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The first people to reach Barbados are believed to have been farmers and fishermen who arrived by canoe from South America, in approximately 350 AD. There are also known to have been at least two other subsequent waves of immigration from South America prior to the arrival of Europeans: Arawak people from at approximately 800 AD, and Caribs at around 1200 AD.
The first Europeans to reach the island were the Portuguese, who gave Barbados its name, which means "island of the bearded ones" - although it is not known whether "bearded" referred to island's inhabitants or some aspect of the natural landscape. The Portuguese soon conquered the islands, enslaved the indigenous people, and deported them to work on plantations in other Portuguese colonies.
The first English landing in Barbados took place in 1620, when Captain Cataline made a brief stop to collect water. A permanent landing followed in 1625, led by Captain Henry Powell of the ship Olive Blossom, in the area that is today Holetown. When the English arrived in Barbados, there were no indigenous inhabitants left on the islands, and little trace of them either. One of the few signs that the islands hand been inhabited before was a wooden bridge (which became known as "Indian Bridge"), at the site of what has subsequently become Bridgetown.
For the nearly 350 years, Barbados remained a British colony, finally gaining its independence on November 30th 1966. Barbados remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, although there are proposals to make the country into a republic. Barbados is also a founding member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
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