Carib, Island Carib, Kalinago People (Anthropology)

Carib Basic Facts:
  • Carib, Island Carib, or Kalinago people.
  • Amerindian people whose origins are from the northern coast of South America, & southern West Indies.
  • They live in the Lesser Antilles islands.
  • A painting by John Gabriel Stedman in 1818 of a Carib family is shown opposite.
Carib History:
  • The Caribbean Sea was named after these people.
  • Caribs are thought to have migrated from the Orinoco River area in South America.
  • They settled in the Caribbean islands ~ 1200 CE, (based on carbon dating).
  • The Caribs were known to be skilled boatbuilders & sailors.
  • Carib dominance in the Caribbean region was largely down to their mastery of warfare though.
  • The Caribs were eventually displaced by the Europeans, mostly from Eurasian infections (they had no immunity), & also warfare.
The Black Caribs of St. Vincent:
  • Later known as Garifuna, were descended from enslaved Africans marooned from shipwrecks of slave ships.
  • Also some Africans escaped from enslavement to St. Vincent.
  • They intermarried with the Carib and formed the black Carib culture.
  • In 1795 British colonists transported the Black Carib to Roatan Island (off Honduras).
  • The black Carib descendants continue to live on Roatan Island, & are now known as the Garifuna ethnic group.
Carib Language:
  • Traditionally spoke either a Carib language or pidgin.
  • However, regular raids on other indigenous groups resulted in many female Arawak captives; so that many women spoke Kalhíphon (a Maipurean language, Arawakan).
Carib Patriarchy:
  • The early Carib culture was patriarchal in nature.
  • The important domestic duties, food & clothing provision, plus farming were all carried out by the women (see image of Carib woman in traditional dress opposite).
  • The women, with their children, also slept in separate houses from the men.
  • The women in Carib society were held in high esteem.
  • Also the island Carib society was more socially egalitarian than that of Taíno society.
Carib Religion:
  • The Carib are believed to have been polytheists.
  • The Kalingo religion, practiced by the Carib, had some features similar to Taino ancestor worship.
  • The Carib believed in an evil spirit called Maybouya.
  • Maybouya had to be placated for any person to escape harm.
  • The buyeis (shamans) were treated with great respect as they could cast spells to keep the Maybouya pacified, as well as heal the sick with herb preparations.
  • Also, the buyeis underwent special shaman training rather than become warriors.
  • Ceremonies conducted by the buyeis also contained sacrifices.
  • Tobacco was also smoked during religious rituals, as is the case with the Arawaks and other Native Americans.
  • The Kalinago religion had a tradition of keeping bones of their ancestors in their houses; believing that the ancestral spirits would look after the bones & protect their descendants.
The Carib & Alleged Cannibalism:
  • The Carib word karibna (meaning "person") became the origin of the English word "cannibal".
  • The cannabalism associated with Carib rituals was only related to the eating of war enemies, though some Europeans believed the Carib practiced general cannibalism.
  • There is no evidence that the Caribs ate humans to satisfy hunger.
  • When Christopher Columbus landed at Guadelope he noted evidence of what he understood to be cannibalism.
  • It is important to note that Queen Isabella (of Spain), in 1503 had ruled that only people who were better off under slavery (a definition including cannibals) could legally be taken as slaves.
  • This ruling gave Spaniards an incentive (plus legalistic pretext) for labeling some Amerindian racial groups (particularly the Carib) as cannibals so they could be enslaved & their lands also confiscated.

Images all in the Public Domain.

Posted by ALCHEssMIST.
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