harassed by the Galibi Indians who captured women and children and sold them as slaves in Surinam. By the 19th century internal and intertribal warfare had weaken the Emerillon to the point of being collective slaves to the Oyampik. This, along with the epidemics brought in by the gold prospectors greatly reduced their numbers, making them more susceptible to acculturation. By the late 1960s, when the prospectors left the area, the Emerillon were apathetic, in a poor state of health, and consuming large quantities of rum which the prospectors supplied them in exchange of manioc flour.