The Arawack Language of Guiana in its Linguistic and Ethnological Relations
by Daniel G. Brinton
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Transcriber's Note

A number of typographical errors have been maintained in this version of this book. They have been marked with a [TN-#], which refers to a description in the complete list found at the end of the text.

The following codes for less common characters were used:

[oe] oe ligature [lr] l printed over r



Linguistic and Ethnological Relations.







The Arawacks are a tribe of Indians who at present dwell in British and Dutch Guiana, between the Corentyn and Pomeroon rivers. They call themselves simply lukkunu, men, and only their neighbors apply to them the contemptuous name aruac (corrupted by Europeans into Aroaquis, Arawaaks, Aroacos, Arawacks, etc.), meal-eaters, from their peaceful habit of gaining an important article of diet from the amylaceous pith of the Mauritia flexuosa palm, and the edible root of the cassava plant.

They number only about two thousand souls, and may seem to claim no more attention at the hands of the ethnologist than any other obscure Indian tribe. But if it can be shown that in former centuries they occupied the whole of the West Indian archipelago to within a few miles of the shore of the northern continent, then on the question whether their affiliations are with the tribes of the northern or southern mainland, depends our opinion of the course of migration of the primitive inhabitants of the western world. And if this is the tribe whose charming simplicity Columbus and Peter Martyr described in such poetic language, then the historian will acknowledge a desire to acquaint himself more closely with its past and its present. It is my intention to show that such was their former geographical position.

While in general features there is nothing to distinguish them from the red race elsewhere, they have strong national traits. Physically they are rather undersized, averaging not over five feet four inches in height, but strong-limbed, agile, and symmetrical. Their foreheads are low, their noses more allied to the Aryan types than usual with their race, and their skulls of that form defined by craniologists as orthognathic brachycephalic.

From the earliest times they have borne an excellent character. Hospitable, peace-loving, quick to accept the humbler arts of civilization and the simpler precepts of Christianity, they have ever offered a strong contrast to their neighbors, the cruel and warlike Caribs. They are not at all prone to steal, lie, or drink, and their worst faults are an addiction to blood-revenge, and a superstitious veneration for their priests.

They are divided into a number of families, over fifty in all, the genealogies of which are carefully kept in the female line, and the members of any one of which are forbidden to intermarry. In this singular institution they resemble many other native tribes.


The earliest specimen of their language under its present name is given by Johannes de Laet in his Novus Orbis, seu Descriptio Indiae Occidentalis (Lugd. Bat. 1633). It was obtained in 1598. In 1738 the Moravian brethren founded several missionary stations in the country, but owing to various misfortunes, the last of their posts was given up in 1808. To them we owe the only valuable monuments of the language in existence.

Their first instructor was a mulatto boy, who assisted them in translating into the Arawack a life of Christ. I cannot learn that this is extant. Between 1748 and 1755 one of the missionaries, Theophilus Schumann, composed a dictionary, Deutsch-Arawakisches W[oe]rterbuch, and a grammar, Deutsch-Arawakische Sprachlehre, which have remained in manuscript in the library of the Moravian community at Paramaribo. Schumann died in 1760, and as he was the first to compose such works, the manuscript dictionary in the possession of Bishop Wullschlaegel, erroneously referred by the late Professor von Martius to the first decade of the last century, is no doubt a copy of Schumann's.

In 1807 another missionary, C. Quandt, published a Nachricht von Surinam, the appendix to which contains the best published grammatical notice of the tongue. The author resided in Surinam from 1769 to 1780.

Unquestionably, however, the most complete and accurate information in existence concerning both the verbal wealth and grammatical structure of the language, is contained in the manuscripts of the Rev. Theodore Schultz, now in the library of the AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. Mr. Shultz[TN-1] was a Moravian missionary, who was stationed among the Arawacks from 1790 to 1802, or thereabout. The manuscripts referred to are a dictionary and a grammar. The former is a quarto volume of 622 pages. The first 535 pages comprise an Arawack-German lexicon, the remainder is an appendix containing the names of trees, stars, birds, insects, grasses, minerals, places, and tribes. The grammar, Grammattikalische Saetze von der Aruwakkischen Sprache, is a 12mo volume of 173 pages, left in an unfinished condition. Besides these he left at his death a translation of the Acts of the Apostles, which was published in 1850 by the American Bible Society under the title Act Apostelnu. It is from these hitherto unused sources that I design to illustrate the character of the language, and study its former extension.[1]


The Arawack is described as "the softest of all the Indian tongues."[2] It is rich in vowels, and free from gutturals. The enunciation is distinct and melodious. As it has been reduced to writing by Germans, the German value must be given to the letters employed, a fact which must always be borne in mind in comparing it with the neighboring tongues, nearly all of which are written with the Spanish orthography.

The Arawack alphabet has twenty letters: a, b, d, e, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, w.

Besides these, they have a semi-vowel written [lr] the sound of which in words of the masculine gender approaches l, in those of the neuter gender r. The o and u, and the t and d, are also frequently blended. The w has not the German but the soft English sound, as in we. The German dipthongs[TN-2] ae, [oe], eu, ei, ue, are employed. The accents are the long ^, the acute ', and that indicating the emphasis '. The latter is usually placed near the commencement of the word, and must be carefully observed.


Like most Indians, the Arawack rarely uses a noun in the abstract. An object in his mind is always connected with some person or thing, and this connection is signified by an affix, a suffix, or some change in the original form of the word. To this rule there are some exceptions, as bahue a house, siba a stone, hiaeru a woman. Daddikan hiaeru, I see a woman. Such nouns are usually roots. Those derived from verbal roots are still more rarely employed independently.

NUMBERS. The plural has no regular termination. Often the same form serves for both numbers, as is the case in many English words. Thus, itime fish and fishes, siba stone and stones, kaensiti a lover and lovers. The most common plural endings are ati, uti, and anu, connected to the root by a euphonic letter; as uju mother, ujunuti mothers, itti father, ittinati fathers, kansissia a loved one, kansissiannu loved ones.

Of a dual there is no trace, nor does there seem to be of what is called the American plural (exclusive or inclusive of those present). But there is a peculiar plural form with a singular signification in the language, which is worthy of note. An example will illustrate it; itti is father, plural ittinati; wattinati is our father, not our fathers, as the form would seem to signify. In other words, singular nouns used with plural pronouns, or construed with several other nouns, take a plural form. Petrus Johannes mutti ujunatu, the mother of Peter and John.

GENDERS. A peculiarity, which the Arawack shares with the Iroquois[3] and other aboriginal languages of the Western continent, is that it only has two genders, and these not the masculine and feminine, as in French, but the masculine and neuter. Man or nothing was the motto of these barbarians. Regarded as an index of their mental and social condition, this is an ominous fact. It hints how utterly destitute they are of those high, chivalric feelings, which with us centre around woman.

The termination of the masculine is i, of the neuter u, and, as I have already observed, a permutation of the semi-vowels l and r takes place, the letter becoming l in the masculine, r in the neuter. A slight difference in many words is noticeable when pronounced by women or by men. The former would say keretin, to marry; the latter kerejun. The gender also appears by more than one of these changes: ipillin, great, strong, masculine; ipirrun, feminine and neuter.

There is no article, either definite or indefinite, and no declension of nouns.


The demonstrative and possessive personal pronouns are alike in form, and, as in other American languages, are intimately incorporated with the words with which they are construed. A single letter is the root of each: d I, mine, b thou, thine, l he, his, t she, her, it, its, w we, our, h you, your, n they, their; to these radical letters the indefinite pronoun uekkueahue, somebody, is added, and by abbreviation the following forms are obtained, which are those usually current:

dakia, dai, I. bokkia, bui, thou. likia, he. turreha, she, it. wakia, wai, we. hukia, hui, you. nakia, nai, they.

Except the third person, singular, they are of both genders. In speaking, the abbreviated form is used, except where for emphasis the longer is chosen.

In composition they usually retain their first vowel, but this is entirely a question of euphony. The methods of their employment with nouns will be seen in the following examples:

uessiquahue, a house. dassiqua, my house. bussiqua, thy house.

luessiqua, his house.

tuessiqua, her, its house. wassiqua, our house.

huessiqua, your house. nassiqua, their house.

uju, mother. daiju, my mother. buju, thy mother. luju, his mother. tuju, her mother. waijunattu, our mother. hujuattu, your mother. naijattu, their mother. waijunuti, our mothers. hujunuti, your mothers. naijunuti, their mothers.

Many of these forms suffer elision in speaking. Itti father, datti my father, wattinatti our father, contracted to wattinti (watti rarely used).

When thus construed with pronouns, most nouns undergo some change of form, usually by adding an affix; baru an axe, dabarun my axe, iuli tobacco, dajulite my tobacco.


The verb is the primitive part of speech in American tongues. To the aboriginal man every person and object presents itself as either doing or suffering something, every quality and attribute as something which is taking place or existing. His philosophy is that of the extreme idealists or the extreme materialists, who alike maintain that nothing is, beyond the cognizance of our senses. Therefore his adjectives are all verbal participles, indicating a state of existence. Thus uessatu good, is from uessan to be good, and means the condition of being good, a good woman or thing, uessati a good man.

Some adjectives, principally those from present participles, have the masculine and neuter terminations i and u in the singular, and in the plural i for both genders. Adjectives from the past participles end in the singular in issia or uessia, in the plural in annu. When the masculine ends in illi, the neuter takes urru, as wadikilli, wadikurru, long.

Comparison is expressed by adding ben or ken or adin (a verb meaning to be above) for the comparative, and apuedi for the diminutive. Ubura, from the verb uburau to be before in time, and adiki, from adikin to be after in time, are also used for the same purpose. The superlative has to be expressed by a circumlocution; as tumaqua aditu ipirrun turreha, what is great beyond all else; bokkia uessa dauria, thou art better than I, where the last word is a compound of dai uwuria of, from, than. The comparative degree of the adjectives corresponds to the intensive and frequentative forms of the verbs; thus ipirrun to be strong, ipirru strong, ipirrubin and ipirrubessabun to be stronger, ipirrubetu and ipirrubessabutu stronger, that which is stronger.

The numerals are wonderfully simple, and well illustrate how the primitive man began his arithmetic. They are:—

1 abba. 2 biama, plural biamannu. 3 kabbuhin, plural kubbuhininnu. 4 bibiti, plural bibitinu. 5 abbatekkabe, plural abbatekabbunu. 6 abbatiman, plural abbatimanninu. 7 biamattiman, plural biamattimanninu. 8 kabbuhintiman, plural kabbuhintimanninu. 9 bibitiman, plural bibititumanninu. 10 biamantekabbe, plural biamantekabunu.

Now if we analyze these words, we discover that abbatekkabe five, is simply abba one, and akkabu, hand; that the word for six is literally "one [finger] of the other [hand]," for seven "two [fingers] of the other [hand]," and so on to ten, which is compounded of biama two, and akkabu hands. Would they count eleven, they say abba kutihibena one [toe] from the feet, and for twenty the expression is abba lukku one man, both hands and feet. Thus, in truth, they have only four numerals, and it is even a question whether these are primitive, for kabbuhin seems a strengthened form of abba, and bibuti to bear the same relation to biama. Therefore we may look back to a time when this nation knew not how to express any numbers beyond one and two.

Although these numbers do not take peculiar terminations when applied to different objects, as in the languages of Central America and Mexico, they have a great variety of forms to express the relationship in which they are used. The ordinals are:

atenennuati, first. ibiamatteti, second. wakabbuhinteti, our third, etc.

To the question, How many at a time? the answer is:

likinnekewai, one alone. biamanuman, two at a time, etc.

If simply, How many? it is:

abbahu, one. biamahu, two.

If, For which time? it is:

tibiakuja, for the first time. tibiamattetu, for the second time.

and so on.


The verbs are sometimes derived from nouns, sometimes from participles, sometimes from other verbs, and have reflexive, passive, frequentative, and other forms. Thus from lana, the name of a certain black dye, comes lannatuen to color with this dye, alannatunna to color oneself with it, alannattukuttun to let oneself be colored with it, alanattukuttunnua to be colored with it.

The infinitive ends in in, uen, un, an, unnua, en, and un. Those in in, uen, un, and an are transitive, in unnua are passive and neuter, the others are transitive, intransitive, or neuter.

The passive voice is formed by the medium of a verb of permission, thus:

amalitin, to make. amalitikittin, to let make. amalitikittunnua, to be made. assimakin, to call. assimakuttuen, to let call, assimakuttunnua, to be called.

The personal pronouns are united to the verbs as they are to the nouns. They precede all verbs except those whose infinitives terminate in en, in, and an, to which they are suffixed as a rule, but not always. When they follow the verb, the forms of the pronouns are either de, bu, i he, n she, it, u, hu, je or da, ba, la, ta, wa, ha, na. The latter are used chiefly where the negative prefix m, ma or maya is employed. Examples:

hallikebben, to rejoice.

hallikebbede, I rejoice. hallikebbebu, thou rejoicest. hallikebbei, he rejoices. hallikebben, she rejoices. hallikebbeu, we rejoice. hallikebbehue, you rejoice. hallikebbeje, they rejoice.

majauquan, to remain.

majauquada, I remain. majauquaba, thou remainest. majauquala, he remains. majauquata, she remains. majauquawa, we remain. majauquaha, you remain. majauquana, they remain.

MOODS AND TENSES. Their verbs have four moods, the indicative, optative, imperative, and infinitive, and five tenses, one present, three preterites, and one future. The rules of their formation are simple. By changing the termination of the infinitive into a, we have the indicative present, into bi the first preterite, into buna the second preterite, into kuba the third preterite, and into pa the future. The conjugations are six in number, and many of the verbs are irregular. The following verb of the first conjugation illustrates the general rules for conjugation:

ayahaddin, to walk.


Present tense:

dayahadda, I walk. bujahadda, thou walkest. lujahadda, he walks. tuejahadda, she walks. wayahadda, we walk. hujahadda, you walk. nayuhadda, they walk.

First preterite—of to-day:

dayahaddibi, I walked to-day. bujahaddibi, thou walked to-day. lijahaddibi, he walked to-day. tujahaddibi, she walked to-day. wayahaddibi, we walked to-day. hujahaddibi, you walked to-day. nayahaddibi, they walked to-day.

Second preterite—of yesterday or the day before.

dayahaddibuena, I walked yesterday or the day before. bujahaddibuena, thou walked yesterday or the day before. lijahaddibuna, he walked yesterday or the day before. tujahaddibuena, she walked yesterday or the day before. wayahaddibuena, we walked yesterday or the day before. hujahaddibuena, you walked yesterday or the day before. nayahaddibuena, they walked yesterday or the day before.

Third preterite—at some indefinite past time:

dayahaddakuba, I walked. bujahaddakuba, thou walked. lijahaddakuba, he walked. tujahaddakuba, she walked. wayahaddakuka, we walked. hujahaddakuba, you walked. nayahaddakuba, they walked.


dayahaddipa, I shall walk. bujahaddipa, thou wilt walk. lijahaddipa, he will walk. tujahaddipa, she will walk. wayahaddipa, we shall walk. hujahaddipa, you will walk. nayahaddipa, they will walk.



dayahaddama or dayahaddinnika, I may walk.

First preterite:


Second preterite[TN-3]


Third preterite:



bujahaddate or bujahaddalte, walk thou. huejahaddate or hujahaddalte, walk ye. nayahaddate, let them walk. wayahaddali, let us walk.


ayahaddinnibi, to have walked to-day. ayahaddinnibuena, to have walked yesterday. ayahaddinnikuba, to have walked. ayahaddinnipa, to be about to walk.


ayahaddinti. ayahaddinnibia.

The following forms also belong to this verb:

ayahaddinnibiakubama, to may or can walk. ayahaddahalin, one who walks there (infinitive form).

As in all polysynthetic languages, other words and particles can be incorporated in the verb to modify its meaning, thus:

dayahaddaruka, as I was walking. dayahaddakanika, I walk a little. dayahaddahittika, I walk willingly.

In this way sometimes words of formidable length are manufactured, as:

massukussukuttunnuanikaebibu, you should not have been washed to-day.

Negation may be expressed either by the prefix m or ma, as mayahaddinikade, I do not walk (where the prefix throws the pronoun to the end of the word, and gives it the form appropriate for that position), or else by the adverb kurru, not. But if both these negatives are used, they make an affirmative, as madittinda kurru Gott, I am not unacquainted with God.


"In general," remarks Prof. Von Martius, "this language betrays the poverty and cumbrousness of other South American languages; yet in many expressions a glimpse is caught of a far reaching, ideal background."[4] We see it in the composition and derivation of some words; from haikan to pass by, comes haikahu death, the passing away, and aiihakue marriage, in which, as in death, the girl is lost to her parents; from kassan to be pregnant, comes kassaku the firmament, big with all things which are, and kassahu behue, the house of the firmament, the sky, the day; from uekkue the heart, comes uekkuerahue the family, the tribe, those of one blood, whose hearts beat in unison, and uekueahue a person, one whose heart beats and who therefore lives, and also, singularly enough, uekkuerahue pus, no doubt from that strange analogy which in so many other aboriginal languages and myths identified the product of suppuration with the semen masculinum, the physiological germ of life.

The syntax of the language is not clearly set forth by any authorities. Adjectives generally, but not always, follow the words they qualify, and prepositions are usually placed after the noun, and often at the end of a sentence; thus, peru (Spanish perro) assimakaku naha a, the dog barks her at. To display more fully the character of the tongue, I shall quote and analyze a verse from the Act Apostelnu, the 11th verse of the 14th chapter, which in the English Protestant version reads:

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

In Arawack it is:

Addikitti uijuhu Paulus anissiaebiru, kakannakueku na assimakaka huerkueren Lycaonia adian ullukku hiddin: Amallitakoananutti lukkunu dia na bute wakkarruhu, nattukuda aijumueneria wibiti hinna.


They—seeing (addin to see, gerund) the—people Paulus what—had been done (anin to do, anissia to have been done), loudly they called altogether the—Lycaonia speech in, thus, The—gods (present participle of amallitin to make; the same appellation which the ancient Greeks gave to poets, [Greek: poietai] makers, the Arawacks applied to the divine powers) men like, us to now (bute nota praesentis) are—come—down from—above—down—here ourselves because—of.


The Arawacks are essentially of South American origin and affiliations. The earliest explorers of the mainland report them as living on the rivers of Guiana, and having settlements even south of the Equator.[5] De Laet in his map of Guiana locates a large tribe of "Arowaceas" three degrees south of the line, on the right bank of the Amazon. Dr. Spix during his travels in Brazil met with fixed villages of them near Fonteboa, on the river Solimoes and near Tabatinga and Castro d'Avelaes.[6] They extended westward beyond the mouth of the Orinoco, and we even hear of them in the province of Santa Marta, in the mountains south of Lake Maracaybo.[7]

While their language has great verbal differences from the Tupi of Brazil and the Carib, it has also many verbal similarities with both. "The Arawack and the Tupi," observes Professor Von Martius, "are alike in their syntax, in their use of the possessive and personal pronouns, and in their frequent adverbial construction;"[8] and in a letter written me shortly before his death, he remarks, in speaking of the similarity of these three tongues: "Ich bin ueberzeugt dass diese [die Cariben] eine Elite der Tupis waren, welche erst spaet auf die Antillen gekommen sind, wo die alte Tupi—Sprache in kaum erkennbaren Resten uebrig war, als man sie dort aufzeichnete." I take pleasure in bringing forward this opinion of the great naturalist, not only because it is not expressed so clearly in any of his published writings, but because his authority on this question is of the greatest weight, and because it supports the view which I have elsewhere advanced of the migrations of the Arawack and Carib tribes.[9] These "hardly recognizable remains of the Tupi tongue," we shall see belonged also to the ancient Arawack at an epoch when it was less divergent than it now is from its primitive form. While these South American affinities are obvious, no relationship whatever, either verbal or syntactical, exists between the Arawack and the Maya of Yucatan, or the Chahta-Mvskoki of Florida and the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

As it is thus rendered extremely probable that the Arawack is closely connected with the great linguistic families of South America, it becomes of prime importance to trace its extension northward, and to determine if it is in any way affined to the tongues spoken on the West India Islands, when these were first discovered.

The Arawacks of to-day when asked concerning their origin point to the north, and claim at some not very remote time to have lived at Kairi, an island, by which generic name they mean Trinidad. This tradition is in a measure proved correct by the narrative of Sir Walter Raleigh, who found them living there in 1595,[10] and by the Belgian explorers who in 1598 collected a short vocabulary of their tongue. This oldest monument of the language has sufficient interest to deserve copying and comparing with the modern dialect. It is as follows:

LATIN. ARAWACK, 1598. ARAWACK, 1800. pater, pilplii, itti. mater, saeckee, uju. caput, wassijehe, waseye. auris, wadycke, wadihy. oculus, wackosije, wakusi. nasus, wassyerii, wasiri. os, dalerocke, daliroko. dentes, darii, dari. crura, dadane, dadaanah. pedes, dackosye, dakuty. arbor, hada, adda. arcus, semarape, semaara-haaba. sagittae, symare, semaara. luna, cattehel, katsi. sol, adaly, hadalli.

The syllables wa our, and da my, prefixed to the parts of the human body, will readily be recognized. When it is remembered that the dialect of Trinidad no doubt differed slightly from that on the mainland; that the modern orthography is German and that of De Lact's[TN-4] list is Dutch; and that two centuries intervened between the first and second, it is really a matter of surprise to discover such a close similarity. Father and mother, the only two words which are not identical, are doubtless different expressions, relationship in this, as in most native tongues, being indicated with excessive minuteness.

The chain of islands which extend from Trinidad to Porto Rico were called, from their inhabitants, the Caribby islands. The Caribs, however, made no pretence to have occupied them for any great length of time. They distinctly remembered that a generation or two back they had reached them from the mainland, and had found them occupied by a peaceful race, whom they styled Ineri or Igneri. The males of this race they slew or drove into the interior, but the women they seized for their own use. Hence arose a marked difference between the languages of the island Caribs and their women. The fragments of the language of the latter show clearly that they were of Arawack lineage, and that the so-called Igneri were members of that nation. It of course became more or less corrupted by the introduction of Carib words and forms, so that in 1674 the missionary De la Borde wrote, that "although there is some difference between the dialects of the men and women, they readily understand each other;"[11] and Father Breton in his Carib Grammar (1665) gives the same forms for the declensions and conjugations of both.

As the traces of the "island Arawack," as the tongue of the Igneri may be called, prove the extension of this tribe over all the Lesser Antilles, it now remains to inquire whether they had pushed their conquests still further, and had possessed themselves of the Great Antilles, the Bahama islands, and any part of the adjacent coasts of Yucatan or Florida.

All ancient writers agree that on the Bahamas and Cuba the same speech prevailed, except Gomara, who avers that on the Bahamas "great diversity of language" was found.[12] But as Gomara wrote nearly half a century after those islands were depopulated, and has exposed himself to just censure for carelessness in his statements regarding the natives,[13] his expression has no weight. Columbus repeatedly states that all the islands had one language though differing, more or less, in words. The natives he took with him from San Salvador understood the dialects in both Cuba and Haiti. One of them on his second voyage served him as an interpreter on the southern shore of Cuba.[14]

In Haiti, there was a tongue current all over the island, called by the Spaniards la lengua universal and la lengua cortesana. This is distinctly said by all the historians to have been but very slightly different from that of Cuba, a mere dialectic variation in accent being observed.[15] Many fragments of this tongue are preserved in the narratives of the early explorers, and it has been the theme for some strange and wild theorizing among would-be philologists. Rafinesque christened it the "Taino" language, and discovered it to be closely akin to the "Pelasgic" of Europe.[16] The Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg will have it allied to the Maya, the old Norse or Scandinavian, the ancient Coptic, and what not. Rafinesque and Jegor von Sivors[17] have made vocabularies of it, but the former in so uncritical, and the latter in so superficial a manner, that they are worse than useless.

Although it is said there were in Haiti two other tongues in the small contiguous provinces of Macorix de arriba and Macorix de abajo, entirely dissimilar from the lengua universal and from each other, we are justified in assuming that the prevalent tongue throughout the whole of the Great Antilles and the Bahamas, was that most common in Haiti. I have, therefore, perused with care all the early authorities who throw any light upon the construction and vocabulary of this language, and gathered from their pages the scattered information they contain. The most valuable of these authorities are Peter Martyr de Angleria, who speaks from conversations with natives brought to Spain by Columbus, on his first voyage,[18] and who was himself, a fine linguist, and Bartolome de las Casas. The latter came as a missionary to Haiti, a few years after its discovery, was earnestly interested in the natives, and to some extent acquainted with their language. Besides a few printed works of small importance, Las Casas left two large and valuable works in manuscript, the Historia General de las Indias Occidentales, and the Historia Apologetica de las Indias Occidentals. A copy of these, each in four large folio volumes, exists in the Library of Congress, where I consulted them. They contain a vast amount of information relating to the aborigines, especially the Historia Apologetica, though much of the author's space is occupied with frivolous discussions and idle comparisons.

In later times, the scholar who has most carefully examined the relics of this ancient tongue, is Senor Don Estevan Richardo, a native of Haiti, but who for many years resided in Cuba. His views are contained in the preface to his Diccionario Provincial casi-razonado de Voces Cubanas, (Habana, 2da ed, 1849). He has found very many words of the ancient language retained in the provincial Spanish of the island, but of course in a corrupt form. In the vocabulary which I have prepared for the purpose of comparison, I have omitted all such corrupted forms, and nearly all names of plants and animals, as it is impossible to identify these with certainty, and in order to obtain greater accuracy, have used, when possible, the first edition of the authors quoted, and in most instances, given under each word a reference to some original authority.

From the various sources which I have examined, the alphabet of the lengua universal appears to have been as follows: a, b, d, e, (rarely used at the commencement of a word), g, j, (an aspirated guttural like the Catalan j, or as Peter Martyr says, like the Arabic ch), i (rare), l (rare), m, n, o (rare,) p, q, r, s, t, u, y. These letters, it will be remembered, are as in Spanish.

The Spanish sounds z, ce, ci (English th,) ll, and v, were entirely unknown to the natives, and where they appear in indigenous words, were falsely written for l and b. The Spaniards also frequently distorted the native names by writing x for j, s, and z, by giving j the sound of the Latin y, and by confounding h, j, and f, as the old writers frequently employ the h to designate the spiritus asper, whereas in modern Spanish it is mute.[19]

Peter Martyr found that he could reduce all the words of their language to writing, by means of the Latin letters without difficulty, except in the single instance of the guttural j. He, and all others who heard it spoken, describe it as "soft and not less liquid than the Latin," "rich in vowels and pleasant to the ear," an idiom "simple, sweet, and sonorous."[20]

In the following vocabulary I have not altered in the least the Spanish orthography of the words, and so that the analogy of many of them might at once be preceived,[TN-5] I have inserted the corresponding Arawack expression, which, it must be borne in mind, is to be pronounced by the German alphabet.


Aji, red pepper. Arawack, achi, red pepper.

Aon, dog (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. I, c. 120). Island Ar. anli, dog.

Arcabuco, a wood, a spot covered with trees (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. VI, c,[TN-6] 8). Ar. arragkaragkadin the swaying to and fro of trees.

Areito, a song chanted alternately by the priests and the people at their feasts. (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V, c. 1.) Ar. aririn to name, rehearse.

Bagua, the sea. Ar. bara, the sea.

Bajaraque, a large house holding several hundred persons. From this comes Sp. barraca, Eng. barracks. Ar. bajue, a house.

Bajari, title applied to sub-chiefs ruling villages, (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 120). Probably "house-ruler," from Ar. bajue, house.

Barbacoa, a loft for drying maize, (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. VII, cap. 1). From this the English barbacue. Ar. barrabakoa, a place for storing provisions.

Batay, a ball-ground; bates, the ball; batey, the game. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. c. 204). Ar. battatan, to be round, spherical.[21]

Batea, a trough. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. c. 241.)

Bejique, a priest. Ar. piaye, a priest.

Bixa, an ointment. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 241.)

Cai, cayo, or cayco, an island. From this the Sp. cayo, Eng. key, in the "Florida keys." Ar. kairi, an island.

Caiman, an alligator, Ar. kaiman, an alligator, lit. to be strong.

Caona or cauni, gold. (Pet. Martyr, Decad. p. 26, Ed. Colon, 1564). Ar. kaijaunan, to be precious, costly.

Caracol, a conch, a univalve shell. From this the Sp. caracol. (Richardo, Dicc. Provin. s. v). Probably from Galibi caracoulis, trifles, ornaments. (See Martius, Sprachenkunde, B. II, p. 332.)

Caney or cansi, a house of conical shape.

Canoa, a boat. From this Eng. canoe. Ar. kannoa, a boat.

Casique, a chief. This word was afterwards applied by Spanish writers to the native rulers throughout the New World. Ar. kassiquan (from ussequa, house), to have or own a house or houses; equivalent, therefore, to the Eng. landlord.

Cimu or simu, the front, forehead; a beginning. (Pet. Martyr, Decad. p. 302.) Ar. eme or uime, the mouth of a river, uimelian, to be new.

Coaibai, the abode of the dead.

Cohoba, the native name of tobacco.

Conuco, a cultivated field. (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. VII, cap. 2.)

Duhos or duohos, low seats (unas baxas sillas, Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. I, cap[TN-7] 96. Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V. cap. 1. Richardo, sub voce, by a careless reading of Oviedo says it means images). Ar. dulluhu or durruhu, a seat, a bench.

Goeiz, the spirit of the living (Pane, p. 444); probably a corruption of Guayzas. Ar. akkuyaha, the spirit of a living animal.

Gua, a very frequent prefix: Peter Martyr says, "Est apud eos articulus et pauca sunt regum praecipue nominum quae non incipiant ab hoc articulo gua." (Decad. p. 285.) Very many proper names in Cuba and Hayti still retain it. The modern Cubans pronounce it like the English w with the spiritus lenis. It is often written oa, ua, oua, and hua. It is not an article, but corresponds to the ah in the Maya, and the gue in the Tupi of Brazil, from which latter it is probably derived.[22]

Guaca, a vault for storing provisions.

Guacabiua, provisions for a journey, supplies.

Guacamayo, a species of parrot, macrocercus tricolor.

Guanara, a retired stop. (Pane, p. 444); a species of dove, columba zenaida (Richardo, S. V.)[TN-8]

Guanin, an impure sort of gold.

Guaoxeri, a term applied to the lowest class of the inhabitants (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 197.) Ar. wakaijaru, worthless, dirty, wakaijatti lihi, a worthless fellow.

Guatiao, friend, companion (Richardo). Ar. ahati, companion, playmate.

Guayzas, masks or figures (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 61). Ar. akkuyaha, living beings.

Haba, a basket (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. III, cap. 21). Ar. habba, a basket.

Haiti, stony, rocky, rough (Pet. Martyr, Decades). Ar. aessi or aetti, a stone.

Hamaca, a bed, hammock. Ar. hamaha, a bed, hammock.

Hico, a rope, ropes (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V, cap. 2).

Hobin, gold, brass, any reddish metal. (Navarrete Viages, I, p. 134, Pet. Martyr, Dec. p. 303). Ar. hobin, red.

Huiho, height. (Pet. Martyr, p. 304). Ar. aijumuen, above, high up.

Huracan, a hurricane. From this Sp. huracan, Fr. ouragan, German Orkan, Eng. hurricane. This word is given in the Livre Sacre des Quiches as the name of their highest divinity, but the resemblance may be accidental. Father Ximenes, who translated the Livre Sacre, derives the name from the Quiche hu rakan, one foot. Father Thomas Coto, in his Cakchiquel Dictionary, (MS. in the library of the Am. Phil. Soc.) translates diablo by hurakan, but as the equivalent of the Spanish huracan, he gives ratinchet.

Hyen, a poisonous liquor expressed from the cassava root. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 2).

Itabo, a lagoon, pond. (Richardo).

Juanna, a serpent. (Pet. Martyr, p. 63). Ar. joanna, a lizard; jawanaria, a serpent.

Macana, a war club. (Navarrete, Viages.[TN-9] I, p. 135).

Magua, a plain. (Las Casas, Breviss. Relat. p. 7).

Maguey, a native drum. (Pet. Martyr, p. 280).

Maisi, maize. From this Eng. maize, Sp. mais, Ar. marisi, maize.

Matum, liberal, noble. (Pet. Martyr, p. 292).

Matunheri, a title applied to the highest chiefs. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 197).

Mayani, of no value, ("nihili," Pet. Martyr, p. 9). Ar. ma, no, not.

Naborias, servants. (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. III, cap. 32).

Nacan, middle, center. Ar. annakan, center.

Nagua, or enagua, the breech cloth made of cotton and worn around the middle. Ar. annaka, the middle.

Nitainos, the title applied to the petty chiefs, (regillos o guiallos, Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap,[TN-10] 197); tayno vir bonus, taynos nobiles, says Pet. Martyr, (Decad. p. 25). The latter truncated form of the word was adopted by Rafinesque and others, as a general name for the people and language of Hayti. There is not the slightest authority for this, nor for supposing, with Von Martius, that the first syllable is a pronominal prefix. The derivation is undoubtedly Ar. nueddan to look well, to stand firm, to do anything well or skilfully.

Nucay or nozay, gold, used especially in Cuba and on the Bahamas. The words caona and tuob were in vogue in Haiti (Navarrete, Viages, Tom. 1, pp. 45, 134).

Operito, dead, and

Opia, the spirit of the dead (Pane, pp. 443, 444). Ar. aparruen to kill, apparahun dead, lupparruekittoa he is dead.

Quisqueia, a native name of Haiti; "vastitas et universus ac totus. Uti Graeci suum Panem," says Pet. Martyr (Decad. p. 279). "Madre de las tierras," Valverde translates it (Idea del valor de la Isla Espanola, Introd. p. xviii). The orthography is evidently very false.

Sabana, a plain covered with grass without trees (terrano llano, Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. vi. cap. 8). From this the Sp. savana, Eng. savannah. Charlevoix, on the authority of Mariana, says it is an ancient Gothic word (Histoire de l'Isle St. Domingue, i. p. 53). But it is probably from the Ar. sallaban, smooth, level.

Semi, the divinities worshipped by the natives ("Lo mismo que nosotros llamamos Diablo," Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. v. cap. 1. Not evil spirits only, but all spirits). Ar. semeti sorcerers, diviners, priests.

Siba, a stone. Ar. siba, a stone.

Starei, shining, glowing (relucens, Pet. Martyr, Decad. p. 304). Ar. teren to be hot, glowing, terehue heat.

Tabaco, the pipe used in smoking the cohoba. This word has been applied in all European languages to the plant nicotiana tabacum itself.

Taita, father (Richardo). Ar. itta father, daitta or datti my father.

Taguaguas, ornaments for the ears hammered from native gold (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 199).

Tuob, gold, probably akin to hobin, q. v.

Turey, heaven. Idols were called "cosas de turey" (Navarrete, Viages, Tom. i. p. 221). Probably akin to starei, q. v.

The following numerals are given by Las Casas (Hist. Apol. cap. 204).

1 hequeti. Ar. huerketai, that is one, from huerkuen to be single or alone.

2 yamosa. Ar. biama, two.

3 canocum. Ar. kannikun, many, a large number, kannikukade, he has many things.

4 yamoncobre, evidently formed from yamosa, as Ar. bibiti, four, from biama, two.

The other numerals Las Casas had unfortunately forgotten, but he says they counted by hands and feet, just as the Arawacks do to this day.

Various compound words and phrases are found in different writers, some of which are readily explained from the Arawack. Thus tureigua hobin, which Peter Martyr translates "rex resplendens uti orichalcum,"[23] in Arawack means "shining like something red." Oviedo says that at marriages in Cuba it was customary for the bride to bestow her favors on every man present of equal rank with her husband before the latter's turn came. When all had thus enjoyed her, she ran through the crowd of guests shouting manicato, manicato, "lauding herself, meaning that she was strong, and brave, and equal to much."[24] This is evidently the Ar. manikade, from man, manin, and means I am unhurt, I am unconquered. When the natives of Haiti were angry, says Las Casas,[25] they would not strike each other, but apply such harmless epithets as buticaco, you are blue-eyed (anda para zarco de los ojos), xeyticaco, you are black-eyed (anda para negro de los ojos), or mahite, you have lost a tooth, as the case might be. The termination aco in the first two of these expressions is clearly the Ar. acou, or akusi, eyes, and the last mentioned is not unlike the Ar. marikata, you have no teeth (ma negative, ari tooth). The same writer gives for "I do not know," the word ita, in Ar. daitta.[26]

Some of the words and phrases I have been unable to identify in the Arawack. They are duiheyniquen, dives fluvius, maguacochios vestiti homines, both in Peter Martyr, and the following conversation, which he says took place between one of the Haitian chieftians[TN-11] and his wife.

She. Teitoca teitoca. Techeta cynato guamechyna. Guaibba.

He. Cynato machabuca guamechyna.

These words he translated: teitoca be quiet, techeta much, cynato angry, guamechyna the Lord, guaibba go, machabuca what is it to me. But they are either very incorrectly spelled, or are not Arawack.

The proper names of localities in Cuba, Hayti and the Bahamas, furnish additional evidence that their original inhabitants were Arawacks. Hayti, I have already shown has now the same meaning in Arawack which Peter Martyr ascribed to it at the discovery. Cubanacan, a province in the interior of Cuba, is compounded of kuba and annakan, in the center;[27] Baracoa, the name of province on the coast, is from Ar. bara sea, koan to be there, "the sea is there;" in Barajagua the bara again appears; Guaymaya is Ar. waya clay, mara there is none; Marien is from Ar. maran to be small or poor; Guaniguanico, a province on the narrow western extremity of the island, with the sea on either side, is probably Ar. wuini wuini koa, water, water is there. The names of tribes such as Siboneyes, Guantaneyes, owe their termination to the island Arawack, eyeri men, in the modern dialect hiaeru, captives, slaves. The Siboneyes are said by Las Casas, to have been the original inhabitants of Cuba.[28] The name is evidently from Ar. siba, rock, eyeri men, "men of the rocks." The rocky shores of Cuba gave them this appellation. On the other hand the natives of the islets of the Bahamas were called lukku kairi, abbreviated to lukkairi, and lucayos, from lukku, man, kairi an island, "men of the islands;" and the archipelago itself was called by the first explorers "las islas de los Lucayos," "isole delle Lucai."[29] The province in the western angle of Haiti was styled Guacaiarima, which Peter Martyr translates "insulae podex;" dropping the article, caiarima is sufficiently like the Ar. kairuina, which signifies podex, Sp. culata, and is used geographically in the same manner as the latter word.

The word Maya frequently found in the names of places in Cuba and Haiti, as Mayaba, Mayanabo, Mayajigua, Cajimaya, Jaimayabon, is doubtless the Ar. negative ma, man, mara. Some writers have thought it indicative of the extension of the Maya language of Yucatan over the Antilles. Prichard, Squier, Waitz, Brasseur de Bourbourg, Bastian and other ethnologists have felt no hesitation in assigning a large portion of Cuba and Haiti to the Mayas. It is true the first explorers heard in Cuba and Jamaica, vague rumors of the Yucatecan peninsula, and found wax and other products brought from there.[30] This shows that there was some communication between the two races, but all authorities agree that there was but one language over the whole of Cuba. The expressions which would lead to a different opinion are found in Peter Martyr. He relates that in one place on the southern shore of Cuba, the interpreter whom Columbus had with him, a native of San Salvador, was at fault. But the account of the occurrence given by Las Casas, indicates that the native with whom the interpreter tried to converse simply refused to talk at all.[31] Again, in Martyr's account of Grijalva's voyage to Yucatan in 1517, he relates that this captain took with him a native to serve as an interpreter; and to explain how this could be, he adds that this interpreter was one of the Cuban natives "quorum idioma, si non idem, consanguineum tamen," to that of Yucatan. This is a mere fabrication, as the chaplain of Grijalva on this expedition states explicitly in the narrative of it which he wrote, that the interpreter was a native of Yucatan, who had been captured a year before.[32]

Not only is there a very great dissimilarity in sound, words, and structure, between the Arawack and Maya, but the nations were also far asunder in culture. The Mayas were the most civilized on the continent, while the Arawacks possessed little besides the most primitive arts, and precisely that tribe which lived on the extremity of Cuba nearest Yucatan, the Guanataneyes, were the most barbarous on the island.[33]

The natives of the greater Antilles and Bahamas differed little in culture. They cultivated maize, manioc, yams, potatoes, corn, and cotton. The latter they wove into what scanty apparel they required. Their arms were bows with reed arrows, pointed with fish teeth or stones, stone axes, spears, and a war club armed with sharp stones called a macana. They were a simple hearted, peaceful, contented race, "all of one language and all friends," says Columbus; "not given to wandering, naked, and satisfied with little," says Peter Martyr; "a people very poor in all things," says Las Casas.

Yet they had some arts. Statues and masks in wood and stone were found, some of them in the opinion of Bishop Las Casas, "very skilfully carved." They hammered the native gold into ornaments, and their rude sculptures on the face of the rocks are still visible in parts of Cuba and Haiti. Their boats were formed of single trunks of trees often of large size, and they managed them adroitly; their houses were of reeds covered with palm leaves, and usually accommodated a large number of families; and in their holy places, they set up rows of large stones like the ancient cromlechs, one of which is still preserved in Hayti, and is known as la cercada de los Indios.

Physically they were undersized, less muscular than the Spaniards, light in color, with thick hair and scanty beards. Their foreheads were naturally low and retreating, and they artificially flattened the skull by pressure on the forehead or the occiput.[34]

Three social grades seem to have prevailed, the common herd, the petty chiefs who ruled villages, and the independent chiefs who governed provinces. Of the latter there were in Cuba twenty-nine; in Haiti five, as near as can be now ascertained.[35] Some of those in Cuba had shortly before the arrival of the Spaniards moved there from Haiti, and at the conquest one of the principal chiefs of Haiti was a native of the Lucayos.[36]

The fate of these Indians is something terrible to contemplate. At the discovery there were probably 150,000 on Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas.[37] Those on the latter were carried as slaves to Haiti to work in the mines, and all of the Lucayos exterminated in three or four years (1508-1512).[38] The sufferings of the Haitians have been told in a graphic manner by Las Casas in an oft-quoted work.[39] His statements have frequently been condemned as grossly exaggerated, but the official documents of the early history of Cuba prove but too conclusively that the worthy missionary reports correctly what terrible cruelties the Spaniards committed. Cuba was conquered in 1514, and was then quite densely populated. Fourteen years afterwards we find the Governor, Gonzalo de Guzman, complaining that while troops of hunters were formerly traversing the island constantly, asking no other pay than the right of keeping as slaves the natives whom they captured, he now has to pay patrolmen, as the Indians are so scarce.[40] The next year (1529) the treasurer, Lope de Hurtado, writes that the Indians are in such despair that they are hanging themselves twenty and thirty at a time.[41] In 1530 the king is petitioned to relinquish his royalty on the produce of the mines, because nearly all the Indians on the island are dead.[42] And in 1532 the licentiate, Vadillo, estimates the total number of Indians on the island, including the large percentage brought from the mainland by the slavers, at only 4,500.[43]

As a specimen of what the treatment of the Indians was, we have an accusation in 1522 against Vasco Porcallo, afterwards one of the companions of Hernando de Soto. He captured several Indians, cut off their genitals, and forced them to eat them, cramming them down their throats when they could not swallow. When asked for his defence, Porcallo replied that he did it to prevent his own Indians from committing suicide, as he had already lost two-thirds of his slaves in that way. The defence was apparently deemed valid, for he was released![44]

The myths and traditions of the Haitians have fortunately been preserved, though not in so perfect a form as might be wished. When Bartholomew Columbus left Rome for the Indies, he took with him a lay brother of the order of the Hermits of St. Jerome, Ramon Pane by name, a Catalan by birth, a worthy but credulous and ignorant man.[45] On reaching Haiti brother Pane was first sent among the natives of the small province called Macorix de abajo, which had a language peculiar to itself, but he was subsequently transferred to the province of Guarinoex on the southeastern part of the island where the lengua universal prevailed. He remained there two years, and at the request of Columbus collected and wrote down the legends and beliefs of the natives.

He is not a model authority. In the first place, being a Catalan he did not write Spanish correctly; he was very imperfectly acquainted with the native tongue; he wrote hastily, and had not enough paper to write in full; he is not sure that he commences their legends at the right end. Moreover his manuscript is lost, and the only means we have of knowing anything about it is by a very incorrectly printed Italian version, printed in 1571, and two early synopses, one in Latin in the Decades of Peter Martyr, the other in Italian, by Messer Zuane de Strozi of Ferrara, which has been quite recently published for the first time.[46] By comparing these we can arrive at the meaning of Brother Pane with considerable accuracy.

His work contains fragments of two distinct cycles of legends, the one describing the history of the gods, the other the history of the human race.

Earliest of creatures was the woman, Atabeira or Ataves, who also bore the other names Mamona, Guacarapita, Iiella, and Guimazoa. Her son was the supreme ruler of all things, and chiefest of divinities. His names were Yocauna, Guamaonocon, and Yocahu-vaguaniao-vocoti. He had a brother called Guaca, and a son Iaiael. The latter rebelled against his father, and was exiled for four mouths and then killed. The legend goes on to relate that his bones were placed in a calabash and hung up in his father's house. Here they changed into fishes, and the calabash filled with water. One day four brothers passed that way, who had all been born at one time, and whose mother, Itaba tahuana, had died in bringing them into the world. Seeing the calabash filled with fish the oldest of the four, Caracaracol, the Scabby, lifted it down, and all commenced to eat. While thus occupied, Yocauna suddenly made his appearance, which so terrified the brothers that they dropped the gourd and broke it into pieces. From it ran all the waters of the world, and formed the oceans, lakes, and rivers as they now are.

At this time there were men but no women, and the men did not dare to venture into the sunlight. Once, as they were out in the rain, they perceived four creatures, swift as eagles and slippery as eels. The men called to their aid Caracaracol and his brothers, who caught these creatures and transformed them into women. In time, these became the mothers of mankind.

The earliest natives of Haiti came under the leadership of the hero-god, Vaguoniona, a name applied by Las Casas to Yocahu, from an island to the south called in the legend Matinino, which all the authors identify, I know not why, with Martinique. They landed first on the banks of the river Bahoboni in the western part of Haiti, and there erected the first house, called Camoteia. This was ever after preserved and regarded with respectful veneration.

Such, in brief, were their national myths. Conspicuously marked in them we note the sacred number four, the four brothers typifying the cardinal points, whose mother, the Dawn, dies in giving them birth, just as in the Algonkin myths. These brothers aid the men in their struggles for life, and bring to them the four women, the rain-bringing winds. Here, too, the first of existences is the woman, whose son is at once highest of divinities and the guide and instructor of their nation. These peculiarities I have elsewhere shown to be general throughout the religions of America.[47]

The myth of the thunder storm also appears among them in its triplicate nature so common to the American mind. God of the storm was Guabancex, whose statue was made of stones. When angry he sent before him as messenger, Guatauva, to gather the winds, and accompanied by Coatrischie, who collected the rain-clouds in the valleys of the mountains, he swept down upon the plain, surrounded by the awful paraphernalia of the thunder storm.[48]

Let us place side by side with these ancient myths the national legend of the Arawacks.[49] They tell of a supreme spiritual being Yauwahu or Yauhahu. Pain and sickness are the invisible shafts he shoots at men, yauhahu simaira the arrows of Yauhahu, and he it is whom the priests invoke in their incantations. Once upon a time, men lived without any means to propitiate this unseen divinity; they knew not how to ward off his anger or conciliate him. At that time the Arawacks did not live in Guiana, but in an island to the north. One day a man named Arawanili walked by the waters grieving over the ignorance and suffering of his nation. Suddenly the spirit of the waters, the woman Orehu, rose from the waves and addressed him. She taught him the mysteries of semeci, the sorcery which pleases and controls Yauhahu, and presented him with the maraka, the holy calabash containing white pebbles which they rattle during their exorcisms, and the sound of which summons the beings of the unseen world. Arawanili faithfully instructed his people in all that Orehu had said, and thus rescued them from their wretchedness. When after a life of wisdom and good deeds the hour of his departure came, he "did not die, but went up."

Orehu accompanied the Arawacks when they moved to the main, and still dwells in a treeless, desolate spot, on the banks of the Pomeroon. The negroes of the colony have learned of her, and call her in their broken English, the "watra-mamma," the water-mother.

The proper names which occur in these myths, date back to the earliest existence of the Arawacks as an independent tribe, and are not readily analyzed by the language as it now exists. The Haitian Yocauna seems indeed identical with the modern Yauhahu. Atabes or Atabeira is probably from itabo, lake, lagoon, and era, water, (the latter only in composition, as hurruru, mountain, era, water, mountain-water, a spring, a source), and in some of her actions corresponds with Orehu. Caracaracol is translated by Brother Pane, as "the Scabby" or the one having ulcers, and in this respect the myth presents a curious analogy with many others in America. In modern Arawack karrikala is a form, in the third person singular, from karrin, to be sick, to be pregnant. Arawanili, which one might be tempted to suppose gave the name Arawack to the tribe, did not all writers derive this differently, may be a form of awawa, father. In the old language, the termination el, is said to have meant son.

Of the two remaining languages said to have been spoken in the small provinces of Macorix de arriba and Macorix de abajo, in Hayti, we have no certain knowledge.[50] Las Casas gives one word from the former. It is bazca, no, not. I cannot identify it. There is reason, however, to suppose one of them was the Tupi or "lengua geral," of Brazil. Pane gives at least two words which are pure Tupi, and not Arawack. They are the names of two hideous idols supposed to be inimical to men. The one was Bugi, in Tupi, ugly, the other Aiba, in Tupi, bad. It is noteworthy, also, that Pigafetta, who accompanied Magellan on his voyage around the world, gives a number of words, ostensibly in the language of the natives of Rio Janeiro, where the Tupi was spoken, which are identical with those of Haiti, as cacich, chief, boi, house, hamac, bed, canoe, boat. But Pigafetta acknowledges that he obtained these words not from the natives themselves, but from the pilot Juan Carvalhos, who had been for years sailing over the West Indian seas, and had no doubt learned these words in the Antilles.[51]

The remaining idiom may be supposed to have been Carib, although we have actually no evidence that the Caribs had gained a permanent foothold on any of the Great Antilles at the period of the discovery, some careless assertions of the old authors to the contrary, notwithstanding.

The investigation which I here close, shows that man in his migrations on the Western Continent followed the lead of organic nature around him. For it is well known that the flora and fauna of the Antilles are South American in character, and also, that the geological structure of the archipelago connects it with the southern mainland. So also its earliest known human inhabitants were descended from an ancestry whose homes were in the far south, and who by slow degrees moved from river to river, island to island, until they came within a few miles of the northern continent.


[1] Since reading this article before the Society, Prof. S. S. Haldeman has shown me a copy of a work with the title: "Die Geschichte von der Marterwoche, Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt unsers Herrn und Heilandes Jesu Christi. Uebersetzt in die Aruwackische Sprache und erklaerend umschrieben. Philadelphia: Gedruckt bey Carl List, 1799," 8vo. pages 213, then one blank leaf, then 40 pages of "Anmerkungen." There is also a second title, in Arawack, and neither title page is included in the pagination. The Arawack title begins: "Wadaijahun Wueuessada-goanti, Wappussida-goanti baddia Jesus Christus," etc. The remarks at the end are chiefly grammatical and critical, and contain many valuable hints to the student of the language. I have no doubt this book is the Life of Christ mentioned in the text. The name of the translator or editor is nowhere mentioned, but I have no doubt Mr. Schultz wrote the "Anmerkungen," and read the proof, as not only are his grammatical signs and orthography adopted throughout, but also we know from other sources that he was in Philadelphia at that time.

[2] Brett, The Indian Tribes of Guiana, p. 117 (London, 1868).

[3] Etudes Philologiques sur quelquee[TN-12] Langues Sauvages de l'Amerique, p. 87 (Montreal, 1866).

[4] Beitraege zur Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's zumal Brasiliens, B. I., p. 705 (Leipzig, 1867).

[5] De Laet. Novus Orbis, lib. xvii., cap. vi.

[6] Martius, Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika's, B. I., S. 687.

[7] Antonio Julian, La Perla de la America, la Provincia de Santa Marta, p. 149.

[8] Ethnographie, etc., B. I., S. 714.

[9] The Myths of the New World; a Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of America, p. 32 (New York, 1868).

[10] The Discoverie of Guiana, p[TN-13] 4 (Hackluyt, Soc., London, 1842).

[11] Relation de l'Origine, etc., des Caraibes, p. 39 (Paris, 1674).

[12] "Havia mas policia entre ellos [los Lucayos,] i mucha diversidad de Lenguas." Hist. de las Indias, cap. 41.

[13] Las Casas, in the Historia General de las Indias Occid[TN-14], lib. III, cap. 27, criticizes him severely.

[14] Columbus says of the Bahamas and Cuba: "toda la lengua es una y todos amigos" (Navarrete, Viages, Tomo I, p. 46.) The natives of Guanahani conversed with those of Haiti "porque todos tenian una lengua," (ibid, p. 86.) In the Bay of Samana a different dialect but the same language was found (p. 135).

[15] Gomara says the language of Cuba is "algo diversa," from that of Espanola. (Hist. de las Indias, cap. 41.) Oviedo says that though the natives of the two islands differ in many words, yet they readily understand each other. (Hist. de las Indias, lib. XVII. cap. 4.)

[16] The American Nations, chap. VII, (Philadelphia, 1836.)

[17] Cuba, die Perle der Antillen, p. 72. (Leipzig, 1831.) The vocabulary contains 33 words, "aus dem Cubanischen." Many are incorrect both in spelling and pronunciation.

[18] When Columbus returned from his first voyage, he brought with him ten natives from the Bay of Samana in Haiti, and a few from Guanahani.

[19] See the remarks of Richardo in the Prologo to his Diccionario Provincial.

[20] The remarks of Peter Martyr are; "posse omnium illarum linguam nostris literis Latinis, sine ullo discrimine, scribi compertum est," (De Rebus Oceanicis et Novo Orbe, Decades Tres, p. 9.) "Advertendum est, nullam inesse adspirationem vocabulis corum, quae non habeat effectum literae consonantis; immo gravius adspirationem proferunt, quam nos f consonantem. Proferendumque est quicquid est adspiratum eodum halitu quo f, sed minime admoto ad superiores dentes inferiore labello, ore aut aperto ha, he hi, ho, hu, et concusso pectore. Hebraeos et Arabicos eodem modo suas proferre adspirationes vides," (id. pp. 285, 286.)

[21] There was a ball-ground in every village. It was "tres veces mas luenga que ancha, cercada de unos lomillos de un palmo o dos de alto." The ball was "como las de viento nuestras mas no cuanto al salto, que era mayor que seis de las de viento." (Las Casas, Historia Apologetica, caps. 46, 204.) Perhaps the ball was of India rubber.

[22] "Gue ou Gui, signal de vocativo, mas so empregado pelos homems." Dias Diccionario da Lingua Tupy chamada Lingua Geral dos Indigenas do Brazil, p. 60 (Lipsia, 1858).

[23] De Rebus Oceanicis, p. 303.

[24] Hist. de las Indias, lib. xvii. cap. 4, Las Casas denies the story, and says Oviedo told it in order to prejudice people against the natives (Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. iii. cap. xxiv). It is, however, probably true.

[25] Historia Apologetica, cap. 198.

[26] He compares the signification of ita in Haytian to ita in Latin, and translates the former ita by no se; this is plainly an error of the transcriber for yo se (Hist. Apologetica, cap. 241).

[27] Kuba in Arawack is the sign of past time and is used as a prefix to nouns, as well as a suffix to verbs. Kubakanan ancestors, those passed away, those who lived in past times.

[28] "Toda la mas de la gente de que estaba poblaba aquella isla [Cuba] era passada y natural desta ysla Espanola, puesto que la mas antigua y natural de aquella ysla era como la de los Lucayos de quien ablamos en el primero y segundo libro ser como los seres que parecia no haber pecado nuestro padre Adan en ellos, gente simplicissima, bonissima, careciente de todos vicios, y beatissima. Esta era la natural y native de aquella ysla, y llamabanse en su lengua, Ciboneyes, la penultima silaba luenga; y los desta por grado o por fuerza se apodearon de aquella ysla y gente della, y los tenian como sirvientes suyos." (Las Casas Hist. Gen. de las Indias, MSS. lib. iii, cap. 21). Elsewhere (cap. 23) he says this occurred "mayormente" after the Spaniards had settled in Haiti.

[29] "Lucayos o por mejor decir Yucayos" says Las Casas, (Hist. Gen. lib. ii. cap. 44) and after him Herrera. But the correction which was based apparently on some supposed connection of the word with yuca, the Haitian name of an esculent plant, is superfluous, and Las Casas himself never employs it, nor a single other writer.

[30] Las Casas. Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. iv. cap. 48, MSS. Bees were native to Yucatan long before the discovery, but not to the north temperate zone.

[31] "Varia enim esse idiomata in varils Cubae provinelis perpenderunt." (Pet. Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, v. 42). Las Casas says that a sailor told Columbus that he saw one Indian cacique in a long white tunic who refused to speak, but stalked silently away. (Hist. de las Indias, lib. I. cap. 95). Martyr says there were several. Peschel suggests they were tall white flamingoes, that scared the adventurous tar out of his wits. (Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 253). At any rate the story gives no foundation at all for Peter Martyr's philogical[TN-15] opinion.

[32] Pet. Martyr, De Insulis Nuper Inventis, p. 335. "Traia consigo Grisalva un Indio per lengua de los que de aquella tierra habian llevado consigo a la ysla de Cuba Francisco Hernandez.[TN-16] Las Casas Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. III, cap. 108, MSS. See also the chaplain's account in Terneaux Compans, Recueil de Pieces rel. a la Conquete de Mexique, p. 56.

[33] Bernal Dias says the vicinity of cape San Antonio was inhabited by the "Guanataneys que son unos Indias como salvages." He expressly adds that their clothing differed from that of the Mayas, and that the Cuban natives with him could not understand the Maya language. Historia Verdadera, cap. II.

[34] "Presso capite, fronte lata" (Nicolaus Syllacius, De Insulis nuper Inventis, p. 86. Reprint, New York, 1859. This is the extremely rare account of Columbus' second voyage). Six not very perfect skulls were obtained in 1860, by Col. F. S. Heneken, from a cavern 15 miles south-west from Porto Plata. They are all more or less distorted in a discoidal manner, one by pressure over the frontal sinus, reducing the calvaria to a disk. (J. Barnard Davis, Thesaurus Craniorum, p. 236, London, 1867. Mr. Davis erroneously calls them Carib skulls).

[35] The provinces of Cuba are laid down on the Mapa de la Isla de Cuba segun la division de los Naturales, por D. Jose Maria de la Torre y de la Torre, in the Memorias de la Sociedad Patriotica de la Habana, 1841. See also Felipe Poey, Geografia de la Isla de Cuba, Habana, 1853. Apendice sobre la Geografia Antigua. Las Casas gives the five provinces of Hayti by the names of their chiefs, Guarinox, Guacanagari, Behechio, Caonabo and Higuey. For their relative position see the map in Charlevoix's Histoire de l'Isle San Domingue, Paris, 1740, and in Baumgarten's Geschichte von Amerika, B. II.

[36] This was Caonabo. Oviedo, and following him Charlevoix, say he was a Carib, but Las Casas, who having lived twenty years in Haiti immediately after the discovery, is infinitely the best authority, says: "Era de nacion Lucayo, natural de las islas de los Lucayos, que se paso de ellas aca." (Historia Apologetica, cap. 179, MSS[TN-17]).

[37] I put the figures very low. Peter Martyr, whose estimates are the lowest of any writer, says there were more than 200,000 natives on Haiti alone. (De Rebus Oceanicis, p. 295.)

[38] More than 40,000 were brought to Haiti to enjoy the benefits of Christian instruction, says Herrera, with what might pass as a ghastly sarcasm. (Historia General de las Indias, Dec. I, lib. VIII. cap. 3).

[39] Brevissima Relacion de la Destruccion de las Indias Occidentales par los Castellanos, Sevilla, 1552.

[40] Ramon de de[TN-18] la Sagra, Historia de la Isla de Cuba, Tom. II, p. 381.

[41] Ibid, p. 394.

[42] Ibid, p. 396.

[43] Ibid, p. 414.

[44] Ibid, p. 385. These references to De la Sagra's work are all to the original documents in his Appendix.

[45] Las Casas knew Pane personally, and gives his name correctly (not Roman, as all the printed authorities have it). He described him as "hombre simple y de buena intencion;" "fuese Catalan de nacion y no habla del todo bien nuestra lengua Castellana." Ramon came to Haiti four or five years before Las Casas, and the latter speaks of him in a disparaging tone. "Este Fray Ramon escudrino lo que pudo, segun lo que alcanzo de las lenguas que fueron tres, las que habia en esta ysia: pero no supo sino la una de una chica provincia, que arriba dejimos llamarse Macaria de abajo, y aquella no perfectamente.[TN-19] (Historia Apologetica, MSS.[TN-20] cap. 120, see also cap. 162). This statement is not quite true, as according to Las Casas' own admission Pane dwelt two years in the province of Guarinoex, where the lengua universal was spoken, and there collected these traditions.

[46] Pane's account was first published in the Historie del Frenando[TN-21] Colombo, Venetia, 1571, from which it has recently been translated and published with notes by Brasseur de Bourbourg, Paris, 1864. The version of Zuane de Strozi is in the Appendix to Harrisse's Bibliotheca Primordia Americana, p. 474.

[47] The myths of the New World, (New York, 1868).

[48] See the work last quoted, p. 156, for a number of similar myths of the trinity of the storm.

[49] I take these as they are related in Bretts, Indian Tribes of Guiana, Part ii, chap. x.

[50] The most trustworthy author is Las Casas. As his works are still in manuscript, I give his words. "Tres lenguas habia en esta ysla distintas que la una a la otra no se entendia. La una era de la gente que llamabamos Macorix de abajo y la otra de los vecinos del Macorix de arriba. La otra lengua fue la universal de toda la tierra, y esta era mas elegante y mas copiosa de vocablos, y mas dulce al sonido. En esto la de Xaragua en todo llevaba ventaja, y era mui mas prima." (Historia Apologetica, cap. 197). "Es aqui de saber que un gran pedajo de esta costa (that of the northern part of Haiti), bien mas de veinte y cinco o treinta leguas y quince buenas y aun veinte de ancho hasta las sierras que haren desta parte del norte la gran Vega inclusive, era poblado de una gente que se llamaron Mazoriges, y otras Ciguayos, y tenian diversas lenguas de la universal de todas las islas." (Historia General, lib. I, cap. 77). "Llamaban Ciguayos porque trayan todos los cabellos mui luengos como en Nueva Castilla las mujeres," (id. cap. 77). The cacique of the Ciguayos was named Mayomanex or Mayobanex, (id. lib. I, cap. 120). They went almost naked, and had no arms, "eran Gallinas almenos para con los unos, como no tuviesen armas," (id. cap. 120.)

[51] Pigafetta, Reise um die Welt, so. 21, 26, 247, (Gotha, 1802; a translation of the Italian original in the library at Milan).

Transcriber's Note

The following misspellings and typographical errors were maintained.

Page Error TN-1 2 Mr. Shultz should read Schultz TN-2 2 dipthongs should read diphthongs TN-3 7 Second preterite should read Second preterite: TN-4 9 Lact's should read Laet's TN-5 11 preceived should read perceived TN-6 11 VI, c, 8 should read VI, c. 8 TN-7 12 lib. I, cap 96 should read lib. I, cap. 96 TN-8 12 S. V.) should read S. V.). TN-9 13 Navarrete, Viages. should read Navarrete, Viages, TN-10 13 Apol. cap, should read Apol. cap. TN-11 14 chieftians should read chieftains TN-12 fn. 3 quelquee should read quelques TN-13 fn. 10 p 4 should read p. 4 TN-14 fn. 13 Indias Occid should read Indias Occid. TN-15 fn. 31 philogical should read philological TN-16 fn. 32 Hernandez. should read Hernandez." TN-17 fn. 36 MSS should read MSS. TN-18 fn. 40 Ramon de de should read Ramon de TN-19 fn. 45 perfectamente. should read perfectamente." TN-20 fn. 45 MSS. should read MSS. TN-21 fn. 46 Frenando should read Fernando

Other inconsistencies:

The relative position of , and ) is not consistent.


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