Dr. Kwame Nantambu

First Nations Peoples: Historical Facts

By Dr Kwame Nantambu
December 06, 2022

Within recent times, there has been much public talk/discussion in regard to the establishment/.erection of a museum to be dedicated to the First Nations Peoples of this country.

No problema!

However, at the outset, it must be clarified quite equivocally that our First Nations Peoples NEVER called themselves Amerindians , period and full stop. The historical fact of the matter is that the indigenous/original peoples of the Caribbean were known as Kalinagos/Kalinas and Lokonos/Tainos later to be called Amerindians of the North and South American mainland.

When the Euro-Spaniards came to this part of the world in the 15th century A.D., they re-named the Kalinagos—Caribs which means Cannibals and the Lokonos—Arawaks.

Kalinagos occupied North Trinidad while the Lokonos occupied South Trinidad.

Indeed, the historical record reveals that the First Nations Peoples arrived in T&T circa 4000 B.C. and during the second ceramic period in 750 A.D., they produced "pepperpot" which was a national staple diet stew of cassava with meat or fish and this dish is the fore runner of "pelau" today, period and full stop.

The Lokonos inhabited Tobago from 1 A.D. to 810 A.D. Their main crop cultivated was cassava. Indeed, the historical records shows that the Lokonos abandoned Tobago and re-settled in east Trinidad.

The major contributions of the First Nations Peoples to T&T are as follows:

  1. Kalingos/Lokonos cultivated the soil by constructing mounds of earth to loosen the soil so as to protect the roots during the dry season. More specifically, it must be pointed out their life was in-tuned with nature/environment 24-7-365.

  2. They developed the technique to change poisonous prussic acid in cassava juice into a non-poisonous vinegar—use of chemistry, period and full stop.

  3. They made cassava cakes, built ovens from coarse clay to bake cassava cakes— use of fire, period and full stop.

  4. The First Nations Peoples developed maize from which to brew beer; they also cultivated beans; used spices such as cinnamon and wild pimento.

  5. They manufactured petticoats and hammocks for sleeping from cotton and used bone needles and buttons in the process.

  6. Tobacco was used in the performance of spiritual rites in the form of cigars.

  7. They also wore elaborate decorated cotton scarves.

  8. The First Nations Peoples also consumed sweet potato, guava, custard apple, papaw, alligator pear, star apple and pineapple.

  9. They were master fisher folks who used canoes and pirogues with cabins.

  10. Their primary tools were polished stone, bones, shells and wood.

  11. They developed /invented a herbal cure/remedy to deal with syphilis brought to these shores by Europeans—use of medical science, period and full stop.

  12. They invented the concept of herbal medicine, natural foods and family structure.

  13. Finally, our First Nations Peoples buried their dead in caves along with the items they used in life just as the ancient Africans/Kemites/Egyptians did in the B.C. era.

Truth Be Told: One the most famous Kalinago is Chief Hyarima who was leader of the Nepuyo people. He was a chieftain/cacique who established villages throughout northeast Trinidad. Hyarima is this country's first , true, authentic historical national hero who master mined the destruction/burning down Trinidad's old capital, St. Joseph on 14 October 1637, period and full stop. Hyarima sought to destroy Euro-Spanish colonialism "by any means necessary."

Furthermore, he was fiercely anti-Euro colonialism.

The following records the various methods Europeans used to decimate/annihilate the First Nations Peoples:

  1. New diseases brought by Europeans such as small pox, cholera, syphilis, etc.

  2. Brutal punishment and harsh/ inhumane working conditions.

  3. First Nations Peoples were not allowed to cultivate the land to feed themselves----starvation, period and full stop.

  4. Miscegenation deliberately encouraged by the Euro-Spaniards. To the extent that by 1515, 45 per cent of Spanish men had Taino wives.

  5. Infanticide: First Nations Peoples parents were forced to kill their children to prevent them from experiencing similar inhumane treatment as they did.

In the final analysis, in the specific case of Trinidad, when the Euro-Spanish came in 1498, there were 40, 000 First Nations Peoples inhabitants; by 1838, the number was reduced to 520 as a direct result of the afore-mentioned information. This represents the overt genocide committed by the Euro-Spaniards against the First Nations Peoples, period and full stop.

"And that's the way it is."

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is professor emeritus Kent State University, USA

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