[Stolen from a document MB is writing]
The indigenous tribes of the Caribbean were nearly all fully nude when discovered by Christopher Columbus.1
The voyage was motivated primarily by avarice for gold and land. Missionary zeal played a part.but the heathen they intended to convert had much more Christian values than the Spaniards. Columbus kidnapped a number of Caribs and by his own admission when he was nice to the indigenous people it was because he thought it would help him find the gold he was after. He judged the Caribs "a very poor people in all respects. They go about naked as the day they were born ..." although in the same journal entry he writes " They are ... of good stature, dignified and well formed ... and intelligent." Later he comments on their generosity, honesty and peaceful ways. These observations are repeated many times in the journal but obviously the lack of trousers was what mattered.
Columbus visited several of the smaller islands in the Caribbean and many places along the coastlines of Cuba and Espanola and he makes numerous comments about what the Caribs were wearing, or more commonly, not wearing. He frequently uses the phrase "naked as the day they were born" and on the few occasions when he does see any clothing he takes the trouble to describe how minimalist it is. Thus when Columbus writes 'naked' he really does mean completely devoid of clothing.
Many of the Caribs wore paint:
Some paint themselves with black, some with the colour of the Canary islanders, neither black nor white, others with white, others with red, others with whatever they can find. Some have only their face painted, others their whole body, others just their eyes or nose.
Later he writes:
They all paint themselves, it is true; some black, some other colours, but mostly red. I have been told that they do it to protect themselves from the sun.
Clearly the paint was not substitute clothing.
The fully nude culture of some of the Carib tribes living in the Orinoco Delta of Venezuela have survived into modern times although occasional scraps of western clothing are worn.2
1 "The Voyage of Christopher Columbus, Columbus Own Journal of Discovery, Newly Restored and Translated" John Cummins, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1992.
2 "Discovering the Amazon" Readers Digest, 1994. It has a useful chapter of background information and then a condensed version of the book "Mad White Giant" Benedict Allen - Macmillan 1985, Benedict's account of his walk from the mouth of the Orinoco to the mouth of the Amazon.