Caribis, the name that was given to them by the Spanish, means cannibal. In spite fo that peculiarity, all reports agree that they were a rather appealing people. Of an over-average height, well-proportioned, they dressed much like the Arawaks. They dyed their body with a red dye called roucou. The Spaniards, believing that this was their natural color started the legend of a red-skinned race.
Caribs families lived in rounded dwellings called marouina, made of two rooms which often had an additional recess for jewels, tools and/or weapons. The Ajupa, was a shelter in the field used temporarily during the harvest. The Carbets were huge oval-shaped community houses used for social events.
Caribs made very good baskets and basket-type objects, but their pottery was less evolved than the one made by Arawaks'. Their weaving techniques have been perpetuated, to this day, in Martinique and Guadeloupe where Carib baskets are in great demand.
Since cassava and fish were the foundation of their diet, their methods of obtaining food and cultivating were the same as the Arawakds'. They fished in the rivers wit their hands, with nets, or wit herb that anesthetized the fish. They also fished in the ocean, where they showed great courage in their pirogues or in their "kanoahs" which were very large boats that could carry up to fifty men. The square sail they used is identical to the on used on today's gomiers.
The Caribs fought with boutous, (heavy, sharp-edged-clubs), and bows and arrows which they knew how to render poisonous by dipping into the sap of trees such as the Mancelinier.
The language of the Caribs has evolved into a modern Creole which carries very few traces of their language. The addition of a suffix or a prefix to the radical; to express the notion of adjectives or of possessive pronoun is believed to have its sources in Caribs' language. Their scientific language was reduced and rudimentary since they counted only up to five; ten was characterized by "all my fingers", and for twenty they showed both their hands and feet. More than twenty was described as "as much as hair on my head."
The Caribs believed in a remote supreme God but they had more relations with their deities. They were said to praise the bad ones in order to win their mercy. Like the Arawaks, they had their traditional healers and priests, the Boyas. They believed in immortality of the soul, and situated their heaven above the sun and their "hell" under the earth. This belief gave great importance to funerals for bodies were buried in the very ground of their house, while their possessions were burned, and their slaves were killed, at least those who did not succeed in running away.
The Caribs put up a fierce resistance to all invaders and this delayed their destruction by Europeans. The Spanish left them alone, but they had to fight the English and French when by the 17th century they became interested in the Lesser Antilles. They finally were forced to accept peace, under the condition that they would be given full possession of Dominca and St. Vincent. Today a handful of them still survive on the former island. But their original type has been much altered by past mixing with runaway Black slaves.
The American Indian societies of the West
Indies were too ill prepared to massively support the shock of contact
with Europeans. Due to various diseases and an obstinate repression
they swiftly faded away. Today, traces of their contribution can still
by found in a few techniques for refining the cassava, in some culinary
methods and recipes, in a few terms in the various Creoles, and in some of the
syncretic relationships in traditional religion and beliefs.