Historians believe that the earliest peoples to settle the Western Hemisphere did so between 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. They were a set of people that were nomadic: always on the go in search of food and warmer climate. This is the reason, it is believed, they came across the Bering Strait during the winter when it formed a land bridge connecting Asia to Alaska. Among these groups of early settlers were the -
1. Incas of Peru
2. Aztecs of Mexico
3. Mayans of Yucatan Peninsula (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Northern Honduras and a part of Southern Mexico) 4. Kalinagos and the Tainos who occupied the Venezuela and the Guianas.
We begin by tracing the path that they took to the Greater and Lesser Antilles. Continuous rivalry between the two groups for land, women and food forced the docile Tainos to leave the regions of South America and move upwards into the neighboring island of Trinidad. The Kalinagos still followed them so some of the Tainos left Trinidad and continued into the Lesser Antilles. Some remained so Trinidad was occupied by both Tainos and Kalinagos. In time, the Kalinagos came to control the islands of the Lesser Antilles, for example Dominica and St. Vincent while the Tainos who had fled further upwards came to control the Greater Antilles, Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. Both groups shared the island of Puerto Rico. Now that we know what islands they settled on let us look at the areas on these islands that they concentrated on. The Tainos settled near the coasts or streams and rivers, for example Priestman's river in Jamaica. Why? (a) Fishing was an important source of food: protein
(b) They could easily get water for domestic purposes such as washing their utensils or bathing (c) They could get water for their crops
(d) They could go swimming
(e) It provided an excellent look out point. From this vantage point they could see the Kalinagos approaching and get ready to fight or run.
The Kalinagos settled near the coasts too. This is mainly because they were what we can call sea rovers. The sea was like a highway to them. They used it to get to and from the various islands of the Greater and Lesser Antilles where they conducted their raids. They were also excellent fishermen.
This was not as rigid or as well defined as the Tainos. The position of chief or Ouboutou (Ubutu) was not hereditary. It was NOT passed down from father to son. Instead, the chief was elected on the basis of his prowess that is his bravery. As a result there was constant rivalry for leadership. The leaders also changed frequently. The chief's main duty was to organize the people in his community for hunting, fishing and war. He had the most duties during war time. He was responsible for planning the raids. He chose the captains of each canoe (piraga). A canoe could hold up to 50 persons! He shared out the prizes or rewards to those who were successful in the hunting expeditions or the raids. At the end of an expedition he could lose his position if someone proved to be braver than he was. On their return home, that person would automatically replace him. In peace time, the villages were ruled by the Tiubutuli Hauthe. He did not dispense justice that was considered to be a personal affair. If someone did you wrong, you were expected to avenge yourself. There were very few laws. The men were away too often on raids or hunting and fishing expeditions. When they were in the village, they spent most of their time undergoing warrior training.
Religious Beliefs and Practices
The Kalinagos were polytheistic. They also believed in many gods. They believed in evil spirits known as maboya. The priest had the power to pray to the gods to turn back evil. They believed
* In the forces of evil.
* In life after death.
* In the existence of Heaven and hell.
* That there is punishment and reward in the afterlife.
* That those who were brave warriors...
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