St. Lucia: Culture & History
The first settlers in St. Lucia were the Arawak Indians who arrived around 200 A.D. through 800 A.D. They were peaceful, farming settlers, whose culture was superseded by the warrior-like Caribs. Traveling from the South American mainland, the Caribs came north up the Orinoco River and stopped at several islands in the area, killing the peaceful Arawaks, and replacing them as they sojourned throughout the territory that eventually took their name.
These two early Amerindian cultures called St. Lucia "Louahalao" and "Hewanorra" - meaning :Island of the Iguanas." Two European explorers have been credited with putting St. Lucia on their maps. Christopher Columbus sailed close by St. Lucia in 1502, and Juan de la Cosa, a lesser-known explorer who had served at one time as Columbus' navigator, may have been to St. Lucia in 1499 and again in 1504.
However, there were no Europeans settlers in St. Lucia until in the 1550's, when notorious buccaneer Francois le Clerc established his base on Pigeon Island. Le Clerc was known by several aliases, including Jambe de Bois, Wooden Leg or Peg-Leg le Clerc. The treasure-laden Spanish galleons passing by were easy prey for Peg-Leg and his band of buccaneers from Pigeon Island.
Around 1600, the Dutch established a fortified base at Vieux Fort, which led to the current French name. In 1605 another colony occurred as a result of a storm in which the ship "Olive Branch" was blown off course while on its way to Guyana and 67 English colonists waded ashore and settled on St. Lucia. They purchased land and huts from the Caribs, who continued their warlike culture. After only one month the surviving 19 English settlers were forced to flee from the Caribs of St. Lucia in a canoe. In 1639, a second group of English colonists under Sir Thomas Warner also failed in their settlement attempt.
The first lasting settlements and towns were all French after the French West India Company "brought" the island approximately 1650's. In 1746 Soufriere was the main town and by 1780 there were 12 settlements and several sugar plantations. However, the British persevered in their efforts to possess St. Lucia, launching a failed invasion in 1778 called the "Battle of Cul de Sac". By 1814, the British had succeeded in taking possession of St. Lucia after a prolonged series of very destructive battles.