Who Were The Maroons?

Maroons were those slaves who managed to run away from plantations and lived deep in the forests and although these renegades are strongly associated with Jamaica, there are several records of maroons in Saint Lucia. During the Brigand Wars from 1794 to 1804, the French occupiers freed the slaves on the island in order to get more troops to fight British invasions. Some of these slaves resisted re-capture when the British finally took control of the island and fled to interior of Saint Lucia. So how did these communities survive?

Maroon Camps and Communities

To survive in the wild, maroons needed to be resourceful, cunning and know the best areas in which to set up camp. Communities were typically located in a depression or plateau near a mountaintop and fresh water. Boulders were used as walls to protect the camps. In Saint Lucia, the remains of permanent maroon camps have been found in Morne Souf in Soufrière and L’Ivrogne River on the slope of Gros Piton. Caves where maroon stored their ammunition and other supplies have been discovered near La Sorcière and Dernière Rivière.

 Maroons developed complex communication systems that ranged from sophisticated drummers sending messages using their instruments to the less elaborate methods of signals created using smoke, trumpets and conch shells. Sentries used these systems to warn the main camp of impending attacks and to communicate with other neighbouring communities.

 

Survival of the Fittest

Women and children were hidden deep in the forests for protection and where they could grow crops including cassava, corn, dasheen, papaya, plantain and sweet potato. They also foraged for fruits and nuts. To supplement this diet, agouties, iguanas, tree lizards, pigeons, parrots, crayfish and other seafood were caught. Maroons typically wore a loincloth called ‘kal fouk’; however, in battle they wore the European soldier’s underwear – longjohns. They were also usually barefoot when walking through the forest.

There are scant records of the intimate details of Maroon life – we can only speculate to what their social systems were like. Still, it’s fun to imagine what it was like, isn’t it?

Click images for sources.