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Related to Caribs: Arawaks, Tainos


Caribs (kărˈĭbz), native people formerly inhabiting the Lesser Antilles, West Indies. They are also known as Island Caribs; their Domincan descendants called themselves Kalinago. They seem to have overrun the Lesser Antilles and to have driven out the Arawak about a century before the arrival of Christopher Columbus The name by which the Caribs were known was recorded by Columbus as Caribes and Canibales, and the latter is the origin of the English word cannibal.

Extremely warlike and ferocious, they allegedly were cannibals—they may have practiced ritual cannibalism—and took pride in scarification (ritual cutting of the skin) and fasting. The Carib language was spoken only by the men, while the women spoke Arawak. This was so because Arawak women, captured in raids, were taken as wives by the Carib men. Fishing, agriculture, and basketmaking were the chief domestic activities. The Caribs were expert navigators, crisscrossing a large portion of the Caribbean in their canoes.

After European colonization began in the 17th cent., they were all but exterminated. A group remaining on St. Vincent mingled with black slaves who escaped from a shipwreck in 1675. This group was transferred (1795) by the British to Roatán island off the coast of Honduras. Known as the Garifuna, they have gradually migrated north along the coast into Guatemala. A few Caribs survive on a reservation on the island of Dominica. The Carib, or Cariban, languages are a separate family. Carib-speaking tribes are found in N Honduras, Belize, central Brazil, and N South America.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(incorrectly, Caraibs), a group of Indian tribes in South America (the Motilon, Macushi, Arecuna, Waiwai, Carijona, Bacairi, and others) who speak Cariban languages and have common origins. According to rough estimates, there are approximately 100, 000–150, 000 Caribs. Their religion consists of tribal cults.

The Caribs live primarily in the tropical forest and savanna zone north of the Amazon River (in Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, and other countries). They engage in semino-madic slash-and-fallow agriculture, fishing, hunting, and food-gathering. Their main form of social organization is the neighbor community, with considerable vestiges of maternal kinship relations.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(32) The eight-page section devoted to slaves in 1654 had now ballooned to fifty pages, forty-one of which now focused exclusively on "Negro Slaves, Commonly called Moors in France." (33) In the new work, Du Tertre estimated that French missionaries had converted more than 15,000 black slaves throughout the Antilles over the previous thirty-five years, while during the same period, perhaps only twenty Caribs had embraced Christianity.
The Caribs' tenacity contributed several colorful words to the English language.
Caribs and Arawaks originated in the delta forests of the Rio Orinoco, and hated each other as far back as legend can tell.
Simpatico settlers were often given an Indian girl as a wife or concubine, and the Spaniards made themselves valuable against Carib attacks.
The ancestors also gave the Garifuna their characteristic music, which incorporates both African and Native American drum rhythms and song patterns, and an expressive language made up of Arawakan and Cariban (the original languages of the Caribs) and Yoruba, a West African language.
Vincent remained in the hands of the French and Caribs until 1762 when another English expedition took the island; the Treaty of Paris officially ceded it to the British in 1763.
Vincent's cultural milieu, and by the mid-1700s Africans and Kalinago had commingled to the point that Europeans began referring to them as another distinct cultural group, the Black Caribs (or Garinagu) who quickly overpowered the island's Kalinago inhabitants.
In five chapters ("Border of Violence, Border of Desire: The French and the Island Caribs," "Domestication and the White Noble Savage," "Creolization and the Spirit World: Demons, Violence, and the Body," "The Libertine Colony: Desire, Miscegenation, and the Law," and "Race, Reproduction, and Family Romance in Saint-Dominique"), The Libertine Colony offers critical analyses of missionary writings by Jean-Baptiste Labat and Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre (both of whom are frequently cited in the literature), as well as of Raymond Breton's first bilingual Carib-French dictionary.
The geographical pattern is echoed in history as the islands, which were inhabited previously by the Caribs. They flirted initially with the French before the islands finally passed into the possession of the British who had settled there first in 1623 and, using it as a base for colonising other islands, described St Kitts as the "Mother Colony of the West Indies".
Caribs' Leap/Western Deep, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, (until May 26)