A. sb. One of the native race which occupied the southern islands of the West Indies at their discovery: in earlier times often used with the connotation of cannibal.
B. adj. Of or pertaining to the Caribs of South and Central America and the West Indies, their culture or language. Cf. Caribbean a.
a. The parts of America first discovered by Columbus and other early navigators. Obs. b. The West India Islands.
[Origin unknown.] A West Indian ballad or song in African rhythm, usually improvised to comment on a topic of current interest. Also attrib. Hence calypsonian, an entertainer who composes and sings calypsos.
1. A group of Indian peoples in South America; a member of one of these peoples.
2. The language of these peoples. B. adj. Of or pertaining to the Arawaks or their language. Hence Arawakan a. and sb.
excerpted from Britannica Online entry on Arawak:
The Caribbean region has undoubtedly lost more of its aboriginal character than any other region of the Americas. The total extirpation of the islands' population shortly after the Conquest and the subsequent repopulation of the area by black slaves made any carryover of Indian cultural expressions impossible. For this reason the residents of those islands rarely feel any sense of relationship to the ancestral inhabitants. Certainly it is true that the average non-Indian has no understanding of the wealth of arts that were to be found there in the past..
Although the Taino are thought to have surpassed the other peoples of the West Indies in aesthetic development, examples of later artistic forms and techniques characteristic of the Arawak, Carib, and related tribes still surviving in neighbouring South America may provide a link between ancient and modern. Since the Taino were a division of the Arawak, so may modern Arawak weaving indicate something of what must have existed among the prehistoric Taino.
The trans-Caribbean sea route from the islands to the mainland obviously carried cultural influences, as well as materials, back and forth; but far too little is known about these influences to be able to determine which area (the islands or the mainland) was most affected. As a consequence, little more is known about the West Indies civilization other than that it produced extremely successful sculpture. The civilization itself disappeared so rapidly and completely that one can only admire but not wholly comprehend it.
Last Modified: 14 March, 2002