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Formerly known as Island Caribs, or just Caribs,  the Kalinago are an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. They may have descended from the Mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America, but they spoke an unrelated language known as Island Carib.

The Carib tribes were more warlike and traveled to fish, hunt and to fight others to take their possessions.

They revered the bones of their ancestors and used the burned fat of their enemies in battle rituals. The Spanish labeled them cannibals because it was easier to justify stealing the lands and enslaving them. The word "cannibal" derives from a corruption of their name. 

They were of a medium height but in general, were of a taller stature than the Arawaks. They were described as being stronger than the Arawaks reportedly due to the emphasis placed on training for warfare. Their skin was of a brown hue and they were usually naked. It was very rare for their loins to be covered. The women painted their skin with a red dye called Roucou, with which they made fantastical decorations of many colours. The eyes of the females were usually circled with black. The men also painted their bodies and on occasion wore feathered headdresses, jewelry through their lips, and jewelry through their noses. They also wore the Caracoli which was a necklace of small bones along with the teeth of defeated enemies from which a crescent-shaped ornament was suspended. The Caracoli was worn to represent the courage of the wearer.

They believed in an evil spirit called Maybouya, who had to be placated for an individual to avoid harm. The chief function of their shamans, called buyeis, was to heal the sick with herbs and to cast spells (piai) that would keep Maybouya at bay. The buyeis were very important and underwent special training instead of becoming warriors. As they were held to be the only people who could avert evil, they were treated with great respect. Their ceremonies were accompanied by sacrifices. They smoked tobacco in the rituals of their religion.

Women carried out the domestic duties of rearing young children, processing and producing food and clothing and cultivating the land for farming, including sowing and harvesting. Men carried

out the tasks of hunting for food and protecting women and children from attack by other warring tribes.

They did not farm very well so they relied less on maize and cassava but still knew how to grow them. Although they were not very good farmers, the Kalinago were excellent fishermen and were not afraid of long voyages. Their diet consisted of lots of protein: they ate manatees, ducks, iguanas, and lots of fish among other foods.


However, the Kalinago had many myths and beliefs about diet. They believed that eating pigs would give one small beady eyes, they also believed eating turtle meat made one stupid. They also believed that eating crab before a voyage would bring storms. The Kalinago seasoned their food with pepper but did not use salt. Couii and taumalin were pepper sauces. Taumalin was made from pepper, lemon juice, and the green meat of crab. The Kalinago made ouicou , a cassava beer with strong alcoholic content, and got very drunk on festivals and holidays.

Place names from the Cariban language family are divided among the Kalina/Carib, Nepoio and Yao languages. Kalina/Carib place names with known or partially known meanings include the following:

Arena(les) (‘arm of a river’?)

Ari-ma (from Hy-Ari-Ma: ‘a poisonous root’ + -ma/-mo, a suffix meaning ‘giant-sized)

Aripo (‘gridle for baking cassava bread’)

Cachipa (‘balisier’ or ‘heliconia’)

Carapo (including + -apo, a suffix meaning ‘place of, name of’)

Chaguaramas (‘palmiste palm’, also in Venezuela)

Guanapo (‘grass’ + -apo, a suffix meaning ‘place of, name of’)

Mucurapo (‘silk cotton tree’ + -apo, a suffix meaning ‘place of, name of’)

Tamana (name of a Carib(an)- speaking group from the mid-Orinoco area)

Toco (‘wild sapodilla’)

Tumpuna (-puna/-pona, a suffix meaning ‘on, upon’)

Tunapuna (tona- ‘water, river’ + -puna/-pona, a suffix meaning ‘on, upon’)

Other well-known names of Kalina origin include Ariapita, Caura (from Guara), Chacachacare, Cumuto, Cunupia, Macqueripe, Maracas, Maraval, Matelot(e), Matura, Paria, Piarco, El Tucuche (with Spanish article el), Turure and Yarra. Place names of nepoio (another Carib language) origin include Mayaro (may have been the name of anepoio headman), nariva and Ortoire (originally closer to Guataro). One place name from yao (another Carib language) is Guapo (root + -apo, a suffix meaning ‘place of, name of’).

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  Carib origin:

Trees: cocoyea, mauby

Fruits: plantain

Fauna: agouti, balahoo (a fish), batali (a small marine turtle), cachicama or kirtchecom (a type of armadillo or tatou), carite, cici zeb, coryal/corial (a canoe, also thought to be of Arawak origin), huille (a snake), mapepire, piapoco (a bird)

Other: canari (‘jar’), catara (‘casareep’, an Arawak name), pirogue, savannah

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