Caribbean peoples, particularly those of Indian descent, as well as students of this region, have long needed a text such as the present multiauthored book on the indigenous Caribbean. The Virgin Islands Humanities Council is to be commended for targeting these audiences, and the editor for producing this book, despite the uneven knowledge and debates that have characterized Caribbean studies.

In his introduction, Wilson provides a good overview of Indian regional history from 4000 b.c. up to the present. As significant stages in this history, he singles out the transition to island living, manioc cultivation, and the development of large political systems.

Part one presents works on ethnohistory and archeology. Ricardo Alegría discusses early Spanish chroniclers and their agendas, although he does not caution readers about the possibility of an elite agenda in the Indian oral tradition. Louis Allaire discusses the archeology of the Lesser Antilles as well as debates that have swirled around questions of demography, language groups, subsistence practices, levels of political organization, and religion. But his assumptions about step migration through the islands and about the Carib conquest are questionable.

Part two addresses the “contact period,” when archeology and ethnohistory should merge into a seamless whole. Richard Cunningham details the disastrous biological impact of European contact. Birgit Faber Morse demonstrates that in terms of its archeology, protohistoric Saint Croix was Taíno, but omits the ethnohistoric data. Alissandra Cummins compares early European depictions of the Indian, including the many ethnographic illustrations from Drake’s world voyage. However, no one provides a definitive overview of Indian ethnicities at contact.

Part three discusses the Saladoid migration of village farmers, a process that spanned the years from 500 b.c. to a.d. 800. Jay Haviser tackles the underresearched topic of settlement patterns. He compares early and late sites, as well as island and interisland patterns. But his sample (49 sites from 24 islands) seems too small to provide valid results. Elizabeth Righter explains the value of material remains. She uses a wide data set, primarily from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to reconstruct material and nonmaterial life. David Watters discusses three examples of maritime trade, and convincingly shows that Indians viewed the ocean as a highway, not a barrier. He recommends that Pacific models be applied to the study of Caribbean archeology. Miguel Rodriguez undertakes the problem of reconstructing religious beliefs for a people known only by the archeological record. He adopts a factual methodology for the interpretation of burial data, iconography, and exotic prestige items, as well as for historical comparison. Henry Petitjean-Roget compares the iconographic record with oral tradition. Some of his interpretations of Taíno mythology are debatable, but his identification of frog and bat themes with a supreme, divine female-male pair is perceptive.

Part four discusses Taíno society on the eve of conquest. William Keegan reconstructs a social and political organization that was based on elite avunculocal residence. But the ethnohistorical record suggests that the residence pattern was more complex, with wives moving to the place of their husbands’ matriline, and children moving to the place of their mothers’ matriline. This would produce a different set of relationships than those suggested by Keegan. In a well-researched paper, James Petersen examines Indian subsistence agriculture throughout the prehistory of the island, from 4000 b.c. to a.d. 1500. However, it would have been helpful if he had tabulated his data fields (protein, starch, ecological zones, technology, demography) against time periods. Ignacio Olazagasti uses ethnohistorical and archeological research to build a reference list of artifacts arranged according to functional groups. Many are given Taíno names and described in ethnohistoric citations. In an excellent paper, José Oliver explains Taíno cosmology. Chaos is inherent, and continuous effort is needed to produce order. He interprets two myths to show how they incorporate social rules to control disorder. Arnold Highfield’s analysis of surviving Taíno lexicon is welcome and informative. Nevertheless, his knowledge of primary ethnohistoric sources seems inadequate. Henry Petitjean-Roget feels Spanish-Indian misunderstanding was mutual. He reconstructs an Indian view of Spaniards as supernatural beings who had returned from the land of the dead. One correction merits note: Petitjean-Roget’s quotation of Arrom (1970) is the reverse of what Arrom wrote.

Part five discusses the Island Carib or Kalínago. In an excellent paper, Louis Allaire examines their identity, origins, culture, and ethnic diversity. He notes that Island and Mainland Carib regarded themselves as members of the same Kalina nation, and reports evidence for some ethnic diversity at either end of the island arc. Vincent Cooper’s paper on language and gender is undermined by an inadequate knowledge of Kalínago language and ethnohistory. Incidentally, is it not time for Caribbeanists to agree to call this ethnic group the Kalínago, the name they themselves use?

Part six comprises three good papers that discuss present-day cultural and ethnic continuity. Nancie González describes the Garífuna of Central America, descendants of two thousand Black Carib from Saint Vincent whom the British deported in 1797. Their vigorous Indian culture and large population (around 200,000) contrasts dramatically with the small deculturated Carib community of Saint Vincent. Sam Wilson examines the broader aspects of Indian continuity, human-land relationships, genetic descent, and Indianness as a symbol of Caribbean identity. Finally, Garnette Joseph reports the needs of the present-day Carib of Dominica, their feelings of European despoliation, and their strategies for economic and cultural survival.

This useful and much-needed book fills a large gap in the literature. The few shortcomings I have noted only illustrate the uneven state of current knowledge.