Published on November 6, 2012 by Amy
Carib, Island Carib, or Kalinago people, after whom the Caribbean was named, are a group of people who live in the Lesser Antilles islands. They are an Amerindian people whose origins lie in the southern West Indies and the northern coast of South America.
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The people spoke either a Carib language or a pidgin, but the Caribs’ regular raids on other groups resulted in so many female Arawak captives that it was not uncommon for the women to speak Kalhíphona, a Maipurean language (Arawakan). In the southern Caribbean, they co-existed with a related Cariban-speaking group, the Galibi. They lived in separate villages in Grenada, Tobago, Saint Lucia, Dominica and St.Vincent.
The Caribs are believed to have migrated from the Orinoco River area in South America to settle in the Caribbean islands about 1200 AD, according to carbon dating. Over the century leading up to Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Caribs mostly displaced the Maipurean-speaking Taínos, who settled the island chains earlier in history, by warfare, extermination and assimilation.
Carib islanders traded with the Eastern Taíno of the Caribbean Islands. The Caribs produced the silver which Ponce de Leon found in Taíno communities. None of the insular Amerindians mined for gold, but obtained it by trade from the mainland. The Caribs were skilled boatbuilders and sailors. They appeared to have owed their dominance in the Caribbean basin to their mastery of warfare.
The Caribs were displaced by the Europeans with a great loss of life; most fatalities resulting from Eurasian infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, as well as warfare. Others were assimilated during the colonial period; a few retained areas such as in Dominica. Small populations survive, specifically in the Carib Territory in northeast Dominica.
The ‘Black Caribs’ (later known as Garifuna) of St. Vincent (St.Vincent has some “Yellow caribs’ as well) were descended from group of enslaved Africans who were marooned from shipwrecks of slave ships, as well as slaves who escaped here. They intermarried with the Carib and formed the last native culture to resist the British. It was not until 1795 that British colonists transported the Black Carib to Roatan Island, off Honduras. Their descendants continue to live there today and are known as the Garifuna ethnic group. 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, and the language is extinct.