Trinicenter Home
Capitalism and Slavery
Capitalism and Slavery

A Brief History of the Caribbean: From the Arawak and Carib to the Present
A Brief History of the Caribbean

The Black Jacobins
The Black Jacobins

Rituals of Power & Rebellion: The Carnival Tradition In Trinidad & Tobago 1763 - 1962
Rituals of Power & Rebellion

Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago
Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago


The story of the Caribs and Arawaks

Part 2

Las Casas (1559) recorded how, "some of the few Indians in the island (Hispaniola) took courage when they saw that Enrique was still a force. An Indian, whom they called the Ciguayo, rose in rebellion... This Ciguayan was a courageous man, although naked as the others. He obtained a lance made of iron from Castile and I believe a sword also... recruited ten or twelve Indians and with them began to attack the Spaniards in the mines, estates, or country farms, wherever they went in twos or fours or small groups. He killed all those he found, so that he spread panic, terror and a strange fear throughout the island. No one believed himself safe even in the towns of the interior of the island, and all lived in fear of the Ciguayan." -------(2)

As we all know, these Indians of the Greater Antilles lost in their war against the invaders. The Ciguayan's terrorism were a symptom of his helplessnes, for by his time the labour in the mines, starvation, suicide, diseases against which they had no immunity, all of this had almost completely extinguished the Indians on Hispaniola. Although the Indians did not all die on Spanish pikes or under their hunting dogs, it was all premised on the presence of the Europeans, which hinged on military considerations. And the Indians were greatly outmatched by the Spanish in a military sense. It was difficult for them to abandon their crops and wage guerilla warfare. In addition, the Spanish quickly learnt the technique capturing and killing their leaders by trickery. In a general sense we might say that the Indians, whose idea of war entailed not so much killing men as capturing women, were fatally handicapped in responding to the savagery of the Europeans. An analogy might be taken from the Indians of North America who considered a great warrior to be not one who killed the enemy; rather, the hero was one who stole something from him in battle, perhaps his shield, without harming him. The Ciguayan came too late.

Materially, the Indians fought with different weapons from the Spanish; socially and morally, they held different concepts of war.

Thus the 'peaceful Arawak' on closer inspection turns out to be nothing other than a dead Taino. "Those who have perpetrated these crimes call the uninhabited places 'peaceful," wrote Gonzalo Fernandez de Ovideo y Valdez (1557), who was there at the time and who was far from being an Indian sympathizer. "I feel they are more than peaceful, they are destroyed." --------(3)

So now we see where the 'peaceful' aspect of the story comes from, but what about the name 'Arawak'? After all, even the 16th century chroniclers refer to the 'Aruacs'. Indeed, there are people living in Guyana today called Arawaks. These same people, however, if you enquire, call themselves 'Lokono'. (That is a word which, in their language, means "the people." Many, perhaps most, of these tribes call themselves "the people" in the words of their language. What do they call others? The Akawaio, also known as the Kapong, called the Arecuna 'Kapongbei' meaning, 'similar to people'.)

Who were these Lokono? Why were they called Arawaks if, when the Europeans first came, they didn't call themselves that?

In the 15th century Lokono was just another tribe which lived in villages scattered throughout the northern Guianas, the Orinoco delta, and Trinidad. It was just one tribe among many. In Trinidad alone, in addition to the Lokono, there were the Nepoio, the Yao, the Shebao, the Carinepagoto, and others. Later tribes to migrate to Trinidad included the Kalipunians (California), the Chaimas (Carapachaima), and the Chaguanes (Chaguanas).

There was one distinctive feature about the Lokono, however, (actually the Nepoio - a Cariban speaking tribe - shared this characteristic with them) and that was their close relationship with the Spanish. They exchanged food and slaves for metal tools such as hatchets and by 1520 came to be known as "friends of the Christians." (4) And one particular Lokono town, described by Oviedo y Valdes as "a famous place, praised by the Indians of the coast," was called... 'Aruacay'. (5)


Lokono | Aruacas | Caribs | Women | Wars and Slavery

Taino Home

Historical Analysis | European History | Descent Of Man | Ancient Americans | Vanishing Evidence