The people called ‘Maroons’ were enslaved Africans and their descendants. They fled from bondage by escaping from plantations and forming new societies. For nearly a century, these communities waged a devastating war against the colonialists from their strongholds in the Jamaican hills. Recognising the freedom they had fiercely seized, the British were forced to propose treaties granting them land and partial autonomy.
Nature played an important role in the Maroons day to day life and survival. Their dependence on nature was not only for living but also for fending off invaders.The Maroons utilised their environment far more effectively than the British in achieving their dual goals of sustenance and battle. Their African knowledge of biology, geology, herbal medicine and farming was used to alleviate the stressful conditions of their lives.
Utilising the forest in their wars with the British, they developed good camouflage and ambush techniques which baffled their opponents.The ‘five finger wins’ (cacoon)vine was used to make traps. Pointed stakes were rammed into the bottom of the traps to impale unsuspecting animals and people. This had a devastating psychological effect on attacking soldiers as they were forced to watch their comrades die a slow death. The Moore Town Maroons also used the cacoon vine to prepare f delicious stew called ‘Rundown’.
Camouflage or ‘Bushing Up’ as it was known involved the use of leaves, branches and blossoms to make it impossible to find them in the jungle. Bathing in a stream with certain leaves disguised their body’s odour so they could not be hunted by Indian scouts or dogs from the contract Cuban slave hunters.
A complex understanding of birds and bird calls was needed to communicate without anyone knowing it was them.