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Arawaks

The Arawaks are original people of northern South America and the Caribbean Islands. They particularly live in Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname, the island of Trinidad, and coastal areas of northern Venezuela.

Many of them speak their native Arawak language, also known as Lokono. Many Arawak people are also bilingual in Spanish, English, French, or even Dutch, depending on which country their community is located in. Arawak is a tribal name from their own language referring to their main crop food, the cassava root (also known as manioc.) The Arawaks also call themselves Lokono, which means "the people," and sometimes refer to the Arawak language as Lokono Dian, "the people's speech."

Each Arawak community was ruled by a local leader, known as a cacique or chief. The cacique was usually a son or nephew of the previous ruler, but in some communities the new cacique would be chosen by religious leaders. 

Arawak children learned to swim at an early age, they learned lessons from their grandparents or other elders. 

They were peacefule and made pottery, grew crops and made hammocks which the Spanish quickly adopted for use on their ships. 

Arawak/lokono language place names with known or partially known meanings include:

Arouca (arau ‘jaguar’ + cayri ‘island’; also in Venezuela as Aruca, the spellings <ou> and <u> in French and Spanish, respectively, having the same pronunciation; cf. Kairi, Iere, names given to Trinidad)

Caroni (-uni, a suffix meaning ‘water’, also in Venezuela)


Curucaye (‘incense tree’, including cayri ‘island’)


Guayaguayare (waya means ‘clay’)


Iere (variation of cayri ‘island’)


La Seiva (‘silk cotton tree’, also in Venezuela as Ceiba, with Spanish article la)


(A) naparima (‘large water’, or from Nabarima, Warao for ‘Father of the waves’)


Siparia (-ari means ‘hard, rough, coarse’, may mean ‘machete’)

Other Lokono names include Cipero, Guaracara, Moruga and Pitch (Lake). Shebaio, another Arawakan language, has given at least these two place names: Aripero and Erin.

With regard to flora and fauna, as well as other items, some names extracted from Winer’s 2009 Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago include several of Arawak origin:

Trees: black maho and maho (also Carib), bois cotelette (possibly

French and Arawak), carapa tree (and carap oil, possibly Arawak),

ceiba (‘silk cotton or kapok tree’), cocorite palm, genip, guatecare,

manac, marouba, moriche (‘a palm’) (both carapa and moriche may

have other Amerindian origin)


Fruits: balata, cashima (‘sugar apple’), zeekak (‘coco plum, fat pork’)


Fauna: crappo (also Carib), tay-tay worm (possibly Arawak), yarrow

(‘a fish’)


Other: benab (‘a shelter’), canoe, manare (‘a basket sifter’, or Warao)