Carib, Island Carib or Kalinago people, after whom the Caribbean Sea was named, live in the Lesser Antilles islands. They are an Amerindian people whose origins lie in the southern West Indies and the northern coast of South America.

Although the men spoke either a Carib language or a pidgin, the Caribs' raids resulted in so many female Arawak captives that it was not uncommon for the women to speak Kalhíphona, a Maipurean language (Arawakan). In the southern Caribbean they co-existed with a related Cariban-speaking group, the Galibi, who lived in separate villages in Grenada and Tobago and are believed to have been mainland Caribs.


The Caribs are believed to have left the Orinoco river area in South America to settle in the Caribbean. It must be understood however,that they originated in the true sense of the word from the wob of their mother's womb. Over the century leading up to Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Caribs are believed to have displaced the Maipurean-speaking Arawaks who settled the island chains earlier in history.

The islanders also traded with the Eastern Taíno of the Carribean Islands. The Caribs were the source of the silver which de Leon found in the possession of the Taíno; gold was not smelted by any of the insular Amerindians, but rather was obtained by trade from the mainland. The Caribs were skilled boatbuilders and sailors, and seem to have owed their dominance in the Caribbean basin to their mastery of the arts of war.

The Caribs were themselves displaced by the Europeans, and most were eventually killed in battle, assimilated during the colonial period, or retained areas such as in Dominica. However, there are still small populations, specifically in the Carib Territory in north east Dominica.

The Black Caribs (Garifuna) of St. Vincent inherit their ethnicity from a group of black slaves who were marooned in a 1675 shipwreck possibly after seizing power from the crew. In 1795, they were deported to Roatan Island, off Honduras, where their descendants, the Garífuna, still live today. Carib resistance delayed the settlement of Dominica by Europeans, and the Carib communities that remained in St. Vincent and Dominica retained a degree of autonomy well into the 19th century.

The last known speakers of Island Carib died in the 1920s.


Because of Dominica's rugged area, Caribs were able to hide from European forces. Today, on the island's east coast, there is a 3,700 acre territory granted by the Crown in 1903. There are only 3000 Caribs remaining after many years of brutal treatment by the Spanish, French and British colonists. They elect their own chief. In July 2003, Caribs observed 100 Years of Territory. In July 2004, Charles Williams was elected as Carib Chief. [ [ The Carib Indians] ] It is said that they are the only remaining native Carib people. However, some of them are married with the local population.

There are several hundred ethnic Caribs in Trinidad, as well as a Carib population in St.Vincent, the size of which is not known. Some ethnic Carib communities remain on the South American mainland, in countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname. The sizes of these communities differ.


The Caribs are believed to have been polytheists.That was not known by Columbus, or any other European. The reason for their invasion was to convert the Caribs, whom they thought were Pagans, to Catholism.


Early Carib culture, as seen from a distance, appears especially patriarchal. Women carried out primarily domestic duties and farming, and in the 17th century lived in separate houses (a custom which also suggests South American origin) from men.

However, women were highly revered and held substantial socio-political power. Island Carib society was reputedly more socially egalitarian than Taíno society. Although there were village chiefs and lie war leaders, there were no large states or multi-tiered aristocracy. The local self-government unit may have been the longhouse dwellings populated by men or women, typically run by one or more chieftains reporting to an island council.

Many people seem, however, to believe that the Carib women held no purpose other than to produce offspring. Boys were more hoped for so that they would be able to become a warrior.


The English word "cannibal" originated from the Carib word "karibna" ('person') – as recorded by Columbus as a name for the Caribs.

Instances of cannibalism are said to have been noted as a feature of war rituals: the limbs of victims may have been taken home as trophies. While the Kalinago would chew and spit out one mouthful of flesh of a very brave warrior, so that his bravery would go to him, there is no evidence that they ate humans to satisfy hunger. The Kalinago also had a tradition of keeping the bones of their ancestors in their houses; initially this had been taken as evidence that they ate human flesh.

Missionaries such as Pere Jean Baptiste Labat and Cesar de Rochefort described the Kalinago practice of preserving the bones of their ancestors in their houses in the belief that the ancestral spirits would always look after the bones and protect their descendants. Today a similar practice to this is still practiced in tribes of the Amazon.

Even after Columbus was presented with evidence that the cannibalism of the indigenous people was a myth, the myth was perpetuated because in 1503, Queen Isabella ruled that only people who were better off under slavery (including cannibals) could legally be taken as slaves. This provided Spaniards an incentive and legalistic pretext for identifying various Amerindian groups as cannibals in order to enslave them and take their lands away from them.

To this day the Kalinago people fight against what they regard as a misconception about their ancestors. The film "" was recently criticised by the National Garifuna Council for portraying the Carib people as cannibals.

ee also

*Carib Expulsion
*Santa Rosa Carib Community



* Allaire, Louis (1997). "The Caribs of the Lesser Antilles". In Samuel M. Wilson, "The Indigenous People of the Caribbean", pp. 180–185. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1531-6.
* Steele, Beverley A. (2003). "Grenada, A history of its people". Macmillan Education, pp11-47
* Honeychurch, Lennox, The Dominica Story, MacMillan Education 1995.
* Davis, D and Goodwin R.C. "Island Carib Origins: Evidence and non-evidence" American Antiquity vol.55 no.1(1990).
* Eaden, John, "The Memoirs of Père Labat", 1693-1705, Frank Cass 1970.
* Ethnologue report on Carib []

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  • Carib — ► NOUN 1) a member of an indigenous South American people living mainly in coastal regions of French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela. 2) the language of the Carib. ORIGIN Spanish caribe, from Haitian Creole …   English terms dictionary

  • Carib — Car ib, n.; pl. {Caries}. [See {Cannibal}.] (Ethol.) A native of the Caribbee islands or the coasts of the Caribbean sea; esp., one of a tribe of Indians inhabiting a region of South America, north of the Amazon, and formerly most of the West… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Carib — Indians; Caribbean countries; Caribbean Sea between the Antilles, Central America, northern South America …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Carib — [kar′ib] n. [AmSp < Sp caribe, caribal, altered < canibal: see CANNIBAL] 1. a member of an Indian people that formerly inhabited the S West Indies and the N coast of South America, where some members of this people still remain 2. the… …   English World dictionary

  • Carib — /kar ib/, n., pl. Caribs, (esp. collectively) Carib. for 1. 1. a member of a group of Indian peoples formerly dominant through the Lesser Antilles, now found in small numbers in a few areas of the West Indies and in parts of Central America and… …   Universalium

  • Carib — [ karɪb] noun 1》 a member of an indigenous South American people living mainly in coastal regions of French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela. 2》 the language of the Carib.     ↘the Cariban family of languages. 3》 (also Island Carib) an… …   English new terms dictionary

  • Carib — n. member of an native Indian South American people (they inhabit chiefly the coastal areas of French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela) n. language spoken by the Carib people …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Carib — Car•ib [[t]ˈkær ɪb[/t]] n. pl. ibs, (esp. collectively) ib for1. 1) peo a member of an American Indian people that aboriginally inhabited parts of the Lesser Antilles and the South American coast from E Venezuela to the Amazon delta 2) peo the… …   From formal English to slang

  • Carib — /ˈkærɪb/ (say karib) noun 1. an indigenous people of north eastern South America, formerly dominant through the Lesser Antilles. 2. (plural Carib or Caribs) a member of this people. 3. an extensive linguistic stock of the West Indies and of north …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Carib — noun Etymology: New Latin Caribes (plural), from Spanish Caribe, of Cariban origin more at cannibal Date: 1555 1. a member of an Indian people of northern South America and the Lesser Antilles 2. the language of the Caribs …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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