Historically, the group self-identified as "Arawak", which also became the usual name outsiders called them. In the 19th century, when Western scholars had established that the major population of the Caribbean during European contact (now known as the Taíno) were culturally and linguistically related to the South American Arawak, ethnologist Daniel Garrison Brinton proposed calling the Caribbean people "Island Arawak". Subsequent scholars shortened this convention to simply "Arawak", thereby causing confusion with the mainland people. In the 20th century, scholars such as Irving Rouse began using the older term Taíno for the Caribbean group to distinguish them from mainlanders. The mainland Arawak also call themselves "Lokono" (also spelled "Locono" and "Lokomo"); this has become more common in scholarly literature as well.
While the Spanish were quick to colonize the Caribbean, the Lokono and other mainland peoples were able to resist colonization for a much longer period. The Spanish were unable to subdue them throughout the 16th century. However, with increased encroachment from other European powers in the early 17th century, the Lokono allied with Spain against the neighboring Kalina (Caribs), who themselves allied with the English and Dutch. Subsequently, the Lokono engaged in trading relationships with the Europeans, an arrangement that led to prosperity. However, economic and social changes in the region in the early 19th century, including the end of the plantation economy, affected the Lokono negatively, and their population began to decline. In the 20th century, the Lokomo began to supplement their traditional agricultural economy by selling fish and lumber and through migrant labor, and their population has begun to rise again. There are approximately 10,000 Lokono living in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, and thousands of others with Lokono ancestry.