also used the name Kalina or Kalinago. Some writers have used the name Igneri. Igneri (also Eyeris and Ieris)
were the people that Carib men had conquered, and with whom they amalgamated, upon their entry into the
Windward (and possibly southern Leeward) Islands. Ethno-historians call Caribs of the Caribbean’s Windward
Islands (the Lesser Antilles) Island Carib to distinguish them from the mainland Caribs relatives of South
America. The Karifuna population of Belize, Central America, are Island Carib refugees who escaped European
persecution in the Caribbean. In 2015 the Dominican Government agreed to change the name "Carib" to
On his First Voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus recorded secondhand information from rivals of the
Carib people. In his 1492 letter to the king and queen of Spain, Columbus said that the Taíno of Hiapana (or
Hispaniola) spoke of the island of "Charis" (Dominica). In the following, he included myths as facts.
- "This island is inhabited by a certain people who are considered very warlike by their neighbors."
- "They differ in no way from the others, only that they wear long hair like the women."
- "These eat human flesh."
- "These are the people who visit certain women, who inhabit the island of *Mateuin (Martinique)." The
women of this island, like Amazons, "perform no work of their sex, for they use bows and darts" ..."they
protect themselves with sheets of copper, of which there is a great abundance."
- "They (the Taíno) tell me of another island greater than the aforesaid Hispana, whose inhabitants are
without hair, and which abounds in **gold above all others."
* In the Taíno's epic story, the Travels of Guahayona , Mateuin was the island recorded by Father Ramón
Pané, who lived among the them, as the mythical "Island of Women". ** This was the "Island of Guanin" (14k
gold alloy) from the Guahayona epic.
There is no conclusive evidence that the Island Caribs hunted people for food. The practice of "ritual
cannibalism" was not new to Columbus. Ritually eating bread that represented the flesh of Jesus Christ and
drinking wine that substituted for his blood was considered holy. Prior to visiting the Caribbean, Europeans
called the practice of eating human flesh anthrophomorphi. Marks on humanoid bone fragments from a
European Neanderthal site indicate prehistoric cannibalistic activity. The first record of the fear of Carib
"cannibalism" occurred on Columbus' Second Voyage of 1493. On November 4th, upon his arrival off
Guadeloupe, escaped Taíno women captured from Puerto Rico implored Columbus to take them back home.
Columbus refused and the women said that their captors "ate men". The next day, November 5th, an
unauthorized landing party led by Diego Marquez, Comptroller of the Fleet and captain of a ship, set out into
the interior of Guadeloupe. When the lost party failed to return to the ship, the superstitious crew suspected
that their mates had been eaten by the caribales. Columbus sent another search party of 40 men to find them.
On November 8th, the first party returned without incident. Columbus went ashore to the deserted Carib homes
where he saw many valuable commodities. He also saw "baskets of dead men's bones" and "human heads on
poles". Caribbean societies often stored the bones of their departed in baskets in the home. Conversely, heads
on pikes in Europe indicated punishment and not cannibalism. It has been stated that calling the Caribs
"cannibals" was a political excuse used to enslave them. The excuse was that enslavement was a means of
converting "savages" into good Christians. In the Americas, some non-Carib people who resisted the Spanish,
were sometimes misnamed "Carib" and deemed suitable for enslavement or extermination.
Although the Caribbean was named for them, the Island Caribs are one of the most maligned indigenous
peoples in the Americas. There are at least four early sources of information about these islanders. Columbus
initially gleaned his information from Taíno statements about their encroaching rivals and sometimes allies.
Subsequently, early Spanish, French, Dutch and English invaders formed their own opinions based on some
first hand encounters with this warrior society. Finally, the Caribs gave data about themselves when the French
priest, Father Raymond Breton, lived among them. Father Breton compiled a dictionary of their words and
practices.Columbus wrote their names as caribales. The words cannibal and cannibalize are derived from
caribal. In the play The Tempest, William Shakespeare's savage character was a Carib named Caliban. In The
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe , Daniel Defoe's character, the docile "Indian", Friday, had escaped from being
eaten by cannibals (Caribs?). Crusoe's adventure took place near the mouth of South America's Orinoco River.
More recently in 2006, Disney featured a blockbuster film titled Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Some indigenous Americans protested the film's reinforcement of the myth about the Caribs. This Caribbean
warrior society, however, were shrewd tacticians, adventurous navigators, island and continental traders, and
farmers. It is only because of their tenacity that they are still here.
EXCERPTS OF 1992 INTERVIEWS WITH CARIBS OF DOMINICA
The year 1992, was the 500th anniversary or Quincentennial of the Columbian Exchange. The prevailing belief
at that time was that the indigenous people of the Caribbean were extinct. In 1991, Michael Auld obtained a
grant from the Cafritz Foundation to research the retentions of indigenous aesthetics in four Caribbean Islands.
Beginning at the Heye Foundation in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Auld
travelled to Jamaica, Antigua, Dominica and Puerto Rico to make site visitations and to conduct interviews. The
video segment and excerpt on this page were done on the Carib Reserve in Dominica.
August 26, 1992
Felix Francis in his crafts shop on the Carib Territory: "I make Carib crafts. I have been working in the
business for 12 years since my grandfather died. I learned the craft from my grandfather since I was going to
Auld: "Do you think that there are a lot of Carib traditions that are still passed down in the family?"
Francis: "Yes, there are. Not only in this craft shop... There are many other items done by the Carib people".
Auld: "What would you like to see happen to these Carib goods?"
Francis: "Well... I would like it to go on and on. Because, for instance, all over the world other Indians have
been saying that things have been moving quite well with them. Here in Dominica the Carib people would like,
you know, to see that our work will still be going ahead, our language, our craft, and even our culture, so that
people in other places can still see that the Carib people in Dominica are still moving on".
Mr. Francis demonstrated how a small 6 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 3 inch, finely woven, black, brown and beige oval basket
(called a baka) with a lid was traditionally used on the occasion of a Carib death or celebration. At the
celebration a big buzai (stick torch made with gum) was lit. Five beaded necklaces would be placed in a baka.
The baka would be held behind the back. Each of the five participants would reach in the basket to retrieve (like
a grab-bag) his/her own necklace by feel. The winner "would get paid".
Outside Felix Francis' craft shop.
His niece, Hermine: "I am in the 7th grade".
Auld: What are your favorite courses?"
Hermine: "Reading and languages".
Auld: "How many languages do you speak?"
Hermine: "English...Sometimes they teach us French".
Auld: "Do you like French?"
Hermine: "No... (smile) Its hard" (smile).
Napoleon Sanford, canoe-maker, sat on his unfinished White Gommia dug-out canoe behind the
Carib Council Office: [The Carib, like the Taíno, were masters of the canoe. During pre- and post-Columbian
times, they took trading trips back to Zuania (South America) where they conversed in pidgin Cariban to trade
for guanin (a gold alloy).]
Auld: "I see where you make these traditional Carib canoes."
Sanford: "Ya... I usually make them all the time. Since I was 14 I used to go in the bush with my father. And
since then I have been holding on to the culture. I make everything. I also teach canoe-making starting two
years ago. But its a bit dormant now. I had some of the young fellows, young students, they came with me to the
bush but they did not hold the work. Just like when you have a child who goes to school and who does not make
it to high school (smile). But I still intend to teach it. Some of them can learn. Some are not interested but some
younger children coming up would like to build them. Canoe builders are coming scarce now. The people on the
outside of the Carib Territory buy the canoes. They usually come for boats every year. They come and buy the
new ones. That is part of being self sufficient. My father raised 14 of us children. I am the last boy. Now I am 45.
He died when he was 74. I still have the culture. I build my own canoe myself. I fish in a canoe. I never liked
another type of boat...I prefer my canoe. I just came from sea where I caught some good fish too"
Mr. Sanford said that there were currently 21 canoe builders on the Carib Territory. Building a canoe takes him
up to three months (between rain and possible illness) to complete and he usually builds one canoe each year.
Carib canoe-makers carefully choose to cut trees "when the moon was black... when the moon is finishing.
According to the grandfathers, trees cut at that time could stay on the ground for one year without being
harmed by pests", Mr. Sanford said.
August 27, 1992
Chief Irvince Auguste, in front of his home at dusk:
Auld: "How does one become a chief among the Caribs?"
Chief Auguste: "It is very Europeanized now. We have
elections every 5 years. The government takes care of
the election. Election is done by secret ballot. Six eligible
voters are nominated. Three or five people are voted for
and the one who gets the most votes becomes chief. Ten
days or two weeks later a council of six is elected to serve
a 5 year term with the chief".
Auld: "How long have you been chief?"
Chief Auguste: "Eight years now".
Auld: "Eight years... So, you must be popular then?"
Chief Auguste: (Chuckle) "The people have confidence
in me. They gave me a second term".
Auld: "What are the responsibilities of a chief?"
Chief Auguste: " It is a very challenging job in itself, in that one has to be always on the move trying to
organize educational programs, cultural research, which we are doing now... the administration of the office
itself, and trying to network as much as possible with individuals who have interest in the indigenous movement,
or organizations interested in indigenous development... that in itself is challenging. We also have a situation
where the Carib people of Dominica are only just now getting to know about the existence of other indigenous
groups. We have been faced with a lack of awareness, a lack of consciousness among the young people, that
in itself makes the job a bit difficult. Today you hear young children in school saying 'The Carib people, my
ancestors, were here long before Columbus came, and the Carib people discovered Dominica, not Columbus'. I
did not say that when I was going to school at the age of the kids who are saying that now. That shows that
consciousness, nonetheless, is beginning to pick up and we must not stop there".
Auld: "If you had a chance to make a statement to other Native Americans in North America, what type of
statement would you make?"
Chief Auguste: "I think that I would only tell the Native Americans that we all have suffered basically the same
type of genocide and that it is unfortunate that we as the First People of the Americas have had to be placed in
a very unfortunate position after the many tortures and murders committed against us during the last 500 years
past. We can also do the things that people today think is worthwhile. If we weren't 'discovered' by Columbus we
probably would have been as advanced in technology like the Japanese. And so, I believe we are on the right
track in terms of taking our education in our hands, taking control of our nations, our destiny, as people who
are very intelligent and who know our past, and who know where we are going. I think that we have a very clear
sense as to what direction we want to go from here. We need to network together. We need to establish contact
with indigenous peoples around the world, and that we need to help each other. There are Native Americans
who have schools organized, who have their law institutions pretty much... or rather, they have students,
members who are lawyers, who are medical doctors, and officers advanced in their own educational abilities
who have come back and remained close to the culture, who need to pass on whatever education they have
gained. The culture is what identifies us as to who we are... that whole thing of identity... We have to really
reach out to other indigenous groups. South America may have quite a rough and different situation than the
natives of America. The Caribbean native people are only presently now getting conscious of where we came
from, how we got here and we are trying to figure out which way we must take. I am saying that the First
Americans, the Native Americans, who have already gone through some of the struggles that we are now
beginning to go through should hold on tight to what they have done, go ahead with the struggle... go forward
with the struggle...there is victory for people who are positive about the things for which they are striving. Reach
out to your indigenous brothers around the Americas who are struggling to get to half the way to where they
have already gotten. So, it is important to recognize that indigenous peoples as First Americans have gone
through treaty problems... All the problems they have gone through we have gone through too. It is important
that we communicate with each other and we go forward as a people who suffered from genocide. I want to tell
them the... Native brothers and sisters the Europeans may have destroyed our fruits, broke our branches, burnt
our trunks, but they cannot destroy our roots and that the struggle must go on".
|Click on photo to see a segment of the 1992,
Interviews with Extinct Warriors:
Chief Irvince Auguste
1992 was the 500th anniversary of the encounter
with Christopher Columbus.
To download RealPlayer go to
of Indigenous Arts and Culture
- From the Taíno word Cariba, or Caribe meaning
- Also Kawib.
- Name for the people of the Eastern Caribbean
who called themselves Karifuna,Kalina or
Kalinago (or Calinago).
- Indigenous inhabitants of the Lesser Antilles of
the Caribbean Sea whom ethnologists call Island
- Also, a mainland South American people who are
neighbors to the Arawak.
- Positive words derived from Caribe: Carib,
Caribbean, Caribbean Sea.
- Negative words derived from caribe: cannibal,
cannibalize and cannibalistic.
In 1992, Chief Irvince Auguste of the Carib Reserve in
Dominica used the name Carifuna. Earlier, the men
were called Calinago and the women Callipuna. They
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