1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caribs

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CARIBS, the name, used first by Columbus (from Cariba, said to mean “a valiant man”), of a South American people, who, at the arrival of the Spanish, occupied parts of Guiana and the lower Orinoco and the Windward and other islands in what is still known as the Caribbean Sea. They were believed to have had their original home in North America, spreading thence through the Antilles southward to Venezuela, the Guianas, and north-east Brazil. This view has been abandoned, as Carib tribes, the Bakairi and Nahuquas, using an archaic type of Carib speech and primitive in habits, have been met by German explorers in the very heart of Brazil. It may thus be assumed that the cradle of the race was the centre of South America; their first migrating movements being to Guiana and the Antilles. A cruel, ferocious and warlike people, they made a stout resistance to the Spaniards. They were cannibals, and it is to them that we owe that word, Columbus’s Caribal being transformed into Cannibal in apparent reference to the canine voracity of the Caribs. They are physically by no means a powerful race, being distinguished by slight figures with limbs well formed but lacking muscle, and with a tendency to be pot-bellied, due apparently to their habit of drinking paiwari (liquor prepared from the cassava plant) in great quantities. Their colour is a red cinnamon, but varies with different tribes. Their hair is thick, long, very black, and generally cut to an even edge, at right angles to the neck, round the head. The features are strikingly Mongoloid. Among the true Caribs a 2-in. broad belt of cotton is knitted round each ankle, and just below each knee of the young female children. All body-hair in both sexes is pulled out, even to the eye-brows. Among the women the lower lips are often pierced, pins of wood being passed through and forming a sort of chevaux de frise round the mouth. Sometimes a bell-shaped ornament is hung by men to a piece of string passed through the lower lip. The Carib government was patriarchal. Though the women did most of the hard work, they were kindly treated. Polygamy prevailed. Very little ceremony attended death. The Caribs of the West Indies, known as “Red” and “Black,” the first pure, the second mixed with negro blood, after a protracted war with the British were transported in 1796 to the number of 5000 from Dominica and St Vincent to the island of Ruatan near the coast of Honduras. A few were subsequently allowed back to St Vincent, but the majority are settled in Honduras and Nicaragua.