Arawak

The term Arawak describes a group of languages spoken by many indigenous peoples in the Greater Antilles and beyond. It also has been applied to the people themselves. At times, Arawak and Taino have been used interchangeably to describe the original inhabitants of the Greater Antilles, most notably Hispaniola (Espa±ola), but this overlooks some major distinctions. The Taino is a common ethnic group. The Arawak is a group of tribes speaking related languages, although, because of the geography of the region, many of the Arawakan languages were mutually unintelligible. A separate group from the Taino islanders, the Arawak people, who call themselves Lokono, meaning the people, are more properly considered the mainland branch of a culture that extended throughout the Caribbean. Most Tainos lived in Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, and southern Florida in pre-Columbian times. The Arawakan speakers were not the only ethnic group in the area in the years before European colonization; people called the Guanahatabey lived in western Cuba, and the Carib lived in the southern part of the Lesser Antilles. In fact, when Columbus arrived in the area, it was a densely populated patchwork of numerous small polities, ranging from villages to chiefdoms with highly articulated social structures, and the Carib were in the process of conquering other islanders. At the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century, Arawakan speakers numbered in the millions and inhabited coastal areas of Venezuela, Colombia, and the Guianas and had migrated into the Greater Antilles and even the Florida Keys. The Arawak in the Caribbean bore the brunt of early Spanish colonization in the region. As a result, their population dropped drastically. For Hispaniola, the precontact population figures vary widely, but the island could have maintained upwards of 5 million people. By 1520, only 30,000 or so remained. The Arawak and others perished in droves as a result of European disease, along with the effects of dislocation, enslavement, and conflict with the invading Spanish. When Columbus reached Hispaniola and Puerto Rico in the last decade of the fifteenth century, he saw large, permanent Arawak settlements. Each individual village was home to 1,000 to 2,000 people, who lived under the governance of a single chief, or cacique. These small chiefdoms were organized into district chiefdoms, which, in turn, were aligned with regional chiefdoms. Commoners lived in multiple-family dwellings of wood and thatch, while elites lived in slightly more elaborate houses. The Arawak in the Caribbean developed sophisticated agricultural techniques, growing cassavas and sweet potatoes in mounds that slowed erosion and aided drainage. The Arawak mined nuggets of gold (of great interest to Columbus) and fashioned them into ornaments for their elites. Arawak craftspeople also worked in shell, wood, ceramics, bone, and cotton, and they participated in trade with other tribes. When the Spanish arrived, they exploited this indigenous trade network. Columbus never encountered the Arawak of mainland South America; their experience with European colonization was different than that of the Taino. The Arawak and Spanish met on Trinidad during the 1510s. Since the groups were at peace, it was illegal to enslave the Arawak, but depopulation on other islands led to Spanish slave raids in Arawak territory. The Arawak also served the Spanish as interpreters, river pilots, and in other capacities. Spanish missionary activity in northern South America made little headway among the Arawak. Beginning in the 1570s, the Arawak of Guiana began to assist in Spanish slave raids and military expeditions against other tribes in the area. As the Spanish began to found permanent settlements, relations with the Arawak deteriorated; some Arawaks left the islands for the mainland, and mainland Arawaks moved to escape the Spanish encroachment. Many allied themselves with Dutch and English parties active in the region. The history of the Taino and other Arawak was disrupted tremendously by the arrival of Europeans at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Arawak outside the Spanish sphere of influence quickly recognized the value of iron tools and weapons and grew dependent on items of European manufacture. Despite being devastated by disease, dislocation, and slavery, the Arawak people were not entirely destroyed by the colonial onslaught. Their descendants, many of whom continue to identify themselves as Lokono, are scattered throughout the northern regions of South America. Matthew Jennings See also: Caribbean (Chronology); Columbus, Christopher; Cuba; Hispaniola; Native American-European Relations; Native Americans. Bibliography Boomert, Arie. “The Arawak Indians of Trinidad and Coastal Guiana, ca. 15001650.” Journal of Caribbean History 19:2 (November 1984): 12388. Rouse, Irving. The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992. Wilson, Samuel M., ed. The Indigenous People of the Caribbean. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997. Arawak – for the time of your life ! travelquaz

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Arawak

‘️Kathleen Davis on Twitter: “@PoCBeauty: Arawak/Ta­no … travelquaz

Arawak

Boh­o Atabei Mujeres de la Yuka: The Lokono Me 21st Century Arawak … travelquaz

Arawak

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