The Indigenous People Of The Americas
CXC Past Paper Question (1992)
(a) Name two groups of Amerindians who lived in the Caribbean before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492. (2 marks)
Tainos (Arawaks) and Kalinagos Caribs
(b) Give two examples of the way of life before 1492 of any one of the groups named at (a) above (6 marks)
(Group Tainos) The cacique was the head of the Tainos society. The cacique was a hereditary title which passed down from father to son. Generally speaking, the Tainos practised monogamy. However, the cacique was allowed to practise polygamy (this was to increase his chances of having a heir). However, if the cacique died without a son, the title passed to the eldest son of his eldest sister. The cacique had the responsibility to make laws, distribute lands, ordering of labour on the land, presiding over ceremonies and the planting and the distributing of crops. All decisions regarding war and peace were made by the cacique. However, the cacique went on many raids of the Tainos village as the leader of these expeditions. The cacique was also a religious leader who was given many privileges, for example, his house was the largest than those in the Tainos villages and his wives wore longer skirts than the other Tainos women. He had a special ceremonial stool called duho which was carved out of wood, in the shape of an animal figure. The cacique was given his own zemis which was felt by the commoners to be more powerful than any other. Both Tainos and Kalinagos practised subsistence living.
The Tainos believed in many gods such as the sky-god and an earth-goddess and they made zemis to represent these gods, (such as rain, wind, fire, hurricane etc.) The Tainos had a creation story which show how the first man escaped from a cave with the sun when the keeper of the cave forgot to close it. Their dead went to heaven (coyaba) free from all natural calamities such as sickness and hurricanes....
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