Next to the Arawaks, probably the most numerous Indian stock, of more or less nomadic habits, in South America. They cannot, however, compare in numbers with the sedentary aborigines of Peru and Bolivia. The Caribs were the second group of Indians met by Columbus on the Antilles, and even at that time the name was a synonym for "cannibals". At the time of Columbus they held the whole of the Lesser Antilles, whence they made constant and cruel inroads upon the Arawaks of the larger northern islands, killing the men and capturing the women, whom they carried to their homes on Guadalupe, Martinique, etc. as slaves. The Arawaks were in great dread of them and of their weapons, which were superior to the primitive fire-hardened javelins and wooden war-clubs in use on the Greater Antilles, although some of the natives had also acquired the bow and arrows, probably from contact with their hereditary foes, the Caribs. The latter were also hardy and daring sailors, paddling fearlessly from island to island comparatively long distances. In costume, mode of living, dwellings, etc., the Caribs differed but little from the Arawaks. Their language is totally different.
The Caribs had olive skin, long straight hair and were a handsome people of great stature. Their foreheads and noses were flat , because, much like the Arawaks, they flattened the heads of their children, believing it to be a sign of "beauty and perfection."
They wore no clothes most of the time. On special occasions the women wore pearls and the men wore head dresses made of bird feathers and necklaces made from human or coral bones.
The Caribs did imitate the Arawaks in certain aspects such as in house building and the making of pottery. They were not farmers however, but were great seamen and fishermen.
Strange religious beliefs such as the abstaining from pigs, salt and turtles were practiced. Human sacrifices were part of these rituals.
Like the Arawaks they had a head chief who was selected because of strength and skill. Their manner though was quite opposite to that of the peace loving Arawaks. They were a fierce, warlike people who conquered the Arawaks in order to steal their possessions. Those who were killed during the "battles" were eaten. The remaining males were taken for future meals and the females were taken as concubines.
THE CARIBS OF DOMINICA
Today, approximately 3,400 people live in 450 residential homes on a 3,700 acre reserve, which stretches for nine miles on the north-east coast of Dominica. Overlooking the raging Atlantic Ocean, the Carib Territory is the only district where it is not possible to own or buy land. The land is, in fact, owned by the Carib Council, thus ensuring an element of independence for Dominica's native people.
Carib person today is know as a Karifuna. The Waitukubili
Kairifuna Development Agency (WAIKADA) is a non-profit
making organisation which focuses on the preservation
and development of the Carib culture and also hopes
to improve the quality of life for its people. The
Kalinago Centre, a Carib documentation and archival
centre, is on King George Street in Roseau. Here traditional
Carib art and crafts are sold and information on the
island's indigenous people is available. There is
also a fascinating historical photographic display.
This centre was one of WAIKADA's first achievements.
The creation of a radio station in the Territory and
the establishment of a community library, which will
also serve as a museum and a cultural centre, are
high on the list of priorities.
The Carib Territory is made up of eight hamlets with Bataka being the largest. Other areas include Sinecou, Salybia and Crayfish River. The population is very young, with 70% being under 30 years of age. Most children of secondary school age attend St. Andrew's Methodist School in nearby Londonderry. However, a handful go to schools in Marigot, Portsmouth and Roseau.
The Territory boasts in excess of 16 craft shops which produce high-quality straw hats, baskets and other handicrafts. With tourism becoming increasingly important in Dominica, the Territory is a priority for many tourists. However, the production of bananas is still the main source of income. Coconuts, copra, soya beans, ginger, tropical fruit and various root vegetables are also grown in high numbers. The re-introduction of farine and cassava, which comes from manioc and was once the staple diet of the Caribs, is also making a welcome return. Some Caribs still make their living from the sea, but tackling the large Atlantic breakers is a highly dangerous business.
The Carib Council is an elected body of seven who serve for five years. It is presided over by a Chief, currently Hilary Frederick, who previously held the post from 1979 until 1984. The Territory also returns one M.P. who presently is the United Workers Party representative Francoise Barrie. Barrie is a former schoolteacher and is well known island-wide for his enthusiasm for and vast knowledge of cricket. In fact in this small area of Dominica there is probably more cricket played than in any other district. Last season the Carib Territory won the Harris Paints Northern League in front of an estimated and fanatical crowd of 3,000. The team is dominated by the Burton family of whom the Captain, Gilbert Burton, has represented the island. Currently Adam Sandford, a young fast bowler, can lay claim to this honour.
Away from the cricket field, soccer, basketball, rounders and netball all have their followers, while on a cultural level the Karifuna Cultural Group regularly produce high-quality plays and dance oriented displays. There are also a number of hightly talented artists in the Territory with Faustulus Frederick, Jacob Frederick and Cozier Frederick heading the list.
Life has changed dramatically for the Carib people who traditionally are shy and retiring. They are now completely absorbed into mainstream Dominican life, and with tourism making important inroads into the island's economy, some say that they will soon be at the very forefront. However, many feel that they currently do not receive the attention they deserve and are vigilant in their determination noot to suffer from exploitation; a fate that has bedevilled many indigenous peoples throughout the world.