Nine indigenous tribes live in Guyana: the Wai Wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio and Warao. Historically, the Lokono and Kalina tribes have dominated Guyana. Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana on his third voyage (1498), the Dutch were the first to establish settlements there: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627) and Demerara (1752). After the British took control in 1796, the Dutch officially ceded the territory in 1814. In 1831, the three separate colonies became a single British colony known as British Guiana. In 1838, some Indians serving as indentured servants of the lower caste were transported from Indian villages to Guyana, where they intermarried with Guyanese and formed half of Guyana’s current population.
Since its independence in 1824, Venezuela has claimed the territory west of the Essequibo River. Simón Bolívar warned the British government in a letter that settlers from Berbice and Demerara should not settle on these lands, which the Venezuelans claimed as the supposed heirs to the 16th century Spanish claims to the territory. In 1899, an international tribunal ruled that the lands belonged to Britain.
In 1962, Venezuela made its first official claim to the territory west of the Essequibo River at the United Nations, citing defects of nullity and what are known in international law as acts against the good faith of the British government, as well as an alleged compromise by some members of the Paris Decision. The Venezuelan government denied the nine points on which the London government had based its claim on 12 November 1962. In 1966, the Geneva Agreement was signed between Venezuela and the United Kingdom (on behalf of its then colony, British Guiana) in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 February 1966. This was an interim arrangement to reach a final settlement of the boundary dispute, often defined as “agreeing on a settlement” and even invalidated the 1899 arbitral award, it led to the status quo being maintained. Therefore, the claim area under the authority of the Government of Guyana is not resolved until there is something else under the treaty. The first article of the document recognises the containment of Venezuela to consider as null and void the decision of the tribunal that defined its border with British Guiana. The UK to sign the document recognise the claim and non-compliance of Venezuela remember and find a practical, peaceful and satisfactory solution for the parties, The border disputes exist and no final solution has been reached.
Guyana gained independence from the UK on 26 May 1966 and became a republic on 23 February 1970, but remained a member of the Commonwealth. The US State Department and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as the British government, played an important role in influencing political control in Guyana during this period. The US government supported Forbes Burnham during the early years of independence because Cheddi Jagan was identified as a Marxist. They provided covert financial support and political campaigning advice to Burnham’s People’s National Congress, to the detriment of the People’s Progressive Party led by Jagan, which was supported mainly by Guyanese of Indian origin.
In 1978, Guyana received international attention when 918 members of the American Peoples Temple cult died in a mass murder/suicide. However, most of the suicides were committed by Americans, not Guyanese. Over 300 children were killed; the people were members of a group led by Jim Jones in the Jonestown colony they founded. Jim Jones’ bodyguards had previously attacked people taking off from a small, remote airstrip near Jonestown, killing five people, including Leo Ryan, the only US Congressman ever to be assassinated in office.
In May 2008, President Bharrat Jagdeo was among the signatories of the UNASUR treaty establishing the Union of South American Nations. Guyana has ratified the treaty.