When Christopher Columbus voyaged to the Caribbean, there were groups of people living there. These people were known as the indigenous people. They are separated into three groups, the Tainos, the Kalinagos and the Mayans. The Kalinagos and Tainos, also known as Caribs and Arawaks respectively, are called the Amerindians. Although they all lived in the Caribbean, they had different economic, social and religious practices. Their ways of living were different but there were some similarities, and they were also even more advanced than others with technology and architecture.
The Tainos also known as the Arawaks were the largest of the three indigenous groups, however there settlements were smaller than that of the Mayans and widespread. They had bronze-coloured skin, average stature, dark, flowing, curse hair and large, slightly oblique dark eyes. They were generally naked, unmarried women went naked, married ones wore a flap over their genitals (the length of the flap determined their rank). They settled in Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, The Lesser Antilles (before they were chased out by the Kalinagos) and The Virgin Islands. Their chief, who was known as the Cacique, lived in large rectangular buildings, whereas commoners lived in circular buildings. They settled on mountains to see when the war-like Kalinagos were coming or near rivers and creeks to escape from them easily.
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Their households contained extended families. The Tainos however, did not practice polygamy. They used a cultivation method called conuco with their agriculture. Conuco is a form of agriculture based on mounds of earth and dug drains, which prevented erosion in the fields and improved drainage to help their crops grow. Their main crop was cassava, they hunted, gathered and fished for their food, and they also traded on a small scale. Their political hierarchy was separated into four levels, cacique (the chief), naborias (the working class), nitainoe (the sub-chief), and yucayeque (nobleman/priest). The chief position was hereditary, passed down from father to son. Tainos believed in the existence of a Spirit World. They worshipped the universal creator Alyberi. They made sacrifices of food and beverage to their gods so they would be happy, and they believed that Zemi gods would bring them good fortune.
The Kalinagos, also known as the Caribs, who were medium-heighted (slightly taller than the Tainos), brown-skineed, they had long black hair and they were muscled. They also flattened the foreheads of their children. They were generally naked, they painted their skin with roucou (a red dye), circled their eyes with black. The women wore bracelets on their arms and legs and the men wore jewelry in their lips and nose, as well as colourful headdresses. They were a very war-like group of people, they would often raid Taino settlements and take their women for wives (which is why a lot of Kalinago children spoke the Taino’s language). They settled in the Lesser Antilles in Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and Dominica.
There huts were oval-shaped, and since they were a patriarchal society, the women lived separately from the men. The Kalinago men lived in a large house together called a carbet while they were training to be warriors, whereas the women lived in a kabay. Like the Tainos, the Kalinagos used the cultivation method of cunoco, and their main crop was also cassava, and they were skilled hunters and fishermen. The Kalinagos’ society was not as hierarchal as the Tainos’, their laws were made by the village headman, who was called the tiubutuli hauthe. However, it was a little more organized during times of war; wars were organized by the chief, the Oboutu, who only really had authority during times of war, he also had the responsibility of rewarding the Kalinago men who were successful in raids and hunting.
The Oboutu position was not hereditary like the Cacique, instead it was given to the head of the family based on his physical strength. The priest was called the Boyez, and he was called to heal the sick and cast spells; there were also men called Praimen who they believed possessed supernatural powers. The Kalinago religion was an adaption of Taino practices. They believed strongly in the Spiritual world with cases of both good and evil.
They claimed that Analwaea and his brother Vachi created the world, and they offered them material gods such as food and water, they also believed in evil spirits called Maboyas. They believed in ancestral and nature worship; tobacco played an important part in their spiritual rituals. Death for the Kalinagos meant a special journey to either a heaven or a hell. The souls of the brave Kalinagos warriors went to the “fortunate” islands where they were waited on by Taino slaves whereas cowardly souls went to a dreary desert where they became the slaves of Taino masters.
The Mayan civilization was the most civilized and technologically advanced of the three groups. They settled in Guatemala, South Mexico, Honduras and Belize, which are also known as the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mayan houses were small and simple, but the houses of the nobles were from sculptured stones.
They lived in households containing extended families, where the men had one main wife but other concubines. The Mayans lived on the outskirts of the temple, and they only went in to worship and buy food. They build many pyramids. Their civilization was not a united one, so it was divided into a number of city states, each independent from one another. Their economy was based on agriculture as they relied on it more than the Tainos and Kalinagos, but they didn’t use the conuco method. Instead, they practiced the slash and burn method, and they also constructed irrigation canals, that were fed by artificially created dams. They had a big market economy where they traded cotton textiles, food, ceramic and gold.
Their society was patrilineal, which meant that the males were responsible for the family, it consisted of foot soldiers, skilled artisans, scribes, agricultural farmers, hereditary lords and kings. The head of the Mayan society was called the Halach Yinich, and this position was hereditary. They were great builders as seen in the large stone pyramids they built as burial places for nobles, and also for religious activities. The Mayans were polytheistic, and their religious activities were an essential part of their lives. They believed strongly in the Spirit World, they worshipped Quetzakoatt the great god and culture hero, as well as gds that represented the sun, moon, rain and corn. They believed that torture and human sacrifices brought fertility, they also offered blood sacrifices. They had priests called Ah-kin who were responsible for setting and organizing festivals, making sacrifices, deciding the best days for harvesting and planting, and advising the king.
In conclusion, the three groups of people, the Taino, Kalinago and Maya were all very different people with their religious, political and social practices but with some similarities. Some of these practices have influenced modern life today. The Taino was seen to be the most widespread. The Kalinago as the widespread and The Mayan as the most civilized and technologically advanced. We adapted some of our ancestors ways along with their different practices, and also the many foods that they ate have contributed to our current culture. The Kalinagos, Mayans and Tainos played a big part in our culture today. These people put together make up our indigenous people.