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The Carib

A dialog from Bob Corbett's Haiti list, February 1999

Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 14:44:46 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: caribs : Gill comments
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902051423.A23049-0100000@netcom12>

From: drgill <markgill@clas.net>

From: drgill <markgill@clas.net>

re the flesh eating caribs.....

the remnants of this group that live in Dominica have no oral tradition of flesh eating....at least, among the ones i have known for a number of years......

anthropologists have asked them this question for years, to obtain some form of verification, and none, to my knowledge, has ever been given.....

i dont remember if de las Casas discussed this or not, but if so, it probably would have been reports by tainos decribing the more war-like caribs......the caribs that live in Dominica today are a very shy people, actually.....

mark gill

Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 11:54:48 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: caribs/tainos : Sira replies
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902061114.A19874-0100000@netcom10>

From: sira <sira@acn2.net>

Dave wrote:

>Caribs had taken over, the fort was burnt to the ground and the Arawak and
>European population had been slaughtered.

Not exactly. The fighting chiefs were caribs, with beard on the chin, but the troops were tainos and metis. Caribs were, of course fierce warriors and skillful sailors. They (Caonabo, Cotubanama) gave a tremendous war to the Spaniards, while the taino caciques (beardless) were wisemen like Guacanagaric or merely coward like Guarionex, or woman of velleities like Anacaona.

They did not kill Arawak. Guacanagaric fled off to take cover in the woods with his people.

Those Caribs chiefs came in Ayiti from eastern islands, mainly Ayay (Martinique) leaving alone all their women (Ayay means Women island). Were they black? No! Not before the dawn of XVI century(?)

Nonetheless, the huge negro heads Olmeque in Mexico raised important questions about Negro presence in the Americas. Ayiti seems to be at the intersection of currents coming from North (Vincenzo Giancotti Tassone), from West, Florida, Cuba, Yucatan (Harrington, Loven?), from South by Southeast (Irving Rouse).

Physical Anthropology is on the job.

p.s. It is important to note besides all this, that the History of the Americas, from Northeastern USA/Florida to the extreme south of Chile was put on stage through Ayiti and then Cuba with Verazzano, Ponce de Leon, Cortes and Pizzaro.


Date: Tue, 9 Feb 1999 10:51:49 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Re: caribs/tainos : DAvisreplies to Sira
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902091012.A29439-0100000@netcom18>

From: Karen Davis <kdavis@marygrove.edu>

Sira wrote :
>Nonetheless, the huge negro heads Olmeque in Mexico raised important
>questions about Negro presence in the Americas.

Yes, these huge stone heads certainly have raised questions about pre-Columbian African presence in coastal Mexico, but they are NOT negro heads. In fact, there is validation from archaeological work at this Olmec site & others that the heads depict indigenous rulers--i.e. Olmec kings. Second, the people who currently live in this region of East coastal Mexico--the descendants of the Olmecs--bear a decent resemblance to the big heads--with often chuby faces, and broad lips--and the Asian-based DNA to go with it. I might remind everyone that not all people with chubby cheeks & broad lips are African, and not all Africans have fat lips, nor do they depict themselves as all having fat lips--the Ashante aku'aba, for example, characteristically must have a small doll mouth. The lip thing is really a stereotype. So--Ivan Van Sertima--questions raised? yes. Answers found? no, not yet.


Date: Tue, 9 Feb 1999 10:52:40 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Re:Caribs cannibals? : Davis gives sources
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902091004.A29439-c200000@netcom18>

From: Karen Davis <kdavis@marygrove.edu>

I'd just like to give people references to some historiographic sources I've used on Taino/Carib/Arawak culture.

(1)The very best source I've found on the equation of Caribs with flesh-eating is by Dave D. Davis (no relation to me!) and R. Christopher Goodwin, Island Carib Origins: Evidence and Nonevidence in journal American Antiquity, v. 55 #1, 1990, p. 37-48, in which, among other questions, they pursue the various names used by Caribbean-area peoples as well as by Spanish: Carib, Cariban, Caniba, Canima, Kanibna, Callinago, Kalina. The people's term for themselves seems to have been Kalina or Kalina + honorific=Kalinago (Kaliponam in women's speech) which are all terms related to and derived from words meaning eaters of bitter manioc. This term came to be transliterated into a foreign language, Spanish, as Caniba, Canima, or Carib. The term Kaliponam is a cognate of the Guyanese Arawakan term Karipuna (thus, the contemporary Belize usage, Garifuna--again--meaning bitter manioc people).

(2) Sued-Badillo, Jalil. Facing Up to Caribbean History, American Antiquity 57:4:599-607, 1992. on colonial misrepresentations of Caribbean history.

(3) Beckles, Hilary McD. Kalinago (Carib) Resistance to European Colonisation of the Caribbean, Caribbean Quarterly 38:2-3, Jun-Sep, 1992.

(4) Hulme, Peter, The Rhetoric of Description: The Amerindians of the Caribbean within modern European discourse, Caribbean Studies 23:3-4, 1990.

(5) Layng, Anthony, The Caribs of Dominica: Prospects for structural assimilation of a territorial minority, Ethnic Groups 1985, 6:209-221. (on cointemporary ethnic identity and interrelationships)

(6) Wilson, Samuel M., Columbus, My Enemy, Natural History, December, 1990, p. 44-49. (a student-readable piece on Guarionex, with nice 16th century illustrations.)


Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 21:38:43 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Sender: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Reply-To: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Caribs: Perrault commnets
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902112118.A23794-0100000@netcom15>

From: ange perrault <Ange.Perrault@mail.tju.edu>

To the same line as Karen's about Olmecs head, someone just e-mail me these books to read. The person is not on the group so I am passing it along:

Hola Ronel,

If you are going to read and discuss Van Sertima's work you might also consider reading recent critiques of same. I recommend:

Gabriel Haslip-vVera, Bernard Ortiz de Montellano and Warren Barbour, Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertima's Afrocentricity and the Olmecs, Current Anthropology, volume 38 #3, June 1997.

Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, Gabriel haslip Viera, and warren=20 Barbour, they Were NOT Here before Columbus: Afrocentric=20 Hyperdiffusionism in the 1990s, Ethnohistory=A0 44:2 (spring 1997)

For abstracts of above cited articles see

From: ange perrault <Ange.Perrault@mail.tju.edu>

Karen's point is well taken: Afrocentrism is as dangerous as eurocentrism.

The point we are trying to clarify is:

When did caribbean Indians first made contact with Africans?
What if there was transatlantic travel prior to Columbus?

There is no doubt that Eric the red made it to Canada (I am bad with dates). I do believe those voyages did occur, there are two many similarities to ignore: two head snake head pieces, pyramids, sun worshipping. I am in no way saying one came from the other but influence, maybe.

Ronel Perrault, PhD