Issues Related to Gender and Sexual Orientation


Lifestyle of the Arawaks
The Arawak society was basically a very gentle culture. It was characterized by happiness, friendliness and a highly organized hierarchical paternal society, and a lack of guile.
Each society was a small kingdom and the leader was called a cacique, who was always a man. At the time of Columbus there were five different kingdoms on the island of Hispaniola. The Indians practiced polygamy. Most men had 2 or 3 wives, but the caciques had as many as 30. It was a great honor for a woman to be married to a cacique. ot only did she enjoy a materially superior lifestyle, but her children were held in high esteem.
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Work in the Village
Women were responsible for much of the agriculture. They did the planting and preparation of food. They would work in rows, each carrying a bag of soaked grain around her neck. Then she would make a hole in the ground with her digging stick, throw a few grains of corn into it and cover the hole. In regards to food preparation, much work was done by women to prepare cassave, which needed to go through a special process since it was poisonous in its natural state.

In contrast to the women, men obtained the protein sources for the people. The men where the ones who did the hunting and the fishing. The men were also the first to eat at meals, followed by women and children. (source)


In addition to planting crops and cooking, the women did the spinning and weaving of cotton hammocks. The men's additional tasks were to clear the fields for the women's gardens or conucos and make houses and canoes. (source)

Lucayan Taino Social Organization


The Taino are reported to have traced descent through the female line.This report is is supported by and old Taino of an immortal being that had a mother with five different names as well as having a maternal uncle. (Keegan and Maclachlan, 617)

The matrilineal descent was expressed in the inheritance of rank through the female line, with females sometimes getting chiefly positions.Zemis, representations of the lineage's ancestors, were also passed through the femal line.

Also the Spanish have reported that the eldest son on occasion would inherit the rank of lineage chef from his father. Such an inheritance would normally result from partrilineal descent. However this option appears to be an exceptional practice that many have brought about by the Spanish disruption of the indigenous social system.

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Arawak Costumes.
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The Political Economy of Matrilineal Society


There are three factors that are commonly cited as influencing the emergence of unilocal residence in which consanguineoulsy related persons of one sex are systematically aggregated in extended families: (1) the sexual division of subsistence labor, (2) The prevalence and form of warfare in pre-state-level societies, and (3) aspects of gender relations, especially marital relations, arising from work, warfare, and migration (Keegan and Maclachlan, 619)