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Carib Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Caribs for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Carib website for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Carib pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Carib Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Carib"? What does it mean?
Carib is pronounced "care-ibb." Sometimes you will see it spelled Caribe instead. It comes from words meaning "man" or "brave man" in the Carib languages, such as galibi, kalina, or karina (depending on the specific language.)

Where do the Caribs live?
The Caribs are original people of northern South America and the Caribbean Islands. They particularly live in coastal areas of Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Brazil, and on islands such as Dominica.

What language do the Caribs speak?
There are many different Cariban languages. Some of them are very closely related to each other, and speakers of those languages can often partially understand each other, similar to speakers of Italian and Spanish. Other Carib languages are very different from each other and only a linguist can easily see they are related, similar to languages like Italian and Russian!

Besides their native Cariban languages, Carib people speak some other languages as well. Many Carib people speak Spanish, English, French, or Dutch, because those are the major languages in the countries where they live. And some Island Carib people still speak an Arawakan language. They speak this language because long ago, the Island Caribs kidnapped many Arawak women and brought them back to their islands as wives. These women taught the next generation of Island Caribs to speak Arawak.

If you'd like to learn a few Carib words, here is a Carib picture dictionary you can look at.

How was the Carib Indian nation organized?
The Carib nation never had a centralized government. Each Carib community was ruled by a local leader, known as a cacique or chief. The cacique was usually a son or nephew of the previous ruler, but in some communities the new cacique would be chosen by religious leaders.

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How do Carib Indian children live, and what did they do in the past??
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, learn their lessons, and help around the house. Carib children also learned to swim at an early age, unlike most Europeans. In the past the Caribs didn't have formal schools, so Carib children learned lessons from their grandparents or other elders. Today, most Carib children go to school.

What were Carib homes like in the past?
Traditional Carib houses were simple straw huts. Carib people live in a very warm climate, so their homes didn't need a lot of insulation. Carib huts were round and were constructed by a wooden frame covered reeds and palm fronds. Carib people slept in woven hammocks suspended from the wooden frame, rather than beds. Here is a page with pictures of Indian huts and other housing types. In some areas Carib people still live in huts like these, but most Caribs live in more modern housing today. Hammocks are still very popular sleeping arrangements in Carib villages, however!

What was Carib clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
The Caribs didn't wear much clothing. Just like today, the Caribbean weather was always warm. Carib men wore only a fitted breechcloth. In some Carib tribes, women wore short cotton skirts, while in others, they went naked except for beaded necklaces and belts. Shirts were not necessary in Carib culture, and people usually went barefoot. Here are some photographs and links about Indian costume in general.

The Caribs didn't wear a headdress like the Sioux. In some Carib communities, however, chiefs and other important men would wear headbands ringed with parrot feathers. Women sometimes decorated their long hair with flowers. Here is a website with pictures of these Indian hair styles. Carib people often painted their faces and bodies bright colors, especially for battle or festivities. Today, Carib clothing style varies from community to community. Some people dress in more traditional styles, while others wear more modern clothing.

What was Carib transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Caribs were well-known for their dugout canoes. The largest Carib canoes could hold fifty people and could be used to travel long distances. Here is an article with pictures of different canoe types.

What was Carib food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Carib Indians were primarily fishing people. They took to sea in their long canoes to catch fish, crabs, and other seafood. Hunters also shot birds and small game. In some Carib communities, farming was an important food source, with cassava, beans, squash, and peppers being grown. Other Carib groups did little farming and acquired peppers and cassava through trade or raiding. Here is a website with more information about American Indian recipes.

What were Carib weapons and tools like in the past?
Carib hunters used bows and arrows or blowguns. Fishermen used nets and wooden traps. In war, Carib men either fired their bows and arrows or fought duels with heavy wooden clubs. Here is a website of Indian weapon pictures and information.

What were Carib arts and crafts like?
The Caribs are known for their reed basketry and gourd carvings. Some Carib communities also make pottery or shell jewelry. You can see some contemporary examples of Carib artwork at this site.

What other Native Americans did the Carib tribe interact with?
The Caribs were warlike people. Different Carib bands fought often with each other to prove their bravery, and sometimes raided the settlements of neighboring tribes like the Arawaks. At other times, however, Carib tribes were more interested in trading with their neighbors than attacking them, and they were known for their hospitality towards visiting traders.

What kinds of stories do the Carib Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional carib legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Carib Indian culture. Here is one Carib legend about the beginning of the world. Here's a website where you can read more about Carib mythology.

What about Carib religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Carib life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Carib people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about pre-Columbian Caribbean religions, or this site about Native American shamanism in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
Younger readers may enjoy The Great Canoe, a lovely picture book based on a Carib Indian legend. In Our Carib Indian Village is a good book about Carib culture and lifestyle written by a Carib Indian author. For older students, we can recommend the interesting book Caribs: The Original Caribbean Pirates & Founding Fathers of American Democracy. You can also browse through our reading list of books by Native American authors. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Carib Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Caribs

Carib Indian Tribe
An overview of the Carib people, their language and history.

Carib Language Resources
Carib language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Carib Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Carib people past and present.

Carib Words
Carib Indian vocabulary lists.

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