Politics of the Arawaks

Political System
In general the political structure’s of the Arawak is very obscure and little is known. From the information gathered from various sources, it is believed that there were five to seven different Arawak kingdoms on the island of Hispaniola. If the kingdom was large, government structure was more evident having a defined social class.

Arawak Indians portrait
Arawak Indians portrait

A sort of king or leader was a cacique, who was a male. The cacique ruled over his group of people or “kingdom” with complete authority. The Arawaks had a well organized hierarchical society, which was extremely patriarchal. Obtaining the position of a cacique was a birth privilege. This was a hereditary position from father to son, where the eldest sons would take over after father’s death or retirement. The caciques job was to rule over the Arawak people, keeping a peaceful order among the people. He would distribute land and crops, assigning the labor among the people. He was also the leader during times of war, ruling over the decisions. He was a well respected man and usually was able to rule without violence. The cacique was well obeyed by the people, seen more as a paternal figure. At times the cacique had a double role as both government leader and religious ceremony leader. He was not much of a lawmaker, and stick laws were not needed because the people had a sense of community since they depended on each other’s work. The cacaique actually made little laws, with no real reinforcement of those laws. Since the village cooperated, enforcement rarely needed. Crime severity of crimes is interesting compared to that of other culture. Theft was taken more seriously than murder. The thief was killed painfully and slowly, while the murder was vanished or killed quickly.
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While the cacique did have much power, he had advisors. Nobles called nitayanos assisted the caciques, these men had to be the oldest in the kingdom because they knew the kingdom’s boundaries of the past and recent years. The nobles remembered the past of kingdom’s and arguments with other kingdoms. Decisions occurred in a council meeting, with the cacique and higher standing peoples, such as the nobles. The elder noble men had songs and dances which taught the younger villagers their history and laws.