American Indians of the Greater Antilles and South America. The Taino, an Arawak subgroup, were the first native peoples encountered by Christopher Columbus on Hispaniola. The island Arawak were wiped out by disease, but some mainland South American Arawak, who inhabited northern and western areas of the Amazon River basin, survived conquest. At the turn of the 21st century, the Arawak lived mainly in Guyana, where they represented about one-third of the Indian population. Smaller numbers live in Suriname, French Guiana, and Venezuela.