guadeloupe, arawak, karib First Guadeloupe inhabitants.

First inhabitants of the American continent came from Asia, via the Bering strait which could be crossed by foot especially 12000 years ago. The whole continent was populated within 100 years. Before the arrival of the European sailors the native Indians, Arawak and Karib, seem to range within 40 million.

West indies were populated around 4000 BC by tribes coming from south America. The Karib, toughs and warriors, quickly dominated the Arawak but did not last long after the Spanish landings.

They named the place “KARUKERA”, marvelous waters island. These native people do not subsist in the French West Indies.

On November 4th 1493 Christopher Columbus landed in Sainte Marie and christened the place “Guadalupe” in honor to the Spanish monastery “Santa Maria de Guadalupe”. Many fights occurred  between the Karibs and the Spaniards who finally left in 1604.

guadeloupe, colombus, sainte marie, landing The landing of Christoph Colombus at Sainte Marie. Painting of G. Gaudez, ECOMUSEE, Sainte Rose

French navigators arrived in 1635. Well aware of the economic potential of the sugar cane, the French looked for specialists but lacked labor force. Native Indians quickly proved to be unfit for hard work so the Catholic bishop gave his approval to put African black people to work.

The settlers bought numerous men and women, coming from inland Africa tribes, sold by other black African from coastal tribes as no European caravan never ventured deep in Africa in these times.

Slaves were not men, only furniture, which was perfect for the conscience of the Catholic church.

These sad years saw millions of African natives sold and deported towards these islands which flourished by the way, the settlers going wealthy through inhumane living conditions for the slaves, most of them dying before 30.

guadeloupe, slave, african, ecomuseum Scene showing African slaves. Reconstitution ECOMUSEE Sainte Rose
guadeloupe, scholcher, deputy, slave Victor SCHOELCHER. Source www.senat.fr

During the following decades, Guadeloupe was bitterly disputed between France and Britain. Slavery was abolished in 1794 thanks to the Republic and a lot of settlers elected to take shelter in Martinique, still British at this time.

Bonaparte, influenced by his wife Joséphine, decided to reestablish slavery in 1802.

It was definitely abolished in 1848, thanks to the Alsatian deputy Victor Schœlcher.

During some decades remained a coercive labor regime which applied to new migrants like Indians who suffered heavy losses.

guadeloupe, indians, trade Indians from Guadeloupe. Reproducted scene, ECOMUSEE Sainte Rose

The population has been a real melting pot, leading to an important mixing, without suppressing the dominant castes. the hegemony of some, especially in the economic field,  being very unbearable and source of conflicts.


Guadeloupe has been a French department since 1946.