Representations of Indigenous People of the Caribbean

Prior the the arrival of Columbus, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean maintained unique and diverse cultures. But after the arrival of colonial Europeans in the Caribbean, indigenous peoples were largely displaced, assimilated, and killed off by disease and warfare. A number of texts that depict the early Caribbean describe the rich culture of the Caribs, Tainos, and Arawak peoples. But most European-authored texts of this period depict the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean as savage, brutes, and even cannibals. These ethnographic texts often characterize every aspect of indigenous peoples as somehow different and marvelous. But these depictions often blur the line between fact and fiction as well.


Aislyn Fredsall

David Medina

Lara Rose


ethnographic images; cannibalism; propaganda; conversion; indigenous culture

"Chatoyer the Chief of the Black Charaibes in St. Vincent with his five Wives." Engraved by Agostino Brunias. Sourced from Bryan Edwards' The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies 1801. Image courtesy of the John Carter Brown library