BHM: Barbados’ Arawak Princess
NationNews.com continues celebration of Black History Month, with another article written by a student from the visual and performing arts division of the Barbados Community College. All students in that section are required to take a course in Caribbean Cultures.
ARAWAKS ARE A GROUP of indigenous people belonging to the Amerindian peoples.
Some territories such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Suriname and Guyana are where they once settled.
Due to the warlike nature of the Carib Indians, the Arawak relocated for safety reasons to the Greater and Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean of the Caribbean islands.
Before they were known as Arawaks they were called “Lokono”. The name Arawaks was given in 1935 by a Swedish archaeologist, Seren Loven (Logie, 2002-2014). They were a kind, loving and peaceful people, who worked in agriculture, as they would mostly eat crops and ground foods. They used dugout canoes as their mode of transport between the different islands as their villages were situated near beaches.
Their leaders, or Caciques, were appointed by the tribal community, who treated them with great respect, like royalty. There was a communal lifestyle, as no one person had ownership over any one thing.
Like most countries today, the Arawaks or Lokono group of people had their own culture and customs which are still retained today. They grew tobacco and used it, as they saw it as a way of sending up their prayers to God, and also it was a form of medicine.
At school, we learnt about the history of our culture, the other Caribbean territories and about the coming of Columbus, who referred to this area as the New World.
We also learnt about the Arawaks and Caribs but the way it was taught led us to believe that these people no longer existed, and were only from the past.
This information is incorrect, as you can still find descendants of both Arawaks and Caribs in a number of Caribbean islands who are genetically connected. Some territories such as Guyana, Cuba and Venezuela have records and statistical data on these peoples. Barbados is also a part of that informative group, as will be discussed further.
Shoko Laliwa, or ‘Little Yellow Butterfly’, was the last daughter and only living child of the elderly Hereditary Chief Amorotahe Hauvarira or Flying Harpy Eagle. He was chief of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks in Guyana.
As was their custom, the chief could not pass on his status to his daughter, but with time, she was labelled “Arawak Princess” by the English Colonial society in Guyana.
In those days, indigenous peoples would not have been called ‘prince’ or ‘princess,’ but known just as the son or daughter of the chief. Marian was able to witness the changing lifestyle of her people.
Unfortunately, little did she know that this would have been the last of the Lokono-Arawak Tribe in Guyana.
Sadly, she witnessed the hard times her people suffered. Illnesses such as measles and smallpox caused the death of her mother and some of her other siblings. The ravages of these diseases resulted in the rapid decrease in the tribal population.