Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Indian culture still alive in V.I
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 Material Information
Title: Indian culture still alive in V.I
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: October 11, 1996
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00129
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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16 The Daily News, Friday, October11, 1996 Environment

Indian culture still alive in V.I.

During the recent public forum
on indigenous peoples of the
Caribbean, participants learned how
ancient Indian cultures of the
Caribbean influence us today.
During the colonial period in the
Caribbean, Europeans adopted
many foods, crops, tools, methods,
ways, customs and traditions of the
Indians. They could not have sur-
vived otherwise in their new hostile
African slaves also adopted
some ways of the Indians, even
though the environment they were
taken from was similar.
As Caribbean culture developed,
inhabitants incorporated parts of
many languages, including Spanish,
English, French, Dutch and at least
three Indian languages: Carib,
Arawak, and Tubi. African slaves
also brought their native language
with them. From these different lan-
guages, a creole language devel-
It was the Indians who taught
the first French and English settlers
of the Caribbean how to grow such
crops as sweet potato, cassava,
tobacco, pineapple, papaya, hot
peppers, corn, and pumpkin. When
the French and English creoles
came to the Virgin Islands, they
brought with them this knowledge
of agriculture.
Some of the Indians' staple


foods in the Caribbean were roasted
sweet potato, hot pepper sauce, cas-
sava bread, fish, shell fish, turtle,
land crabs, and manatee.
The Indians taught the French
how to grate bitter cassava, dry it in
the sun as pancakes and bake it on a
griddle into Cassava bread. This
bread can be kept for a year or more
without spoiling or becoming stale.
This skill persisted for centuries.
As late as a few years ago, cassava
bread was a big part of Caribbean
people's diet.
Likewise, land crabs were the
favorite source of protein for the
Indians. Not too long ago, many
Virgin Islanders still were eating
crabs. In fact, crab and rice is still
served as a native dish in the Virgin
Then, we have the hot pepper
sauces, which were used by the
Indians at every meal. Today, hot
pepper sauce is still used in an
The method of fishing used by
the Indians was also adopted by
Caribbean people. The Indians used

to catch fish at night with a torch.
This same method of fishing was
used on St. Croix by fishermen into
the 1950s.
The Indians also made their own
beer. One kind was made from
mashed cassava, called ouicou. This
type is no longer consumed. Anoth-
er kind of beer, called maubi, was
made from sweet potatoes. Today,
maubi is a popular drink, although
now it is made from the maubi bark
from a tree, not sweet potato.
Corn bread was another meal for
Indians. They would grind the corn
using a concave stone and another
round stone. After they formed it
into dough, they would wrap it into
a corn husk or leaf and place it in
the coals of a fire to be baked.
This type of corn bread must be
eaten while it is hot, since when it is
cold, it becomes hard and bitter and
is not easy to chew.
Many Carib words have passed
into our language, including kineo,
canary, maubi, gineo, g6hi,
kallaloo, maho, and mampoo, just
to mention a few. In addition, many
of the names for flora and fauna
used in the Virgin Islands were bor-
rowed from the Indians.
Olasee Davis, who holds a mas-
ter of science degree in range man-
agement and forestry ecology, is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and

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