Amerindians have existed in Trinidad for as long as 6,000 years before the arrival of Columbus, and numbered at least 40,000 at the time of the Spanish settlement in 1592
The earliest history of Chaguaramas, substantiated by names such as Macqueripe and chacachacare is of the saladoid Amerindians occupation between 100 – 400 a.d. Chaguaramas itself is an Amerindian word describing the once palm- fringed shoreline.
Before European explorers landed on the Caribbean islands, peaceful tribes of Amerindians called the Arawaks inhabited the entire Caribbean archipelago. Generous and open where these people that they embraced the Spaniards and bestowed every comfort for the Spanish explorers. Ironically since the arrival of the Spanish these people were mistreated and many died from diseases, within a few decades it was belief that there were no Arawaks left.
There was another another Amerindian tribe, a fierce tribe known as Caribs. This tribe pounced on the Arawaks and were known to be cannibals (eaters of human flesh). The Caribs had devoured their way up the Caribbean islands.
All of Trinidad was populated by several tribes, Trinidad being a transit point in the Caribbean network of Amerindian trade and exchange, they used a bartering system between the tribes Trinidad was very important in Amerindian trade, as it was a major trade hub between the Caribbean islands and the South American continent. .
The Amerindian life of trade still influences us to date, as many existing roadways used today where based on old Amerindian footpaths.
Amerindian tribes were referred to by various names: Yaio, Nepuyo, Chaima, Warao, Kalipuna, Carinepogoto, Garini, Aruaca.
Amerindian words and place names survive into the present: the Caroni and Oropouche rivers; the Tamana and Aripo mountains; places such as Arima, Paria, Arouca, Caura, Tunapuna, Tacarigua, Couva, Mucurapo, Chaguanas, Carapichaima, Guaico, Mayaro, Guayaguayare, Chaguaramas (Chacachacare, Macqueripe); flora such as cassava, maize, cacao, tobacco, and fauna such as manicou and agouti.
Amerindians developed the canoe, the bow and arrow, and the ajoupa.
Amerindian cuisine is enjoyed by many Trinidadians: Cassava bread and Farine; Warap; barbecued wild game; corn pastelles; coffee; cocoa; chardon beni.
Trinidad was very important in Amerindian Trade, as it was an integral part of the Amerindian society and served as a major trade hub between the other Caribbean islands and the south American continent. It was the first point of trade with the larger continent and the Venezuelan Amerindian Tribe known as the Waraoo. They had a bartering system between the Tribes, Trading resources with the other tribes throughout the Caribbean islands and the southern continent.
The Amerindians in Trinidad and Chaguaramas were said to be scantly dressed, due to the heat of the tropical climate. They usually went about their lives either half naked or fully naked, except for special occasions, where they wore decorative loin cloths and cloaks. The women wore short skirts and strands of shell necklaces. They also move around barefoot as they didn't fashioned any type of footwear. Arawaks generally had fairly long hair and sometimes some women would have feathers stuck into them. The Caribs didn't wear much clothing either, the men wore fitted breech cloths.
The Amerindians also gave Trinidad and Tobago its first major rebellion in the name of freedom: the Arena uprising of 1699, led by Chief Hyarima.
In 1783 Trinidad's Amerindians were displaced from their lands to make way for the influx of French planters and their African slaves.
In 1759 the Mission of Arima was formed, consolidated and enlarged in 1785, and the Amerindians were to have had control of 2,000 acres of land.
A number of tribes were pressed into Arima, mostly Nepuyo, and generically referred to as either "Caribe" or "Indio" -- Arima was the last Mission Town.
Parang, utilizing both Spanish and Amerindian musical instruments, emerged from the evangelization of the Amerindians.
The Caribs in Arima , converted to Catholicism, were led by a Titular Queen.
The histories of major towns such as Arima and Siparia, two large former Amerindian Mission Towns, have given us Trinidad's two oldest festivals: The Santa Rosa Festival of Arima, and La Divina Pastora in Siparia.
The Santa Rosa Carib Community is the last remaining organized group of people identifying with an Amerindian identity and way of life.