Arawak (äˈräwäk) [key], linguistic stock of indigenous people who came from South America and, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, occupied the islands of the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, Trinidad, and other areas of Amazonia. Before the arrival of the Spanish they were driven from the Lesser Antilles by the Caribs. Most of the Arawak of the Antilles died out or intermarried after the Spanish conquest. In South America, Arawakan-speaking groups are widespread, from SW Brazil to Colombia and Venezuela, representing a wide range of cultures. They are found mostly in the tropical forest areas N of the Amazon. As with all Amazonian native peoples, contact with white settlement has led to culture change and depopulation among these groups.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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