Identification. The name "Palikur" was initially recorded in 1507 by Vicente Yañez Pinzón, who stated that he had discovered la mar dulce (the Amazon) and the province of Paricura in 1500. Nowadays, the members of the group bearing that name call themselves Parikwenê, with the suffix wenê (or yun ê) translated as "nation" in French or "race" in Portuguese. The name can be considered generic for "people" because the Palikur extend it to other indigenous groups as well, placing it before the name of each one, for example "Parikwenê-Galibí," "ParikwenêKaripúna," "Parikwenê-Oyampik."
Location. In the sixteenth century the Palikur lived in the coastal region, north of the mouth of the Amazon River, in what is today the Brazilian state of Amapá, between 1o and 3° N and 50° and 51° W. In the first half of the eighteenth century they were living further west between the headwaters of the Calçoene and the Curipi rivers, on the upper Uaçá, and the Urucauá. Toward the end of the nineteenth century they were concentrated in the Urucauá region, where they had as their closest neighbors the Galibí-Marawone (upper Uaçá) and the Karipúna (Rio Curipi). In 1902, after the end of the Franco-Brazilian Dispute, they (with the exception of one family) migrated to French Guiana, although later the majority of the group's members returned to the Rio Urucauá, which they considered their homeland. Members of the Brazilian and French Guianan groups, however, who are linked by kinship, often visit each other. Families and individuals also frequently change their place of residence.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Palikur language is affiliated with the Arawak Language Family; 44 percent of its vocabulary is similar to the Mehinaku language (Upper Xingu) and 39 percent to that of the Moxo (Bolivia). Palikuran is also related to several Arawakan languages of the upper Río Negro; that is, Baniwan, Kuripakan, Tarianan, and so forth. In former times the Palikur language was divided into several dialects, of which the dialect of the now-extinct Kamuyenê clan prevailed as the group's language. Besides those dialects, there was a lingua franca, Kapt nka, that was used in interclan contacts and in ceremonies; some of the oldest men of the group still speak it. The men and some women also speak the patois of French Guiana, which is used in communicating with the GalibíMarawone and the Karipúna, who generally speak this language. In the village of Flechas (lower Urucauá), populated by Palikur, Galibí, and Black immigrants from the Rio Cunani, patois is also the usual means of communication.
Demography. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the indigenous population living between the Cassiporé and Maroni rivers (French Guiana) was estimated at 3,500 people, of which a total of around 1,200 were Palikur (including the Karipúna), with almost 400 bowmen. In 1730 it was estimated that there were 480 Palikur, distributed among 160 families or houses. In 1787 there were 484 Indians living on the lower Oiapoque (or Vicente Pinzón) and its environs, among them 141 Palikur. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when they migrated to French Guiana, the Palikur numbered between 200 and 300. In 1984 there were 572 Palikur on the Urucauá, occupying six villages, and a total of 405 Palikur were living in French Guiana.