The Caribbean society and culture

The Caribbean society and culture



The Caribbean society and culture

The original Caribbean inhabitants that Columbus incorrectly labeled as Indians consisted of a mixture of diverse different local ethnic tribes who inhabited the vast parts of the Antilles islands. The main group that came into contact with Columbus were, the Tainos. At the time of the European arrival the Bahamas had different groups living there mainly the island Caribs, the Tainos and the Arawaks. The Tainos were the majority and they dominated the landscape while the other locals spread out covering the small and larger islands of the Caribbean.

The Bahamas lesser Antilles and Greater Antilles indigenous people mainly the Arawak and the Tainos people can be described as members of the same language family. The Taino’s culture is one of people who had advanced as exhibited by their prowess on hunting, agriculture and fishing. They were governed by an overall prominent district chief who oversaw the running of the various villages that were grouped into districts and further grouped into chiefdoms, the chief ruled on the different political and social functions within the region. The current United States political system is comparable to the structure of the Taino government. Their social outlook was of one split into two distinct classes mainly the commoner and the nobility, these were the main since the Carib, Arawak and Taino society did not support slavery and forced labor. The main religion in the region revolved around spirit worship (Spider, 2008).

Unlike the first two indigenous groups the island Caribs can be described as being more blood thirsty and violent in nature they fit the description of savages since they even practiced cannibalism. Compared to the other two their society was less complex and did not have a specific government due to their war like nature. Their religion had similarities with the other natives since they also had elements of spirits and ancestors worship like the Taino’s and Arawak’s.

Columbus description of the natives as noble savages was mainly due to the fact that their presence in the new land affected the overall European settler’s initial plans of establishing a new nation. Their very ideals and culture were also in contrast to the settler’s perspective example is on their religious ceremonies, their home designs, dressing styles and their beliefs on land ownership which state that land can never be owned by an individual since it belonged to nature and the society unlike, the Europeans perception of private ownership of land and property. All these factors were savage like compared to the European religion, western type of dressing which was modest and conservative and European settlement methods (Glencoe Online, 2010).

Documented articles describe the first contact between the natives and Columbus as having occurred in 1492 on the 12 of October according to his perspective he arrived with his crew on the new spotted land and upon landing got on his knees thanked God and claimed the new land for Spain unknown to him that the natives that had already lived there for 1,000 of years watched the whole scene from behind bushes and trees.

He continued to describe the locals as having watched in amazement their white skins, magnificent ships and weird dressing which they had never seen before and due to this they regarded the visitors as Gods and were heaven-sent and due to this they came out of hiding and as was their custom greeted and invited them into their land which was a relief to the weary visitors. During the welcoming they brought with them food, gifts and drinks and some of the Taino that were professional swimmers even swam out right to the boats that were anchored some three miles offshore to officially welcome the visitors. However the European arrivals negatively affected the natives in many ways example they labeled the natives as Indians due to their misconception of the lands geography, their arrival also caused the locals many problems like being forced to abandon their traditional lifestyle and forced to embrace new cultures, there was also an almost near annihilation of the natives by the foreigners, in addition entire villages were wiped out by diseases like cholera, measles, pneumonia and smallpox which the natives were highly susceptible to, others died of malnutrition as they tried to relocate to parts of the region that the Europeans had not encroached.

The misconception often taught on Christopher Columbus as a hero and the greatest explorer in American history should be reviewed since a critical review on the subject reveals many underlying issues that are contrary to the above claim of his greatness. It is evident that the locals are the ones who taught Columbus and his crew how to grow crops, history recognizes Columbus as a great navigator while in fact he did not navigate the ship but took the credit as the captain, and he also never discovered new land since it already had inhabitants all he ever did was label them as Indians which was wrong and finally his cruelty showed clearly as he mercilessly murdered, and took the natives land once he got what he wanted the only thing he can be acceded for is bringing diseases and chaos to America(Public Administration,2006).

In conclusion the stimulating and attractive nature of history offers room to opine, exercise and explore history while, offering self-interpretation which may often be unsubstantiated and manipulative and as such an open mind has to kept while studying or treating such controversial topics as Columbus.


Spider (2008) the Taino Indians: Native Americans of the Caribbean

Retrieved from

Public Administration (2006) American Indian and Alaska Native Populations

Retrieved from Online (2010) Native Peoples—the Indians, Social Studies, McGraw Hill Companies

Retrieved from

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