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The Arawak people (from aru, the Lucayan word for cassava flour) are some of the indigenous peoples of the West Indies. The group belongs to the Arawakan language family. They were the natives whom Christopher Columbus encountered when he first landed in the Americas in 1492. The Spanish described them as a peaceful primitive people.[1]

The Arawak people include the Taíno, who occupied the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas (Lucayans); the Nepoya and Suppoya of Trinidad, and the Igneri, who were supposed to have preceded the Caribs in the Lesser Antilles, together with related groups (including the Lucayans) which lived along the eastern coast of South America, as far south as what is now Brazil.


First European encounter

It is now believed that the first tribe encountered by Christopher Columbus, when he arrived on the island he called Santa María de la Concepción (known as Mamana by the Lucayan Indians and now called Rum Cay off the Bahamas), were Lucayan-Arawak Indians. Columbus noted in his log:

"Saturday, 13 October 1492: ...They brought us balls of cotton thread and parrots and other little things which it would be tedious to list, and exchanged everything for whatever we offered them. I kept my eyes open and tried to find out if there was any gold, and I saw that some of them had a little piece hanging from a hole in their nose. I gathered from their signs that if one goes south, or around the south side of the island, there is a king with great jars full of it, enormous amounts. I tried to persuade them to go there, but I saw that the idea was not to their liking... Sunday, 14 October 1492: ...These people have little knowledge of fighting, as Your Majesties will see from the seven I have had captured to take away with us so as to teach them our language and return them, unless Your Majesties' orders are that they all be taken to Spain or held captive on the island itself, for with fifty men one could keep the whole population in subjection and make them do whatever one wanted." [2]

On 17 February 1627, Captain Henry Powell of the ship "Olive Blossom" (who became first English Governor of the Isle of Barbados) landed to settle the island. Sometime after he brought about thirty Arawak from Guiana to work.[3]

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