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St.Croix Amerindians History

Prior to, and less than a century after Columbus' discovery, St. Croix was inhabited by two tribes of Indians: the Caribs and the Arawaks. The Arawaks were generally considered to be a peaceful tribe while the Caribs were warring cannibals. The word "cannibal" is in tribute to their fierce nature for it is derived from the Spanish word for Carib or "carribales." Washington Irving described the Caribs:

"The hair of these savages was long and coarse, their eyes were encircled with paint, so as to give them hideous expression. Bands of cotton were bound firmly above and below the muscular parts of the arms and legs, so as to cause them to swell to a disproportionate size." With such fearsome neighbors, the Arawaks were often forced to live on larger islands where they could retreat into the hills when attacked.

On November 14, 1493, Columbus made his first visit to "Ayay" (as the Indians called St. Croix) and renamed it Santa Cruz. His reception by the Caribs gives testament to their violent character. Upon anchoring at Salt River, a small boatload of Spaniards approached the shore and encountered a small canoe carrying four men and two women. A battle ensued, which resulted from the Spaniards attempting to capture the natives.

One Carib and one Spaniard were killed. The remaining Caribs were taken prisoner. This was the early beginning of what would soon be widely employed; slavery. In response to such conflict, Charles V of Spain declared that all Indians in the islands were enemies and should be eliminated.

A constant state of war existed between the Caribs and the Spaniards for nearly a century. By 1596, the islands were described as being wholly uninhabited. St. Croix was not a major port for the Spanish -- San Juan, Puerto Rico was far more important. Due to Indian attacks, bad weather, and general poor luck, the Virgin Islands were unfortunately described as "the useless islands."

Source of this information can be found here