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Carib or Island Carib West Indians


Carib or Island Carib West IndiansSummary: This article is about the Island Carib people, who lived on the islands of the Caribbean. Carib or Island Carib is the name of a people of the Lesser Antilles islands, after whom the Caribbean Sea was named.
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Carib or Island Carib West Indians

 Drawing of Caribe WomanCarib or Island Carib is the name of a people of the Lesser Antilles islands, after whom the Caribbean Sea was named; their name for themselves was Kalinago for men and Kallipuna for women. They are an Amerindian people whose origins lie in the southern West Indies and the northern coast of South America.

They spoke Kalhíphona, a Maipurean language (Arawakan), although the men either spoke a Carib language or a pidgin. In the southern Caribbean they co-existed with a related Cariban-speaking group, the Galibi who lived in separate villages in Grenada and Tobago and are believed to have been mainland Caribs. Several words of Carib origin became part of the english language, including hurricane, hammock and iguana.


History
Carib people are believed to have left the Orinoco rainforests of Venezuela in South America to settle in the Caribbean. Over the century leading up to Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Caribs are believed to have displaced the Maipurean-speaking Igneri people from the southern Lesser Antilles. Their legends (as recorded by Fr. Breton in the seventeenth century) say that they killed (and ate) all the Igneri men and took their women as wives. Anthropologists are divided as to how true these legends are, but the fact that the Island Carib women spoke an Maipurean language gives credence to this idea. The islands also raided and traded with the Eastern Taino of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The Caribs were the source of the gold which Columbus found in the possession of the Taino; gold was not smelted by any of the insular Amerindians, but rather was obtained by trade from the mainland. The Caribs were skilled boatbuilders and sailors, and seem to have owed their dominance in the Caribbean basin to their mastery of the arts of war.

The Caribs were themselves displaced by the Europeans, and were eventually all but exterminated during the colonial period. However they were able to retain some islands, such as Dominica, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad. The Black Caribs (Garifuna) of St. Vincent who had mixed with marooned black slaves from a 1675 shipwreck were deported in 1795 to Roatan Island, off Honduras, where their descendants, the Garífuna, still live today. The British saw the less mixed "Yellow Caribs" as less hostile, and allowed them to remain in St. Vincent. Carib resistance delayed the settlement of Dominica by Europeans, and the Carib communities that remained in St. Vincent and Dominica retained a degree of autonomy well into the 19th century. The last known speakers of Island Carib died in the 1920s. The number of Caribs in Dominica today is about 3,000; there are several hundred ethnic Caribs in Trinidad.

Cannibalism and patriarchy controversies
Europeans arriving on the Caribbean Islands in the 15th century remarked on the Caribs' aggressive and warlike ways and apparent taste for combat. Carib culture, looked at from the outside, seems to be heavily patriarchal. Women carried out primarily domestic duties and farming, and in the seventeenth century they lived in separate houses (a custom which also suggests South American origin). However, women were highly revered and held much power. Island Carib society was socially more egalitarian than Taino society. Although there were village chiefs and war leaders, there were no large states or multi-tiered aristocracy.

Instances of cannibalism were noted as a feature of religious war rituals, and in fact, the English word cannibal comes from the Spanish caníbal, itself taken from the Carib karibna ('person') as recorded by Columbus. Claims of cannibalism, however, must be seen in light of the fact that in 1503, Queen Isabella ruled that only cannibals could be legally taken as slaves, which gave Europeans an incentive to identify various Amerindian groups as cannibals. To this day the Kalinago people fight against what they regard as a misconception about their ancestors. The film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was recently called upon as portraying the Carib people as cannibals by the National Garifuna council, something that Walt Disney was not able to correct.




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