Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Garifuna, also called Black Caribs, are the descendents of a mixed population of runaway slaves and Carib Indians, who inhabited the island of St. Vincent until their expulsion by the British in 1797, when their story begins. They found refuge on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, Honduras and Belize, where they live today. Their culture has been influenced by encounters with Miskito Indians, and British and Spanish settlers. Since the Second World War a large number of men have emigrated abroad seeking work to supplement the income of their matrifocal households at home.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle America and the Caribbean --Central America







Trinidad and Tobago

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are 22 documents in the Garifuna file. Fieldwork covers a time span of almost 50 years from 1947 to 1993. Nine of the documents are doctoral dissertations. The basic ethnographies are Taylor (1951, no. 7), Coelho (1955, no. 8), and Munroe (1964, no. 21). Historical perspectives of Garifuna cultural formation are provided by Gonzalez (1988, no. 1) and Gullick (1976, no. 3). Four articles examine ethnic relations with respect to language use (Bonner 2001, no. 18) and mating/marital patterns (McCommon 1982, no. 14; Kerns 1984, no. 23; Cominsky 1984, no. 24). Wright (1986, no. 17) examines language shift in relation to new class formation and ethnic identity. Kerns examines gender roles (Kerns 1983, no. 4), women's role in social organization (Kerns 1977, no. 13) and the control of young women's sexual behavior by older women (Kerns 1985, no. 20). The Garifuna practice of couvade has been a focus of anthropological inquiry, beginning with Munroe (1964, no. 21). Chernela (1991, no. 19) reinterprets the meani ng of the couvade as practiced by the Garifuna. Coe and Anderson (1996, no.25) survey the region's ethnobotany. Palacio (1982, no. 12) examines the Garifuna food exchange system and more specifically looks at the relationships between food sharing and fosterage (Palacio 1991, no. 22), and age and residence patterns (Palacio 1987, no. 15). Other major topics covered in the file are ethnomedicine (Staiano 1986, no. 5; Bianchi 1988, no. 16), folk songs (Hadel 1972, no. 9), and spirit possession (Foster 1986, no. 6).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article, "Garifuna," by Nancie L. González, in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 8, Middle America and Caribbean, 1995. James W. Dow and Robert Van Kemper, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. Ian Skoggard wrote the synopsis in November, 2003. Indexing notes were written by John Beierle and Ian Skoggard.

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

AFURUGA-spirit double-774

AGRIAHOUNI-kin obligation-577

AHARI-souls of recent dead-775

AMUIDAHANI-ritual of bathing spirits of the dead-769

ANIGI-animal spirit, vital force-774

AUNAGULI (REZADORAS)-women diviners-791 and 794



BURUHU-individuals who can change into animals or plants-754 and 789

BUWIYE (BUYE)-shaman--756

CHATOYER, Chief-643

Child loaning-426 and 855

DUGU (CHUGU)-ceremonies associated with curing and feasts for the dead-755, 769, and 196

ELEMUSURUNI-mass for the deceased-796

GUBIDA-ancestral spirits--775

HIURUHA-ancient souls, guardian spirits of shamans-775

IAVA-shadow, reflection, image-774


KOLUBI-natural spirits-776

NIDUHENU-widest circle of kin, kindred-602



OBEAH-sorcery, magic-754 and 789

PANTU-wandering soul, ghost-775

RUGUMA-manioc/cassava press-252

SURUSIE (CURANDERO)-herbalist-759


Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard


John Beierle

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