Adaptive Strategies


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Examples of Arawak Crops
Types Agriculture
The Arawaks practiced subsistence farming, meaning the grew what they needed to survive and a small amount of excess for trading. They also practiced the slash-and-burn method of agriculture. This method consists of cutting down trees in an area and burning the land to get rid of any brush. The Arawaks would use the ash from the burning and mix it "with fish and urine to produce fertilizer to help prolong the productiveness of the land." (soucre) Despite their efforts to prolong the productiveness, the land would become exhausted in about 5 to ten years because they did not practice crop rotation. The Arawaks would then have to clear new land to cultivate. This illustrates that while their adaptive strategies towards the land, such as their use of fertilizer, did allow them to use the land multiple times, they did not adapt in a way that would prevent them from having to continually clear new land. (soucre)

In parts of Cuba and Hispaniola, the Arawaks used another technique in their agriculture. They would dig irrigation ditches and use inland rives to make artificial fish ponds, demonstrating how they utilized the water surrounding them. (soucre)





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Capturing a sea turtle
Food

The Arawaks harvested multiple types of crops, with their main one being cassava. This food required specific treatment because it was poisonous in its natural state. (soucre) The ability of the Arawak to treat this poisonous substance and make it edible demonstrates how they adapted to the type of plants around them.

The Arawak did not lack protein, as they would capture the creates living in a near-by body of water:
"Huge piles of shells were found on the remains of campsites suggesting that snails, barnacles, shelfish and crab played and important role in the diets of the early West Indian peoples" (soucre)

Hunting
Arawak hunters did not hunt on a large scale because there were not large animals on the islands in which they lived. Instead, they would capture smaller animals and birds by trapping them. They had a specific strategy for catching ducks: "they floated gourds downstream until the ducks became used to seeing them and then the hunter himself would drift downstream with a gourd over his head, breathing through a hole and seeing through eye-slits. Once he reached a bird, it would be pulled underwater and drowned." (soucre) They also had specific methods of hunting for other animals as well, such as their favorite prey, the"hutia," a type of coney: "Armed with clubs and carrying torches, the men would chase the hutia at night, frightening it with shouts and the flames of their torches toward a corral which they built. There the coney was killed with their clubs." (soucre) This specific methods correlate with the type of animal they hunted. The understanding of the animals illustrates the Arawaks's adaption to their surroundings by figuring out how to hunt what was available to them.

The Arawaks also involved small dogs, called "alcos," in their hunting. These were the only animal that they domesticated.

Housing
The Arawaks built two types of houses. The first, known as "bohio," were rectangular structures used primarily for the cacique's house. These buildings were difficult to construct, so the majority of people lived in "caneye" houses. These were round in shape and made by putting wooden posts "into the ground in a circle and canes were woven between them and tied with creepers. The roof was thatched in a conical shape and a hole was left at the top to allow smoke to escape." (soucre) Living in the Caribbean, the Arawak were subjected to the harsh weather of the region. However, they were able to construct their homes in a manor that could withstand hurricanes. (soucre)

Trade
The Arawaks practiced trade among the islands of the Caribbean. They used their canoes to trade "cloth, tools, weapons, furniture, tobacco, certain fruits and gold." (source) A majority of exporting was done by the people in Puerto Rice and Haiti. They exported gold to Cuba, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Some of the Arawaks in Puerto Rice grew pineapples in order to export them to other islands. There is a possibility that the Arawaks also traded with the mainland, since there have been Maya carvings found in Cuba. (source) The Arawaks adapted to their surrounds by trading with the surrounding islands. This allowed them to obtain goods that they did not grow or make themselves while also creating an economy between the different islands.