XIII.—The Darien Indians

By Dr. Cullen.

[Read May 7th, 1867.]


[Extracted from Transactions Ethnological Society, vol. 6 (1868), pp. 150-75.]


The whole length of the narrow neck of land which forms part of the United States of Columbia,1 and extends from the continent of South America to Costa Rica, was formerly called the Isthmus of Darien. Of late, however, the name of Isthmus of Panama has been given to the western half, which contains Aspinwall, or Colon, and Panama, the termini of the Panama railroad, whilst the old name is still retained by the eastern half. The latter constitutes the Canton of Darien, the boundaries of which, as fixed by a decree of Congress, dated Bogoti, August 7, 1847, are, on the north, the Atlantic; on the east, the Atrato, from its mouth to the confluence of the Napipi; on the south, the Pacific, the course of the Napipi, and a straight line from its source to Cupica Bay; and on the west, the river Chepo, or Ballano, and a straight line from thence to Mandinga Bay and Cape San Bias. This last boundary separates it from the isthmus of Panama. This territory, which is about two hundred miles in length, with an average breadth of sixty miles, is covered throughout with a dense and trackless forest, unbroken except by the courses of numerous rivers, and is traversed by the Cordillera, which runs parallel to the Atlantic coast at the distance of from three to six miles. The villages of Yavisa (the cabecera or capital), Pinogana, Molineca, Real de Santa Maria, Chapigana, Tucuti, Camoganti, Garachin, and Chiman, and the hamlets of Cupica and Jurador, inhabited by Negroes who speak Spanish and are citizens of New Granada, are the only settlements in the south of Darien, and their aggregate population only amounted to 1485 souls in 1851. The Atlantic coast, and the country for about ten miles inland, is sparsely inhabited by the Darien, San Bias, or Mandinga Indians. The rest of this isthmus is totally uninhabited.

The Darien Indians call their tribe tooleh, a word signifying "people;" but those dwelling on the tributaries of the large [p.151] river Chuquanaqaa are called Cunas or Chucunas. Their small settlements are scattered at great distances from one another, at the mouths of the rivers Mandinga, Carti Chico, Carti,2 or Cedar, Rio Diablo, Rio Azucar, Concepcion, Playon Grande, Playon Chico, Rio Monos, Atgandi, Cuiti, Putrigandi, Navagandi, Sassardi, Carreto, Gandi, Tripogandi, Tutumati, and Tarena, which fall into the Atlantic from north-west to south-east, or from Cape San Bias to the Atrato. Their settlements inland are near the sources of the Chepo, Uslucapanti, Moreti, Asnati, Sucubti, Chueti, Jubuganti, Ucurganti, Tuquesa, Japisa, Pucro, and Paya, which rise in the Pacific slope of the Cordillera. During the turtle-fishing season a few huts are also occupied by them on some of the coral cays with which the coast is fringed. These belong to the archipelago of Las Mulatas, which consists of an immense multitude of islets, cays, reefs, and shoals, extending from Isle of Pines and Bird Islands, a little north-west of Sassardi Point, to Cape San Bias. Between them and the mainland there is a continuous series of secure harbours, with very deep water and safe channels for entering them.

At Cape San Bias, the Isthmus of Darien and the territory of the Indians ends, and the coast of the Isthmus of Panama commences, extending from thence westward to Portobello, Aspinwall, Chagres, etc. Between the Cape and Portobello, a distance of forty-five miles, the only inhabited places are the hamlets of Culebra, Palenque, and Nombre de Dios (founded by Don Diego de Nicuesa), which have an aggregate population of one hundred and fifty Negroes, descendants of çimarrones, or Spanish maroons.

The Darien Indians were never subdued by the Spaniards, and their independence has been recognised by the government of New Granada. They do not allow any official or citizen of New Granada to reside in their territory, nor do they permit any of the people of the Granadian villages in the south to cross over towards the Atlantic, to which side they strictly confine themselves, claiming no part of the isthmus south of the upper course of the Chepo and the Chuquanaqua, that is, between those rivers and the Pacific. So severe are they on trespassers, that in 1850 they killed four Negroes whom they found fishing too high up the Chiman; and two years later they killed five negroes whom they caught hunting within their territory. They always bore great animosity to [p.152] the Spaniards, and used to make it a point to kill any of that nation who happened to fall into their hands. Patterson, in his Report to the Directors of the Scotch colony of 1698, says of them; "They expressed a wonderful hatred of the Spaniards, and seemed not to understand how we could be at peace with them." "They pressed us hard," says Mr. Rose, one of the colonists, "to come and live by them, as also jointly to make war on the Spaniards, whom they would engage, if we would but assist them with one hundred men, to drive not only out of the mines, which are but three days' journey from us, but even out of Panama itself." Benzoni, after detailing the manner in which the Indians used to treat their prisoners, viz., by tying them up and cutting off pieces of their flesh to roast, remarks: "They say now that it is not wholesome to eat a Spaniard that way, because the flesh is too hard until it has been steeped for two or three days." They used to be at war with the Indians of the adjacent province of Chocó, keeping up an enmity which was handed down from father to son, and arose from the circumstance of one of them having, at the end of the seventeenth century, put to death a Spanish curate, who was held in great esteem by the Chocoanos, which tribe was at an early period reduced and converted to Christianity. Whilst that feud lasted, it was customary with the Chocoanos to use the skulls of their slain enemies for drinking bowls.

The Darien Indians were very friendly of old to the English and French buccaneers, whose allies they were in many incursions against the Spaniards. Their kindness, however, did not always meet with a proper return, as appears from the following despatch from Sir Charles Wager to Admiral Vernon, written July the 9th, 1740, not long after the taking of Portobello: "I am told that the trading ships or privateers have behaved in such a manner to the Darien Indians, by abusing their women and carrying some of the men to Jamaica and selling them for slaves, that we have lost their friendship, and that they have, for that reason, made peace with the Spaniards, and will join with them against us when they have the opportunity; and that we have done the same to the Mosquito Indians. If it be so, it is an abominable thing, but not unlike that sort of Englishmen. I hope our troops will behave better."

They are at present very friendly to the English and the Americans, hut nevertheless do not permit them to land on the coast. As soon as a vessel anchors it is boarded by the traders, who bring off their produce themselves, and do not allow the captain or crew to land. It was on this account that, in 1853, when the Atlantic and Pacific Junction Company of London appointed a staff of engineers to survey the line from Caledonia [p.153] harbour, on the Atlantic, to the Savana river and the Gulf of San Miguel, on the Pacific, which I had, from explorations made in 1849 and the three following years, recommended as presenting singular facilities for the opening of a ship canal communication between the two oceans, I advised that Company to instruct them to proceed to the Atlantic coast, in order to ask the consent of the Indians to the proposed survey. This was accordingly done, and the Indians, having given their consent, offered no opposition to any of the exploring parties. On the same account I represented, in precise language, the very great danger that would be incurred by any party that might proceed from the Pacific side, and arrive near the Atlantic before such consent had been obtained; and therefore advised that no exploration should be made from that side until after the engineers had crossed over from the Atlantic to the Savana. It was, then, with the greatest surprise that, immediately after our arrival in Caledonia harbour, we learned that Commander Prevost, of H.M. steamer Virago, had started from the Savana six weeks before, and, after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Atlantic, had sailed off again on his way back to Callao,3 in Peru, nearly three weeks before our arrival. Of this unaccountable proceeding, so totally at variance with the arrangements made in London, we were informed by a letter which he sent to the commander of the ship of war in Caledonia harbour, and which was forwarded via Panama to Aspinwall, where the consul chartered a small vessel to convey it to its destination. In that letter he stated that the Indians had murdered four of his sailors, and he called upon the commander to demand full satisfaction from the Indians of the coast. Upon my questioning the Indians on the subject, they said that four men from Moreti having found the four sailors with arms in their possession, supposed them to be Spaniards, and put them to death in accordance with their law. When I remonstrated with them upon the barbarity of such a law, they promised to speak to the chiefs on the subject. Soon afterwards a meeting was held, at which the law was repealed, and the chiefs caused the murderers to be arrested, and offered to send them to Panama for trial. In the exploration which he made, Prevost, with fourteen officers and sailors, and some Negro macheteros, or bush-cutters, advanced nineteen miles from the Savana in eleven days, cutting a path as he went, and reached the bank of the Chuquanaqua, seven miles north of the canal line. Although he had previously seen tracks of [p.154] Indians, and had heard some shots fired, he left there four men in charge of the arms and ammunition of the whole party, and proceeded on his course with the remaining ten men. Returning to the same place four days afterwards, he found that the unfortunate men had been murdered, and the arms carried off; and thereupon retraced his steps, traversing the distance to the Savana in eleven hours by the path which it had taken eleven days to cut. In this exploration he was guided by Messrs. Kennish and Nelson, engineers of the Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company of New York, which had started in opposition to the London Company with the object of cutting a canal via the Atrato, the route recommended by Humboldt on the authority of the Biscayan pilot, Gogueneche. Those gentlemen, who had never before set foot on the isthmus, guided Prevost four points and a-half north of the line, and led him to the top of the highest mountain of the Cordillera, to show him where a canal could not be cut. They, perhaps, could have explained that which puzzled the London Company so much, viz., why it was that Prevost went so long before the appointed time, and why he was in such a hurry to cross the isthmus.

In like manner, the engineer-in-chief of the London Company, placed himself under the guidance of Colonel Codazzi, who, although in the service of the New Granada Government, was also in receipt of pay from the New York Company. By that experienced bushranger he was led out of the right way, and over a mountain, which would require to be tunnelled, although I offered to guide them to a valley through which a canal could be made by open cutting.4 However they would not take the direction indicated by me, probably not wishing to find a valley; and it was left to Commander Parsons, of H.M. surveying ship Scorpion, to solve the question, the entrance of the valley being marked in his Survey of Caledonia Harbour and Port Escoces, published by the Admiralty in Sep., 1854; whilst views on his chart shows how completely distinct are the two parallel ranges of the Cordillera, between the overlapping extremities of which the valley is situated.

Unfortunately, however, some months before Parsons' Survey was published, Mr. Gisborne had returned to England with his Report, in which he ignored the existence of a valley, and stated that a tunnel, three miles in length, would be necessary [p.155] through the mountain, which, as I learned from the Indians, is called Agla. His Report, which has never been published, and which was addressed to Lord Wharncliffe, the Chairman of the Atlantic and Pacific Junction Company, 36, Moorgate-street, and dated H.M.S. Espiegle, Caledonia Harbour, April 4, 1854,5 is completely stultified by the following concluding sentence: "I am quite aware that, in now concluding my surveying operations, there is a great deal of interesting information still wanting, and that my examination of the isthmus is not near so perfect as I had hoped to make it." This, indeed, had been so manifest, that Commander Parsons, writing to me some time afterwards, says, in allusion to the lowest summit level given by Mr. Gisbome: "Of course I shall not consider the matter thoroughly settled until further search is made."

The same opinion of the imperfect and partial character of the inspection of the country then made was expressed by Baron Humboldt, M. Malte-Brun, and M. Michel Chevalier. More recently, J. Gerstenberg, Esq., F.R.G.S., in the discussion on Mr. Oliphant's paper on the Bayanos river, read before the Royal Geographical Society on the 24th of April, 1865, said: "The only route that I believe to be practicable is the Darien route. Dr. Cullen and Commander Parsons have stated that there is a valley running through the main ridge to Caledonia harbour. The only point to be settled is the existence of this valley, which subsequent explorers failed to find, because they did not wish to find it, owing, as I believe, to the jealousy of the Panama Railroad Company and of the concessionaires of the Atrato route, who had rival interests, and consequently did not desire that the valley should be found. In the hydrographic map of Parsons' Survey he gives several views of the Cordillera, and views clearly shows that the Cordillera at that point is not an uninterrupted chain, but is broken into two separate and distinct ridges, between which a valley may naturally be expected."

Mr. Gisborne's Report on the necessity of a tunnel of three miles, arriving just at the outbreak of the Crimean war, determined the Directors to dissolve the Company, whereupon the project fell to the ground. Since 1854 it has lain in abeyance until January last, when the government of the United States sent a party of explorers and surveyors to make a thorough examination of the line, the result of which will most probably be that a canal can be cut from Caledonia harbour to the Savana river without any necessity for a tunnel.



The country which the line traverses, like all the rest of Darien, is covered throughout with a dense forest, the continuity of which is broken only by the courses of the rivers. The whole tract, from sea to sea, for many miles on either side of the line, is totally uninhabited. The harbours at each terminus afford secure anchorage both in the dry and the rainy season, are safe and sheltered from all winds, have great depth of water and immense capacity, are easy of ingress and egress, and in every respect admirably adapted for the termini of a grand interoceanic navigation. Along the Atlantic coast, a continuous series of good anchorages extends twelve nautical miles in length, and from three-quarters to one mile in breadth. These are from north-west to south-east: 1. The channel of Sassardi, two miles and a-half long, the entrance of which is between Sassardi Point and one of the Sassardi islands. Into it falls the little river Sassardi, and at its mouth is the [p.157] Indian village of the same name, with sixty inhabitants in fifteen palm-thatched huts. 2. Caledonia harbour, three miles and a-half in length, the entrance of which is between Golden Island (Isla de Oro) and San Fulgencio Point; it is separated from the channel of Sassardi by a narrow bar of twelve feet; this could be easily removed, as the boring made in 1864 penetrated fifteen feet into marl. By cutting it through, the two harbours would be converted into one, which would have the advantage of two entrances. A considerable river, which rises in the valley between Sassardi and Agla mountains, falls into the harbour two miles and a-half north-west of San Fulgencio Point. 3. Caledonia Bay, an open roadstead with a beach, near the middle of which the Aglaseniqua and Aglatumati disembogue. 4. Port Escoces, three miles in extent inwards, and sheltered by a promontory. All the above anchorages, with the exception of Caledonia Bay, are completely sheltered, and the least depth of water in them is six fathoms. On the Pacific side, besides the great Gulf of San Miguel, which has an extent inwards of twenty-two miles, there is an inner harbour formed by the estuary of the Tuyra, which disembogues into the Gulf by two mouths, Boca Chica and Boca Grande, in each of which there is a depth of twelve fathoms at low water. Punta Brava, the north point of the Gulf, is seventy-eight miles south-east by east-half-east of Panama; and San Fulgencio Point, in Caledonia harbour is one hundred and thirty-five miles east by south of Aspinwall or Colon, in Navy Bay, the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Railroad. The line first crosses a plain two miles in width, extending from Caledonia harbour to the entrance of a valley or pass, which runs in an oblique direction between Sassardi mountain on the north-west, and Agla mountain on the south-east. It then traverses the valley to its other extremity, where it strikes upon the Sucubti. The course of this river is next followed down to its mouth, which opens into the Chuquanaqua, a tributary of the Tuyra. Lastly, crossing the Chuquanaqua, the line traverses the forest to the junction of the Lara with the Savana. From that point there is an uninterrupted and easy navigation for the largest ships down to the confluence of the Savana with the estuary of the Tuyra. The whole length of the line is forty-two English miles, from which at least three may be deducted for the windings of the Sucubti, which may be cut across. As twenty-one miles and a-half are along the course of the Sucubti, and the lower twelve miles of it are pretty direct, they would admit of being canalised by means of dams and embankments for a moderate outlay. The entire line of transit from sea to sea will then consist of: canal, twenty-seven miles; canalised river, twelve; navigation of the [p.158] Savana, sixteen; and of the Tuyra, three; in all fifty-eight English miles.

This distance could easily be traversed within twenty-four hours, even making a liberal allowance for the time that would be occupied in the passage of several locks. The direct distance from Caledonia harbour to the Savana is thirty-two miles and a-half English miles, and the course is south 62° west (south-west by west-half-west) true, or south-west three-quarters west by compass, three-quarters to the right being allowed for the variation, which was 8° 50' east in 1854. The variation in Darien is increasing at the rate, probably, of a-quarter of a minute every year, and may now be assumed to be 8° 53' east. The distance from Caledonia harbour to the highest point on the Lara to which the tide reaches is less than twenty-eight miles, and a diminution of three miles in the length of the canal might be effected by commencing it a few miles above the mouth of that river, which would only require dredging to render it available. The Atlantic terminus of the line, in the bight north-west of San Fulgencio Point, is in latitude 8° 52' 30" north, and longitude 77'° 42' 45'' west. The mouth of the Lara is in latitude 8° 41' 45" north, and longitude 78° 7' west.

No level has ever been taken on the line. I estimate the height of the dividing ridge between the river that falls into Caledonia harbour north-west of San Fulgencio Point and the Sucubti, the waters of which flow into the Pacific, at one hundred and eighty to two hundred feet; the bed of the Chuquanaqua, opposite Sucubti mouth, at seventy feet; and the water shed between the Chuquanaqua and the Savana at one hundred and twenty feet above the mean level of the oceans. There will thus be two summit levels, for each of which a most abundant supply of water will be afforded by the very numerous rivers in their vicinity. The most important elevation to be ascertained is that of the ridge in the valley, between Caledonia harbour and the Sucubti, which is the water-shed between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and is only four miles from the landing-place. The summit levels may admit of being cut down to such a depth, as to reduce considerably the amount of lockage that would otherwise be required.

According to the estimate drawn up by the Commission of Engineers of the Corps des Fonts et Chausses, to whom the Emperor Napoleon referred the examination of the question, in 1857, the cost of a canal, with locks, by this line, would amount to about four millions and a-half sterling. The estimate drawn up in 1864 by M. Moguel Bey, the chief of the corps, amounted to about the same sura.6


The material to be excavated consists of alluvial deposit of great depth, clay, gravel, and rock. The shores and the sides of the smaller hills are composed of an accumulation of coral deposit, forming, in some places, a loose kind of coraline lime-stone, but, in general, being disconnected. This structure is found to some distance inland, on removing the substratum of alluvial deposit, rendering it probable that the low land from the base of the hills has been formed by drift, or upheaval, in no very remote age. The soft material which was removed by Captain Hollins of the Gyane, in boring for a well near San Pulgencio Point, Caledonia Harbour, was dolomite, or magnesian limestone.

Some of the rivers are crossed high up by ledges of a slate, or coarse argillaceous schist, called pizarra in Spain, and known by the name of killas in Cornwall.

It was ascertained, in 1855, by Colonel Totten, who took a Series of levels along the bed of the Panama railroad, that there is no difference in the mean level of the two oceans, both being on a level at midtide. In the rise of tide, however, there is a considerable difference, the greatest rise on the Pacific being 21.30 feet, and the least 7.94 feet; whilst, on the Atlantic, the rise varies from 0.63 to 1.60 feet. High spring tide of the Pacific is from 9.40 to 10.12 feet above high spring tide of the Atlantic, and low spring tide of the Pacific is from 6.55 to 9.40 feet below low spring tide of the Atlantic; thus there is a constant oscillation, the Pacific being, at high water, several feet higher, and at low water several feet lower than the Atlantic. The time of high water is nearly the same on both sides, namely, at 3 hours 20 minutes, at full and change.7 Since the canal must have some locks, the difference in the rise of tide will have no effect.

The seasons are the dry and the rainy. The former, which corresponds with the season of the breezes or strong north-east trade winds, lasts from December to May; the latter commences in May, and continues till December, with fine [p.160] weather at intervals. The prevailing wind on the coast of Darien is from north north-west to north-east. In the rainy season a land wind blows at night from the mountains, with occasional squalls with rain from the south-west. Hurricanes and earthquakes are unknown.

The reports of Dr. McDermott, of H.M.S. Espiegle; Dr. Brownlow, of the United States' corvette, Gyane; Dr. Rondat, of the French war steamer, Ghimere; Dr. Ross, of H.M. steamer. Virago; Commander Parsons, of H.M.S. Scorpion, and Mr. Gisborne, show that, amongst 1,300 men who composed the crews of the vessels which lay at anchor in Caledonia Harbour and the river Savana, in 1854, not one single case of sickness of any kind occurred during the three months of their stay; whilst the convalescence of those who were sick on the arrival of the vessels there, was unusually rapid. The opinion which I had expressed in my book has thus been corroborated, and receives further confirmation from a document which I found in the course of my researches in the archives of Bogota; I allude to the Diary of Sergeant Gabriel Morales who, with Sergeants Miguel Antonio Delgado and Miguel Quintana, commanded a detachment of 150 soldiers of La Princesa regiment, who had a short time before arrived from Spain, and were sent to search for Indians by Lieut. Colonel Don Andres de Ariza, the Governor of Darien. They started from the Fort of Principe on the Savana, proceeded towards the Atlantic, and returned after an absence in the forest of fifteen days in the height of the rainy season, in July, 1786, in perfect health, but without having seen any trace of an Indian.

The only inhabited place on the line was the hamlet of Sucubti, population sixty, which was set fire to and abandoned by the people upon the approach of Lieutenant Strain, United States' Navy, in January, 1854. The inhabitants probably went to reside in Asnati. The only places within ten miles of the line are Sassardi, at the north-west end of the channel of Sassardi; Agla, about three miles up the Aglatumati, which falls into Caledonia Bay; Asnati, on a tributary of the Sucubti; and Moreti, on the river of the same name, which is about seven miles north of the Sucubti. The population of each is about sixty souls, the whole amounting to 300, inclusive of the former inhabitants of Sucubti.

The great difficulty in exploring the isthmus consists in the density of the forest, which renders it impossible to see more than a few yards a-head. The trees are of all sizes, from 30 to 150 feet in height, and have between them a multitude of tall shrubs and a close undergrowth of herbaceous plants. The trees support numerous trailing vines and creepers, known [p.161] vulgarly as vehucos, lianas, nibbees (in Demarara), and bush-ropes (in the West Indies). These ascend to their tops and fall in matted festoons, forming a perpendicular wall of foliage, which would delight the eye of the artist, but would totally impede the operations of the surveyor. Orchideas and other parasitic plants, in great numbers and variety of form, cling to their trunks, encircling them with flowers of every hue.

Of palms, the most abundant are the troolies (Manicaria saccifera); itas or morichis (Mauritia flexuosa), and other fan palms, vernacularly known as guagaras, which occupy a large part of the space between the tall trees. Another palm very common is the corozo colorado, sillico or bone-palm (Elais melanococca), which yields an oil identical with the palm oil of commerce. The principal timber trees are cedar (Icaca altisma), mahogany (Swietenia mahogani), lignum vitas (Guaiacum officiale), silk-cotton (Bombax ceiba), raft wood (Ochroma lagopus), espavé (Anacardium rhinocarpus), bamboo (Bambusa mindinata), bullet tree (Mimusops sp.), crab wood (Garapa guianensis), ebony (Diospyros sp.), hobo (Spondia lutea), iron wood (Ybera puterana), laurel (Gordia gerascanthus), locust or algarrobo (Hymenæa courbaril), mora (Mora excelsa), quiebra hacha or break-axe (Hymenæa pentaphylla), quira (Platymiscium polystachyum), tonquin-bean tree (Goumouronma odorata), and a very durable wood called yaya. The quipo tree, too, is very common; it grows to a height of 70 or 80 feet, perfectly straight, without any branches, except at the top; the bark is very thin, and the wood quite white, and extremely hard; it is, I believe, the caoba of Spanish, and the bastard mahogany of English woodcutters.

Monkeys, sloths, ant-eaters, dantas, machos del monte or tapirs, a small deer like the wirribocerra of Mexico, the sayno, haval cafuchi, warree or white-lipped peccari (Dicotyles labiatus), and the tatabro or collared peccari (Dicotyles torquatus), conejos or rabbits, and squirrels, are plentiful.

Amongst the birds are flamingoes, parrots, pigeons, humming-birds, and three kinds of wild turkey, viz., the guam, guan, pava de monte, or crestfed wild turkey (Penelope cristata); the powhi, or crested curassow (Crax alector); and the powhi de piedra, or galeated curassow (Ourax pauxi).

The Darien Indians are a handsome race, of low stature, slender and lithe of limb, and well adapted by nature for gliding with ease through the matted vegetation of the country. They have the copper-coloured skin; straight, coarse, black hair, and other characteristics of the Red Indians of South America, and, like them, are totally devoid of beard and moustaches. They live very peaceably together, are honest, cleanly, and [p.162] industrious, occupying themselves in fishing, striking turtle, hunting wild hogs,8 deer, etc., and in cultivating plantains (Musa jparadiaiaca), yams (Dioscorcea nyame), cassava (Janipha manihot), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), and a little cotton. They have no cattle of any kind, nor even poultry, and they manifested a great aversion to some goats and kids I once brought with me, and refused to accept a present of them. Their food consists of plantains, cassava, yams, green turtle (Chelone midas), wild hogs, deer, wild turkeys,9 fish, turtle, and iguana eggs; and, occasionally, of the manati or sea-cow, which frequents the coast and the rivers, particularly the Atrato. They also eat lagartos, a small species of alligator, the flesh of which, though of a musky taste, is tender. Turtle-meat, and also monkeys, barbecued or boucanned, that is, smoke-dried, are reckoned amongst the choicest dainties of the table. A rich, yellow soup is prepared from the scarlet nuts of the corozo colorado (Eldis melanococca), which they boil till the stringy pulp falls away from the seeds, when they squeeze it and throw away the fibre; this oily soup is sometimes thickened by the addition of mashed ripe plantains. The corozo yields by expression an oil precisely similar to the palm oil of commerce, which is the produce of Eldis Guineensis, an African palm of the same genus.

They are very expert at throwing the lance and harpoon, and striking turtle, fish, and manati. With their barbed palm-wood arrows they are able to transfix large fish at a distance of two or three feet beneath the surface. They spear turtle at sea with a heavy palm-wood staff, with a notched iron peg at the end, to which twenty fathoms of strong silk grass10 line are attached. Sometimes they catch them at night as they crawl upon the beach to lay, when they have only to turn them over on their backs to make sure of them.

They make cotton and grass hammocks, canoes of callicalli, a red wood like cedar; and baskets and cups, and a sort of flute called fattora, of bamboo. The seeds of the candle-tree (Aleurites triloba), strung on reeds or slips of cane, serve them for candles. These nuts resemble chesnuts, and [p.163] are very oily; one of them will burn for four or five minutes, giving a light equal to two or three candles. The flower of the tree has a very fragrant smell. The seeds of Fevillea scandens and Fevillea cordifolia or Nhandiroba, called cocoons in Jamaica answer the same purpose. The berry of the jaboncillo (Sapindus saponaria) is used by them instead of soap. Occasionally they have a feast, at which they are painted red with amotto (Bixa orellana), and drink much chicha, a liquor resembling the pyworri of the Guiana Indians, but made from Indian corn. They also make a drink of fermented pine-apple juice, and another, called misla, of sweet plantains mashed up with water. Dry misla is a cake made of the highly-nutritious meal of plantains dried in the sun, which is called congo tay by the Negroes of Demerara, who prepare their foo-foo from it. After drinking and dancing to the sound of the fattora and the maraka or shak-shak, a calabash half filled with the seeds of Oanna achiras,11 or Indian shot, they all rush into the water to swim. A chicha feast lasts two or three days, and is just the same sort of entertainment as the pyworri feast of the Warrows and Caribbees.

They are accustomed to the use of fire-arms and are good marksmen, but their usual weapons are spears and arrows; they use the woorali, urari, or curare poison, the basis of which is an inspissated extract of the barks of Strychnos tovifera and Strychnos cogens, two of that class of twining vines or creepers, known by the names of lianas, vehucos, nibbees, and bush-ropes. The latter bears a very close resemblance to the Mavacure of the Orinoco, which is identical with the Lasiostoma curare of Venezuela, and the Rouhamon Guianensis, which Aublet found on the banks of the Sinamari, in Cayenne.

The blowpipe or sarbacan is a single tube, called borokeyra, made of the stem of a young palm of the genus Iriartea.12 The arrows are ten inches long, extremely slender, scraped to a fine point at one end, and cut like a corkscrew for an inch up, showing a very fine thread that forms a spiral screw; this is rolled in the woorali, which is allowed to dry on it. They are remarkable for their hardness, weight, and elasticity, and are made of the leaf-ribs of the cucurite palm (Maximiliana regia). To obviate windage, a dossil of cotton, or of silk- [p.164] cotton from the Bombax ceiha, is wound round the butt. Aim being taken, the dart is projected by a sudden forcible expiration, and will carry 100 yards. It is certain death to any animal wounded. The arrows are kept in a bamboo quiver covered with a piece of the hide of a tapir or peccari.

A jaguar, when hit with a poisoned arrow, runs ten or twelve yards, staggers, vomits, and dies in four or five minutes. A bird is killed as by a bullet. It was found, by experiments made by the Pharmaceutical Society of Paris, that, though an animal, when wounded, falls down apparently dead, it is at first only in a state of coma, and may be recovered by artificial respiration and the exhibition of ammonia; indeed, Waterton cured an ass by inflating its lungs with a pair of bellows, but it remained for a year afterwards in a very delicate state of health.

Although there are two species of Strychnos common in Darien and Panama, they say they do not themselves prepare woorali, which they call ina and corova, but get it from the Chocoanos. The Indians of Chocó and Barbacoas use also the Veneno de rana, or frog poison which is obtained by placing a species of yellow frog, that frequents the swamps there, over hot ashes, and scraping off the viscid humour that transpires. After thus torturing the frogs, they let them go that they may serve another time. Veneno de culebra, or snake poison, is also said to be used in Chocó.

They are by no means demonstrative, being very quiet, silent, and apparently apathetic; offering, in this respect, a marked contrast to the noisy, vivacious Negroes: but they are acute observers, and possess the imitative faculty in a high degree. Their indolence and occasional activity form a surprising contrast. Nothing will induce them to work steadily for any length of time, and they devote whole days together to swinging in their hammocks; yet they will pursue the chace through tangled, thorny, trackless forests, and across rapid rivers, with untiring energy. They will not clear the brushwood from about their houses; yet they will make a tedious voyage of 100 miles or more in a small canoe, to sell a couple of turtle worth two dollars, or to buy some article of trifling value. Nor is their fear of death in some shapes, and their fearless defiance of it in others, less paradoxical. They dread sickness like any old woman, but will boldly face a jaguar in the woods, go through the wildest surf, or over the most dangerous rapids, or swim in waters full of sharks and alligators. They are grossly superstitious, and at the same time quite deficient in veneration. If well treated, they would be trustworthy and faithful, but I believe they would have no [p.165] scruple in killing any one who might use them harshly, or wound their susceptibilities.

They place great faith in the divining powers of their leles, or priests, who advise them in all important matters, and pretend to foretell events. Like the Pieiimans of Guinea, and the Sookias of the Mosquito territory, those sorcerers, before delivering their oracles, utter a series of prolonged howlings, mutter incantations, and invoke all sorts of whang-doodlums, and other fabulous animals with terrible names. This ceremony is called a pow-wow. They used, like the Caribs, to worship the devil, who is called in both languages, Tuyra, which, it may be observed, is the name of the principal river of Darien. It is worthy of note that the Caribs and Arrowaaks also had their magicians, called boyez, who were supposed to exercise an influence over the maboyas, or evil divinities. The candidate for admission into this caste was compelled to undergo severe penance by rigorous fasts, scourgings, suffocating fumigations, and horrid lacerations of his body. By these means a familiar spirit, or demon, was placed, at his command, and he took his rank as a prophet and soothsayer.

The Darien Indians avail themselves of every opportunity of being baptised, and several of them have been christened by the Jefe Pohtico of Portobello. The Jesuits had several doctrinas or missions among them at the beginning of the last century, but they were abandoned in 1719, when the Indians rose up and killed all the Spaniards who were then settled in their territory, in revenge for some cruelties perpetrated on them. In 1740, peace having been made with them by Lieut. General Don Dionysio Martinez de la Vega, Sebastian de Eslaba the Viceroy of Santa Fe sent to North Darien the Jesuits Salvador Grande and Pedro Fabro, whilst the President of Panama sent to South Darien Fathers Matias Alvarez and Claudio Escobar, who formed the settlements of Molineca, Balsas, Tucuti, Chuquanaqua, Cupe, and Yavisa. But they had scarcely succeeded in establishing those missions, when the Indians deserted them, the padres having escaped with their lives owing to the timely warning given to them by an old woman. The above settlements were afterwards occupied by Spanish Negroes, the Indians having totally abandoned the south of Darien, and retired to the Atlantic coast. Since 1747 no attempt has been made to convert or civilise these people. About twenty-five years ago, three missionaries from Jamaica came to the coast, but the Indians would not let them land.

They have a great dread of the small-pox, which is one of their reasons for not allowing foreigners to enter their terri- [p.166] tory; the principal one, however, is their natural desire for independence, and the idea that God made the country for them alone.

It is not unusual to meet albinos among them. At Perdon Island, in San Bias Bay, I saw three children by the same parents, two of whom were albinos. They had white hair and eyelashes, and the milky whiteness of skin, which is owing to the absence of the rete mucosum, the layer between the cuticle and cutis vera, that secretes the colouring matter on which the complexion depends. A moment's exposure to the sun was sufficient to redden their skins, and smart them so much as to oblige them to run back into the hut. Like all albinos they were nyctalopes, and could see pretty well in the moonlight and after dark, but their sight was very weak in daylight, owing to the absence of the uvea, which secretes the pigment of the iris.

These Indians are excellent boatmen and expert sailors. Several of them have made voyages to Jamaica, and even to the United States; and one, named Robinson, resided for twelve years in Washington, where he was educated at the expense of the late Daniel Webster, in whose house he made the acquaintance of the leading statesmen of America. He returned to Darien in 1853, and was sent to confer with the commanders of the expedition of 1854 by Calohgwa, the centenarian chief, whose secretary he represented himself to be. He afterwards accompanied Mr. Gisborne across, from Caledonia Harbour to the Savana river and the gulf of San Miguel, in order to secure the peaceful behaviour of the Sucubti people13 towards him. He spoke English fluently, could read and write well, had a great taste for music, and was a perfect gentleman in his manners. He said he was thirty years of age, and resided at Carti.

They are very fond of adopting English or Spanish names, and several of them asked me to give them mine. Most of the traders, indeed, have names given to them by the masters of English or Granadian vessels which have traded on the coast. Thus, in a voyage which I made all along the coast in a canoe, and in the course of which I called in at all the settlements, I found at Mandinga, John Bull; at Yantopoo, Camp- [p.167] bell; at Carfei, Vicuna, William and Tom Dadd; at Rio Diablo, Story and Jack Bragg; at Azucar, Crosby; at Playon Grande, William Shephard and Tom Taylor; at Putrigandi, Julian or William, a very intelligent man; at Sassardi, John Bull and Denis; at Aglatumati, Robinson; at Agla, Juan Sevd; at Carreto,14 Smith, Bolivar and Trueno (thunder); at Tarena, Zapata (Shephard), etc., etc. On the other hand, they have a great objection to tell their own names, fearing, perhaps, that their strange sound might expose them to ridicule, to which they are very sensitive; thus, when a man is asked, "Iki peynooka" (What's your name?) he invariably replies, "Nooka chuli" (I have no name), meaning, thereby, no English or Spanish name.

The language, like those of other American tribes, belongs to the polysynthetic class, which is characterised by the multiplicity and complexity of the forms assumed by the verbs; these are made up by some intercalation or suffix, often concealed by euphonic changes, indicating the object of the verb, which thus prefigures what the speaker refers to, whether it be singular or plural, animate or inanimate, masculine or feminine, etc. The different words of a clause are sometimes incorporated so as to form one word, and this is done by intercalating as well as by affixing syllables, which appeared to be the roots of the component words. It is extremely euphonious, as will appear from the following examples:—

English Darien
How do you do? Pey noogweti gwa? (you well are?)
The tide is rising. Timureti nacqualomai.
The tide is falling. Timureti arreogali.
When will the canoe come from down the river? Ulo chana ulnonigi diba tee yalakari?
When are you going to hunt deer? Peeyanai cheena cohgwej poork-weesa?
My brother is in the bush hunting. Angmechati wirchanati.

The following comparison of a few simple words will show how distinct it is from the language of the neighbouring Indians of Chocó.

English Darien Chocó
Water tee payto
Fire cho tuboor
Sun ipey pesea
Moon nee hedecho
Man mastola mochina
Woman pundola wuena


Jaguar achuiyeti imama
Wild turkey chigli zamo
Snake nagupej tama

Their form of government is purely patriarchal, the oldest and most experienced man in each settlement being accounted chief by general consent, and universally looked up to and obeyed as such. The last chief of the whole tribe was Calohgwa of Carti, in San Bias Bay, who died in 1856, at the age of 102. Instances of great longevity are common amongst them, and I met four men, named John Bull, Vicuna, Campbell, and Shephard, who recollected the signing of the treaty of peace with the Spaniards on Ascension Island, in Caledonia Harbour, on the 9th of June, 1787. This treaty was signed, on the part of the Indians, by the Cacique General, Don Bernardo of Etata, Captains William Hall of Putrigandi, Guaicali of River Monos, Jorge of Aglaseniqua, Urruchurchu of Sucubti, Jack of Gandi, and Henry Hooper; and on the part of the Spaniards, by General Don Antonio de Arebalo, and Joseph de Guerra and Vaos. The witnesses to the signatures of the Indians were Antonio Espitalete, Geronimo de Segovia, Manuel de Echandia, De Pin Puvemay, and Eusebio de Escalante. Another treaty, by which the Indians engaged to permit Spaniards to trade with them, and to hold no further communication with English traders, was signed at Turbaco by the Viceroy and Archbishop of Santa Fe, Don Antonio Caballero y Gongora, and thirteen Spanish officers, and by the Cacique General and five other Indian chiefs, on the 20th of July, and was ratified at Carthagena, on the 4th of December, 1787. The principal object of the Spaniards was to open a road from Carolina Fort in Caledonia Bay, between Caledonia Harbour and Port Escoces, to the fort of Principe on the Savana, both of which were built in 1785. But the Indians having offered a determined opposition to the project, they were abandoned in 1790, only one Spaniard, the adjutant, Don Manuel de Milla, having succeeded in crossing from one to the other during their occupation.15 From documents which I found in the archives of Bogota, in 1852, it appears that Caledonia Bay was the place whence Vasco Nunez started on the memorable journey which resulted in the discovery of the Pacific—where the town of Agla was soon afterwards built—where the buccaneers landed in 1680, when they crossed, via the Sucubti and the Chuquanaqua, to plunder Santa Maria; and where the Scotch colony [p.169] was settled by Patterson, who was guided in his selection of that locality by the account which Lionel Wafer, the ci-devant surgeon of the buccaneers, had given him of its natural advantages, and of the facility of crossing from thence to the Pacific.

They carry on a considerable trade with foreigners in cocoanuts, cocoa-nut oil and fibre, cocoa, cotton hammocks, grass hammocks, and canoes of calli-calli, a red wood like cedar, which withstands the attacks of all insects, and bears wear and tear better than mahogany. They also dispose of large quantities of carey, caret, or tortoiseshell,16 and tagua, anta, or vegetable ivory, which is the hard albuminous kernel of Phytelephas rasctocarpay a dioecious stemless palm. All those articles are bartered for coloured calicoes, shirts, calico trousers, looking-glasses, knives, machetes or cutlasses for cutting bush, hatchets, culinary utensils, beads, guns, powder and shot, tobacco, rum and brandy. They will take no money in exchange for any of their commodities, neither will they sell gold dust, it being strictly forbidden by their law to bring down any to the coast.

A very profitable trade might also be carried on with them in India-rubber, fustic and other dye-woods, various gums and resins, and a fine grass which they use instead of hemp and flax, and of which they make most durable and beautiful hammocks, called chinchoros, and redes, or nets, by the Spaniards.

Some schooners and sloops from Carthagena, Curacoa, Jamaica, and Portobello, and the Abingdon and other clippers from Baltimore, carry on the trade. The principal traders (exclusive of Americans) are the brothers Abraham, of Kingston and Portobello; Captains Ramon Iglesias, Faustino, and Zephyrino, of Carthagena; Richard Ellis, or lllhes, of Curacoa; and Richard Marks, master of the Flor de Maio, of Carthagena. Juan Seva, a native of Malaga, who traded with them from [p.170] Carthagena for twenty-eight years, and never once set his foot on shore, died in 1853. About the same time died Capt. John Shephard, of San Juan de Nicaragua, about one hundred years of age. He used to trade on the Darien coast, at the end of the last and beginning of the present century, in his schooner, the Mandeville, and was regarded as a smuggler by the Spaniards, who took and put to death his partner. A half-Indian son of his resides at the mouth of the Tarena, a river a little west of the Tarena mouth of the Atrato. He is called Zapata, which is a mispronunciation of Shephard. Another trader, in former days, was Captain Latham, who was highly esteemed by the old Indians, and whose widow lately resided at Carthagena.

Altogether, the Darien Indians appear to be in a more advanced state of civilisation than their neighbours, the Veraguas Indians, on the west, or the Goahiros, on the east. The latter inhabit the Goahiro territory, inland of Rio de la Hacha, and allow no stranger to enter their country. A fort on the summit of La Teta (the pap), a high mountain a few miles inland, is the residence of their cacique. They breed horses, on which they ride with amazing fleetness. They often visit Rio de la Hacha, and are sometimes to be seen at Carthagena.

The Darien women wear gold nose-rings so large that they hang down below their mouths, and must be raised up or taken out when they eat. They are diamond-shaped, cut at one of the angles to admit of their being put in and taken out, and weigh about a quarter of an ounce, being very thick, and of gold twenty-two carats fine. They consequently drag down the septum of the nose considerably. Glass beads, strings of coral, gold trinkets, tigers', sharks', and alligators' teeth, pieces of money, and a variety of miscellaneous articles, are used as ornaments round their necks, wrists, ankles, knees, and hips. Almost anything that can be strung round their necks will do for a necklace, and the gilt buttons which I cut off my Armenian jackets answered the purpose admirably. They have a fashion of binding their legs and thighs in three or four places with strips of cloth, or withes of liana, so tightly that the flesh is swelled out between the ligatures. On grand occasions they put on a dress of coloured calico, and the men wear shirts and trousers, but generally both sexes content themselves with a simple lap of cotton round the loins, called panequiri. This is of the same scanty dimensions as the aynca, or ku, of the Guiana women, which is a piece of the fibrous sheath of the leaf-stalk of a palm tied before and behind to a string round the waist. They spin cotton thread with a spindle, and make very elegant and durable hammocks both of cotton [p.171] and grass. They also profitably employ part of their time in preparing tortoise-shell, gathering the fruit of the cocoa tree and extracting the seeds, making cocoa-nut oil, grating and washing cassava roots, and baking the farina to make cassava bread, etc.; so that they may fairly be considered to be very industrious, independently of their culinary labours, mention of which should not be pretermitted, since their skill in concocting most savoury sancoches and stews can hardly be surpassed.

After I had, owing to my knowledge of Indian character acquired in other parts of South America, safely passed the ordeal to which my trespassing on their territory subjected me, I was invariably treated by this tribe with the greatest kindness and hospitality, although the old men were strongly opposed to my project for cutting a canal across their country, even after I had explained that the only inhabited place on the line was Sucubti hamlet, whose population (fifty souls) would not be disturbed; and offered to procure them a grant from the New Granada government of a tract in any part of the south of Darien twenty times the extent of the canal line. I therefore feel myself bound earnestly to urge the justice of dealing with this fine race in all future transactions in a spirit of conciliation and friendship, and with the strictest integrity and honour.

In 1747, Don Joaquin Valcarcel de Miranda, governor of Darien, estimated the Indian population at 5000 families. I do not believe it amounts, at present, to 3000 souls. The following is my estimate of the population:—

Mandinga, Oarti or Cedar River, Carti Ohico, Bio Diablo or Devil River, Rio Azucar or Sugar River, Concepcion, Playon Grande, Playon Chico, Rio Monos or Monkey River, Pitgandi, Giuti, Putrigandi, Navagandi, Sassardi, and Agla; Oarreto, Gandi, Tripogandi, Tutumati, Tarena, and Arquia, a few miles inland of it. Twenty-one villages on the coast say 100 souls in each ..... 2,100
Chepo, Uslucapanti, Moreti, Asnati, Sucubti, Chueti, Jubuganti, Tuquesa, Tupisa, Ucurganti, Pucro, and Paya. Twelve villages inland, say 60 souls in each ........


  =  2,820

The Granadian population in the south only amounts to 1485, who are nearly all Negroes. Thus, strange to say, less than 4500 people, most of them savages, occupy a country about 200 miles long, with an average breadth of sixty miles, having a soil of amazing fertility, capable of yielding the most valuable products, and occupying a most commanding position for commerce, situated, as it is, between the Atlantic and Pacific, with magnificent harbours on each, and at only eight [p.172] days steaming from New York and seventeen from England. It seems still more strange when we reflect that the narrowest part of the neck of land between the two oceans is there; and that there, also, the first settlement was made after the discovery of America—Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien, near the mouth of the Atrato,17 having been the first town built on the continent of America. Nevertheless, there is yet neither path, track, trail, nor line of transit of any kind across the Isthmus of Darien.


Water, tee Pole for canoe, otigali-ul-chagwala and negloneka
Fire, cho Cutlass, echa
Sun, ipe Calabash, noka
Moon, nee Kettle, eysmeti
Stars, eseeskwa Cannon, kinkili tumati
Thunder, marra Gun, kinki
Sky, nibtala Shot, kinkwaka
Sea, termala Clothes, mola
Sea shore, termankaka Trunk, uloogwa
River, teeguala Looking-glass, ispe (from the Spanish espejo)
Rivulet, teeana Shirt, mola makalete
Rain, teeguiyeti Beads, kingwagwa
Day, obigine Nose rings, achu kineti
Night, mutikuti Meat, chana
Morning, pani Wood, choo
Evening, chetagi Salt, palu
Dry season, yola Tobacco, gua'dla
Rainy season, tee gini Knife, eystina
Earth, naba Axe, akana
Mountain, chapurmala Bow, kinki
Valley, negnepa Arrow, cheekwa
Island, tooboo Woorali poison, ina and corova
Forest, chapur Chingo (small canoe), ultotoqua
Stone/rock, akkwa House, neka
Path, nappananne Tiger, achuieti
Flint, akkwanncha Large tiger, achuhiniti
Steel, chekar Cayman, thayma
Trees, chowala Snake, nagupe
Leaves, chowalka Wild hog, yanu chapurri
Leaves to thatch huts, uruaga Turtle, patti and moroko
Maize, opa Deer, cogue
Plantain, machee Iguana, arri
Cocoa-nut, okoba Dog, achu
Rice, caganturpa Bird, chlkwi
Cocoa, chiaqua Eggs, chikwiala
Biscuit, meriki mato Wild turkey, chigli

Canoe, ultumati

Paddle, cammi  


Parrot, quaekwa 8 pabagi
Toucan, guelle guelle 9 pakebagn
Guaoharaoa (a pheasant), charcaca 10 ambe
Fish, huguaw 11 omhegwargine kaka quenehaqua
Mosquito, kwee 12 ambe kaka pocoa
Priest and divine, lele 13 ambe kaka pagwa
Spaniard, Guaka 20 toolaguena
Ram (also poison), inatitiliti 21 toolaguena kaka quenehaqua
Man, mastola 30 toolaguena kaka ambegi
Woman, pundola 40 toola pogwa
Boy, maehigua 100 toola tale
Girl, punagua Money, mania
Child, machi totoqua Much money, mani topa
Big man, moitomati How many reals? iki mani
Little man, moutoltoqua One real, manipuna
Chief, chogualipeti Two reals, manipogwa
Chief's daughter, chogualipeti echisqna Five reals, mantaptali
Friend, aya A dollar, tumguena
White woman, pundola chipugwa Two dollars, tumpogwa
Black woman, pundola chichiti Seven dollars, tungkukuli
White man, guag chipugwa Eight dollars, tumpakeguaka
Black man, nuutol chichiti Will you buy? pepague
My husband, an-chugui What do you wish to buy? tpiani ampenuke
My wife, am-pundola I, ani
My son, an'uehu Thou, pee
My daughter, ani'punagua He, aa
My brother, ang-mechati We, nanmala
My sister, an'uika Ye, pemala
Heart, quakhi They, amala
Blood, ape This, iktique
Head, ochana That, uput
Foot, naca All, peso
Feet, nacamala Much, yee
Face, gwawkala Who is there? idgwaehi
Hair, chagli Near, iptigins
Ear, nwa To-day, imi-ipe
Eye, ibia Yesterday, chae
Nose, an uehuu Ere yesterday, astogi
Month, kagya To-morrow, pani
Tongue, kwawpina The day after to-morrow, alchuli
Teeth, nukala Yes, ee
Beard, chica No, chuli
Neck, tuhala Good, nuweti
Arms, ankala Bad, istalga
Hands, anchunkala Large, tumti
Fingers, cod Small, totogwa
Nails, coo nu Much, ichogi
Leg, thugwa Little, icheguaw
Body, andbgana Alive, toola
Name, nookka Dead, purkweesa
What's your name? iki pe nookka Hot, ugueti
Your hand, peyanchola Gold, tampa
Your hands, peyankalmala Old, cheleti
1 quenehaqua Young, nuchookwa
2 pocoa Handsome, itanlegi
3 pagwa Ugly, yagitagligi
4 pakegua To eat, maskune
5 aptedi To drink, cope
6 nerkwa To drink water, tee cope
7 kugli To drink liquor, chieha cope


To sleep, hapenai Fair wind, proa nugueti
To speak, ehumake Foul wind, proa isterga
To dance, quile There is very little wind, proa pipigwa
To see, petake There is very much wind, proa toga
To sit down, pechique What wind is blowing? iki proa pole
To come, nene Mast, choarra
To go, nae Sloop, tuo choarra quenchaqua
To sow, epige Schooner, ulo choarra pocoa
Wait a while, anapta quelli Brig, ulo tumati choarra datali
Give me fire, so pineha and angdcho eheeyalo Ship, ulo choarra pagua
It is late, pato ehetdgi Steamer, so ulo
How do you do? pe nuguitigwa Rough sea, teemala uruetoga
How are your sons? pe nuchiigana nugueti There are rocks in the sea, teemala akkwa mai
How is your son? la maehi nugueti Loose the sail, wurmola parmite
Where didst thou come from? peeya akari petanigi Take in the sail, wurmola he
Where did ye come from? peeya akari etanimala Belay the rope, tupa eytine
Where did your friends come from? pey ayamala peeya kartanigi A broken plank, urkwa marali
When will yon come? kana petakowe The tide is rising, timureti naequalomai
Gome soon, quarrye petakowe The tide is falling, timureti arreogali
Whence come ye? peeyal petanigi na' nulla Yesterday a vessel sailed, psai ulotumati itikine nati
Where are yon going? peeyal penai Yesterday a vessel arrived here, psai itikine ulo nonni
Let us go bathe, omamdla A vessel will arrive here to-day, eysmi qua ulo nonni
When will you come? iki pia and aniki To-morrow a vessel ought to come in, pani ulo itikine nonni
When will you go? iki pianai, ehana penai, or ipa pigwanai Ten days ago a vessel came here, ipamhegi woosa ulo itikine nonni
I will go to-morrow morning, pane nai Two Americans went on shore, Meriki pogwa itikine nappa nannie
I will go at noon, tata yorke nai They went into the bush, yala nannie
At noon, ipi yolapoogwe They went up the river, tiguala nannie
At what time shall we go? chana nang malowe The river is deep, tee yegual googwe
At midnight, eabguena The river is shallow, tee thathala
We will go before midnight, yo eabguen gutagwe namalogwe The river source, tee tokoo
We will go before noon, ipe yolookoogwe namalogwe There are rooks in the river, ti ginge akkwa
We will go after midday, ipe asupinitile namalogwe There will be much rain to-night, iptigue dadogue imimutiki
When is your brother going? ipe quenati chana pe nai    witoguontigue anthake
He will come in the evening, cheto takogwe The chingo is ready, koowal ulnai
He will came to visit, otwakoor takogwe Two canoes have arrived, wala pokwa ulnonnigi
Have you a father? papa mai A chingo has arrived, ulgwen nonnigi
Have you a mother? nanna nai A canoe has arrived, walguen ulnonnigi
Do you know? pe wishi When will the canoe come from down the river? ulo chana
Will you come with me? pe taniki yo    ulnonnigi diba tee yalakari
Come with me, ambag nene When will the canoe come from up the river? ingoo ulak tee
What do you think? iki pinehachu mai    yoguey nak walakari
Two canoes, ultumati walbogwa When are you going to hunt deer? peeyanai cheena cogwe
Wind, proa or puruaga    purkweesa
East wind, ti puruaga My brother is in the bush hunting, angmechati wirehanati, or
West or vendaval, ehagri puruaga    chapoor wagnati
North wind, makati puruaga To out a path through the bush, ikalsmeynai chapoorwali
South wind, yala puruaga  


The following short vocabularies of the Choca, Mosquito, and Caribisce languages, will serve to show the great difference that exists between the languages of different tribes. The Indians of Choca are the nearest neighbours to those of Darien. The Noanama Indians, in the south of Choca, have a distinct language of their own.


Water, payto Tiger, imama
Fire, tuboor Lion (puma), imama pooroo
San, yesea Iguana, ipoga
Moon, hedeeho Lizard, horhe
Tree, pachru Snake, tam
Leaves, ehituha Wild turkey, zamo
Thunder, pa (Arrowaak, bellibelro) Parrot, carre
House, dhe Guacharaca, hullee hullee
Canoe, hahodrooma Macaw, pavora
River, thio The tide is rising, tobiruoor
Man, moehina The tide is falling, eribudo
Woman, wuena Where are you going? amonya
Child, wordoche Where do you come from? zamabima
Large man, moehina deasira   zebuloo
Little man, moehina zaehe Let us go, wonda
River Tuyra, Togwrootna Let us go bathe, wonda euidee


Man, waikna Priest and diviner, sookia
Woman, mairen Man (Haypure, eafaquriehiui;
Bay, tukta   Ottomao, andera; Muysca,
Girl, kiki   muytea; Californ. ayaehe)
Water, lia Woman May. tinsoki; Ott. ondua
Fire, panta  


Water, toona (Arrowak, wunney; A big woman, obotho wahri
   Accaway, yabbo; Warrow, ho) A little house, membo haoutho
Fire, wottho (Warrow, cuiuna) White man, branaghoori
Sun, weyu (Arrowaak, hadhali) Black man, mekdro
Moon, noono (Arrowaak, eawchi; I, aou
    Warrow, wainik) He, ero
Tree, dhang (Warrow, we-we) She, mose
Noon, curitani The water is rising, ithoomai
Mosquitos, mabiri The water is falling, nabawi
Bird, donora I go, woosa
Man, wookoori (Quichua, of Pern, Come now, ochoni
  eeariwar-neebooroo; Arrow, luhkoo I will go presently, ero merothe weethage
  and wadeely; Accaway, weenow) I will start at sunrise, ihio maynha
Woman, wahri (Quichua, huarmi; It is good, idupani
   Arrow, hearoo; Accaway, ebooety; Where are you going? oia moosa
  Warrow, teeda) What's your name? no euyedu
Boy, membo Good morning, morabidge
Girl, amuyachoo Good bye, moosarabe
A big man, obothdni  


1 On the 18th of July, 1861, during the last civil war, which raged from 1859 to 1863, the title of the republic of New Granada was altered to that of the United States of Columbia, by a decree of General Tomas Cipriano de Mosquera, then provisional President, and commander of the liberal forces. General Mosquera was elected President in the spring of the present year.

2 The termination ti or di signifies a river, as do or dor does in the Chocó language. Thus the river Scteguillegandi, on the east side of the Gulf of Darien, is called Karacuaraudo by the Chocó Indians.

3 On his arrival at Callao, he was superseded, and the admiral sent the Virago hack to the Savana under Commander Marshall.

4 See my pamphlet, "Over Darien—Reports of the Mismanaged Darien Expedition; with Suggestions for a Survey by Competent Engineers, and an Exploration by Parties with Compasses." London: Effingham Wilson. 1856.

5 "Letters on the Darien Ship Canal". London: Effingham Wilson. 1857.

6  The estimate given by M. Garella and M. de Courtines, who made a detailed survey of the line from Navy Bay to Panama, in 1844, by order of Louis Philippe, for a canal forty-seven miles and a half long, including a tunnel three miles and five hundred and sixteen yards, at an elevation of 133 feet, amounted, at the rate of nine shillings per cubic yard for excavation, to one hundred and thirty millions of francs, or £5,200,000. See "Project d'un Canal a travers l'Isthme de Panama", par M. Napoleon Garella, Paris, 1845.

7 This refers to Navy Bay and Panama. The rise and fall in Caledonia harbour is six inches neaps, and one foot six inches springs; and it is high water, at full and change, at 11 h. 40 m. The rise of tide in the Gulf of San Miguel is from eighteen to twenty-four feet.

8 There are two species, the Tatabro, or collared peccari (Dicotylea torquatiui), and the Warree, Sayno, or white-lipped peccari (Dicotylea triahiatu).

9 There are three kinds of wild turkey common in the forests of Darien, viz., the Paya de monte, quan, or quam (Penelope crittata); the Powhi, or crested curassow (Crax alector); and the Powhi de piedra, or galeated curassow (Ourax pauxi).

10 A species of Bromelia. Another kind of silk-grass, the fibre of which resembles Manilla grass, is yielded by Fourcroya, a plant of the family Amaryllidaceæ, sub-order Agaveæ.

11 The rhizomes or root-stalks of Canna achiras and C. coccinea, of the family Marantacæ, which are cultivated at St. Kitt's, yield the arrow-root or starch called Tous les Mois.

12 In the pucuna or zarabatana of the Guiana Indians there is an inner tube, which consists of a single intemode of a gigantic reed, Arundinaria Schomburghii.

13 Sucubti hamlet, containing a population of fifty souls, was the only inhabited place on the canal line. It was set fire to and abandoned by the people upon the approach of Lieut. Strain, U.S.N., about three weeks before Mr. Gisborne's arrival there. It has, probably, not been reoccupied since, as, in former times, whenever an armed party of Spaniards visited a place, the Indians used to abandon it for ever.

14 The chief of this place gave his daughter to Vasco Nunez de Balboa for a wife.

15 The precise site of the town of New Edinburgh, and the fort of St. Andrew, was on the inner side of the promontory between Caledonia Bay and Port Escoses. The fort mounted fifty guns, and had a garrison of six hundred men. I brought Dr. McDermott, of H.M.S. Eapiegle, to search for the canal which the colonists dug round the fort, but it was dark when we reached the place. He returned afterwards with Commander Parsons, and they found the canal quite perfect. It was 130 paces in length, cut angularly as a fortification, with an embankment on the inner side. Its north entry, 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide, was cut through rock. The summit of the promontory is 580 feet, and the hill at its point is 260 feet high. It was from the latter, which Parsons named Patterson Hill, that the colonists were accustomed to look over the sea in the direction of Scotland.

16 The hawksbill turtle (Chelone imbricata) is the one most in request for its carapace, or dorsal buckler, the horny plates of which are known as tortoise-shell.

17  It was probably at the mouth of the Tarena, a small river which falls into the Gulf of Darien, a short distance to the west of the Tarena mouth of the Atrato.