The Indigenous People of the Caribbean

The Indigenous People of the Caribbean

The Indigenous People of the Caribbean

The Indigenous People of the Caribbean


"A survey of the current state of study of indigenous Caribbean people by archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists.... Emphasizes that even though indigenous people were the victims of genocide, they helped to establish a persistent pattern of relations between other Caribbean settlers and their environment, and became central symbols of Caribbean identity and resistance to colonialism.... Strongly recommended for every library concerned with Caribbean and native American studies."- Choice

"An excellent introduction to native peoples of the Caribbean region.... Will be useful to anthropologists, historians, and other social scientists working in the Caribbean."--Jerald T. Milanich, Florida Museum of Natural History

This volume brings together nineteen Caribbean specialists to produce the first general introduction to the indigenous peoples of that region. Writing for both general and academic audiences, contributors provide an authoritative, up-to-date picture of these fascinating peoples--their social organization, religion, language, lifeways, and contribution to the culture of their modern descendants--in what is ultimately a comprehensive reader on Caribbean archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnology.

1. Introduction, Samuel M. Wilson
Part 1: Background to the Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Caribbean
2. The Study of Aboriginal Peoples: Multiple Ways of Knowing, Ricardo Alegréa
3. The Lesser Antilles Before Columbus, Louis Allaire
Part 2: The Encounter
4. The Biological Impacts of 1492, Richard L. Cunningham
5. The Salt River Site, St. Croix, at the Time of the Encounter, Birgit Faber Morse
6. European Views of the Aboriginal Population, Alissandra Cummins
Part 3: The First Migration of Village Farmers, 500 B. C. to A. D. 800
7. Settlement Strategies in the Early Ceramic Age, Jay B. Haviser
8. The Ceramics, Art, and Material Culture of the Early Ceramic Period in the Caribbean Islands, Elizabeth Righter
9. Religious Beliefs of the Saladoid People, Miguel Rodréguez
10. Maritime Trade in the Prehistoric Eastern Caribbean, David R. Watters
11. Notes on Ancient Caribbean Art and Mythology, Henry Petitjean Roget
Part 4: The Taino of the Greater Antilles on the Eve of Conquest
12. "No Man (or Woman) Is an Island": Elements of Taino Social Organization, William F. Keegan
13. Taino, Island Carib, and Prehistoric Amerindian Economies in the West Indies: Tropical Forest Adaptations to Island Environments, James B. Petersen
14. The Material Culture of the Taino Indians, Ignacio Olazagasti
15. The Taino Cosmos, José R. Oliver
16. Some Observations on the Taino Language, Arnold R. Highfield
17. The Taino Vision: A Study in the Exchange of Misunderstanding, Henry Petitjean Roget
Part 5: The Island Caribs of the Lesser Antilles
18. The Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, Louis Allaire
19. Language and Gender among the Kalinago of 15th Century St. Croix, Vincent O. Cooper
Part 6: Indigenous Resistance and Survival
20. The Garifuna of Central America, Nancie L. Gonzalez
21. The Legacy of the Indigenous People of the Caribbean, Samuel M. Wilson
22. Five Hundred Years of Indigenous Resistance, Garnette Joseph

Samuel M. Wilson is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is author of Hispaniola: Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus (1990), coeditor of Ethnohistory and Archaeology: Approaches to Postcontact Change in the Americas (1993), and a contributing editor and columnist for Natural History magazine.


People lived in the Caribbean for hundreds of generations before Europeans arrived. With great difficulty, their descendants have survived the five hundred years since Columbus landed and still live in the islands and surrounding mainland.

This book is designed to introduce readers to what is known about the indigenous people of the Caribbean. We have tried both to provide a broad overview and to examine many specific topics in some detail. The long prehistory of the Caribbean, going back nearly six thousand years, is dealt with at length. We also discuss the period of European conquest, the subsequent history, and the importance of the indigenous people in the Caribbean today.

This volume came about through the efforts of the Virgin Islands Humanities Council. As the Virgin Islands observed the passage of five hundred years since the second voyage of Columbus brought him to St. Croix, the Humanities Council focused its attention on the people who were living in the Caribbean at the time of Columbus's arrival. The council brought together an international group of scholars who were experts in various aspects of Caribbean history, culture, and environment. At an exciting series of public lectures, this group discussed and debated aspects of Caribbean society and history and attempted to fit all the separate pieces of information and evidence into as complete as possible a picture of the indigenous people of the Caribbean. We are trying to do the same thing with this volume.

The editor and authors extend profound thanks to the Virgin Islands Humanities Council and its executive director, Magda G-Smith, for making this project possible. The conference was funded by an exemplary award grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and supported by the Conference Planning Committee, including Humanities Council . . .

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