History of Saint Kitts and Nevis

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Saint Kitts and Nevis has one of the longest written histories in the Caribbean, both islands being amongst Europe's first colonies in the archipelago. Despite being only 2 miles apart and quite diminutive in size, Saint Kitts and Nevis were widely recognized as being separate entities with separate identities, until they were forcefully unified in the late 19th century


Pre-Columbian Period (2900 B.C. to 1493 A.D.)

The first settlers to arrive to the islands, almost 3,000 years B.C., were a pre-agricultural, pre-ceramic people, who migrated down the archipelago from Florida. These hunter-gatherers for years were mistakenly thought to be the Ciboney, an Amerindian race from Cuba. However, archaeological evidence has proven that they were in actuality a group which has been labelled simply "Archaic people". In a few hundred years, these Archaic people disappeared.

Around 1000 B.C., the ceramic-using and agriculturalist Saladoid people came to the islands, migrating up the archipelago from the banks of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. These people were then replaced in 800 A.D. by the Igneri people, members of the Arawak tribe. They were a peace-loving pro-religious people who migrated up the same path from the Orinoco. They heavily settled it, climaxing to an estimated population of 5,000.

Around 1300 A.D., the Kalinago, or Carib people arrived on the islands. The war-like Kalinago people quickly dispersed the Igneri, and forced them northwards to the Greater Antilles. They named Saint Kitts Liamuiga meaning "fertile island", and Nevis Oualie meaning "land of beautiful waters". The islands of Liamuiga and Oualie marked the furthest the Kalinago ever reached northwards, in terms of permanent residence, and probably would have succeeded in occupying the entire archipelago had the Europeans not come. Both islands, were major bases used by the Kalinago from the South to raid the Eastern Taino peoples of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and were critically important for the Kalinago trade routes to the North.

The First Europeans (1493 to 1623)

The first Europeans to see and name the islands were the Spanish under Christopher Columbus. He named Saint Kitts Sant Jago (Saint James). However, misinterpretations of maps by subsequent Spanish explorers led Saint Kitts to be named San Cristobal (Saint Christopher), a name originally applied to Saba 20 miles north. Nevis was named "Nuestra Señora de las Nieves", or "Our Lady of the Snows", because the wreath of white clouds that usually covers the top of its volcanic peak reminded the Spaniards of the ancient Catholic miracle Our Lady of the Snows.

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