Tainos: And their impact on the Caribbean Outline Thesis Statement: The Taino Indians, a unique group in Hispaniola, made many contributions to the Caribbean that are still shared and practiced in modern-day society. Introduction I. Background A. Definition of Taino B. Culture / Lifestyle II. History A. Housing / dress B. Food / agriculture C. Transportation III. Beliefs A. Religion B. Myth IV. Events A. November 18, 1493 B. November 19, 1493 Conclusion On December 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed at St. Nicholas, in Haiti (Hispaniola).
Consequently, this began a totally new phase of life on the island of Hispaniola. There was a flourishing civilization of Native Americans living there. The primary group was the Arawak/Taino Indians. Arawak is the general group to which the Taino Indians belong, and describes the common language with this group of Native Americans shared. They ranged from Venezuela through the Caribbean and Central America all the way to Florida; however, the particular group of Arawak-speaking people who lived on the island of Hispaniola was the Taino Indians.
For about a thousand years the peaceful people known as Taino had thrived in modern-day Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and many other islands in the Lesser and Greater Antilles. However, less than 30 years after Columbus’ journey, Spanish weaponry, force labor, and European diseases would wreck the Tainos. The Tainos left no remains or signs of their existence and all that remained of their culture were a handful of words in Modern English, such as barbecue, canoe, hammock, and hurricane.
However, thanks largely to two remarkable digs undertaken over the past two years, archaeologists are increasingly enriching their knowledge of the complex society of the Taino and their sophistication of their artifacts (Corbett 1). This knowledge has been recorded in details and passed on for people to follow ribbean Sea at the time when Christopher Columbus’ arrived to the New World. Tainos: The Peopling of the Caribbean The word Taino means “men of the good,” and for the most part Tainos were good. The name Taino is currently used to describe all of the Indians of the Caribbean islands at the time of the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
Though all of the Indians who lived in these islands at the time may have been similar in appearance and shared a similar language, they did not all share the same cultures. The Tainos were divided into major cultures, the Taino and the Caribs. They were also broken down into different regions; the Western Taino, who inhabited mid to near eastern Cuba and Jamaica; the Classic Taino, who inhabited eastern Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico; and Eastern Taino, who inhabited the northern Lesser Antilles starting from the Virgin Islands extending South. (Barreiro 69).
Taino culture was dominant throughout the Caribbean, a sea and island world that in turn cradle of Taino civilization. The Tainos had an advanced culture that combined agriculture, hunting, and gathering. The Tainos lived in permanent villages consisting of a number of straw houses arranged around an open plaza. In agriculture, seafaring, cosmology, Ciboney and Guanahatabey (western Cuba), Ciguayo (Bohio) and even Carib (Lesser Antilles) all followed the material and much of the psycho-spiritual framework of the Taino. The original Caribbean spoke Arawak.
The people of the Arawak language family still comprise one of the more widespread American indigenous cultures, with relatively large kinship nations in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America. Throughout the Caribbean usually in remote mountain ranges and costal promontories, remnant groups and communities of Taino-Arawak have been adopted by the mestizo populations of the Caribbean and are interwoven into the Euro-African fabric of the islands’ folk universe. The Taino society was very peaceful. Happiness, paternal society, and friendliness and highly organized hierarchical characterized it.
Each society was a small kingdom and the leader was called cacique. At the time of Columbus, there were five different kingdoms on the island of Hispaniola. The Indians practiced polygamy. Most men had two or three wives, but the caciques had has many as thirty. It was a great honor for a woman to be married to a cacique. She not only enjoyed a materially superior lifestyle, but also her children were held in high esteem. The Taino world, for the most part, had some of the appearance that the modern imaginations ascribe to the South Pacific Islands. The Taino used two primary architectural styles for their homes.
The general population lived in circular buildings with the poles providing the primary support and these were covered with the woven straw and palm leaves. They were somewhat like the North American teepees except, they needed to reflect the warmth of the climate and simply used straw and palm leaves rather than being covered with the skins (Barreiro 8). The caciques were singled out for unique housing. Their house was rectangular and featured a small porch. Despite the differences in shape, and the considerably larger buildings, the same material was used.
When the Africans came in the beginning in 1507, they introduced mud and wattle as primary building materials. In addition to the houses, the typical Taino village contained a flat court in the village that was used for ball games and various festivals. Stone making was especially developed among the Tainos, but they seem not to have it in building houses. It was primarily used for tools and religious rituals. The men were generally naked, but women sometimes wore short skirts. Men and women alike adorned their bodies with paint, shells, and other decorations.
The Taino diet, like ours, centered around meat or fish as the primary source, though there were never many wild animals to hunt on Hispaniola. They also ate snakes, various rodents, bats, worms, birds, and any living thing they could find with the exceptions of humans. They were also able to hunt ducks and turtles in the lake or sea. The coastal natives relied on fishing, and tend to eat their fish either raw or only partially cooked. Since they grew cotton on the island, the natives had fishing nets made of cotton. They feasted more on agriculture and de-emphasized meat or fish in their diet.
The Tainos had a developed system of agriculture, which they raised their crops in a conuco. This was a large mound that was devised especially for farming. They would pack the conuco with leaves to protect it from soil erosion and placed a large variety to assure that something would grow, no matter the weather conditions. One of the Taino’s primary crops was cassava. Cassava is still very popular in the Caribbean, and the method the Taino used to make it is still practiced. The Taino had no large animals like horses, oxen or mules to ride or use for transportation.
However, just like modern time, river and sea transportation was very popular and it was the only means of transportation. They used boats to travel on the sea, their canoes were used for the same purpose. They could take 70-80 people in a single canoe for long travels on the sea and occasionally fished during their voyage at sea. The Taino were polytheists and their gods were called zemi. The zemi controlled the functions of the universe, very much like the Greek gods did, or later Haitian Voodoo. However, they did not seem to have had particular personalities like the Greek and Haitian’s gods/spirits do.
There were three primary religious practices: (1) Religious worship and obeisance to the gods and themselves. (2) Dancing in the village court during special festivals of thanksgiving or petition. (3) Medicine men, or priests, consulting the zemi for advice and healing. This was done in public ceremonies with songs and dance. During thanksgiving, many rituals were performed. The priests would present the carved figures of the zemi, as the cacique sat on a wooden stool, place of honor. People induced vomiting with swallowing stick, which was considered a symbolic spiritual purging (Rouse 2).
Women served bread (a communion rite), first to the zemi, then to cacique followed by the other people. The sacred bread was a powerful protector. This ritual is similar to the Christian practice of Eucharist. The zemi, as well as dead services are ways of acknowledging their powers at the same time seeking their aid. Due to these powers, the many Taino stories are accounted by the origins of some experienced phenomenon and or magic. Many myths were told and believed by numerous people. Several myths dealt with caves and how they were afraid to come out when the sun was up because they would turn into stone pillars (Rouse 3).
These strange beliefs, though rare, still exist in certain parts of the Caribbean. The two main Taino National days observed today by Taino Native Americans Indians of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean are as follows: (1) On “November 18th, the day of remembrance called “Guaroco” the last known day of TAINO NATIONAL FREEDOM of 1493 is observed. This day was officially marked on November 18,1993 by the Council of Arocoels (Grandfathers of Elders) as a day of honoring the Taino ancestors in Boriken by the Caribbean Island Taino (Johnson 4). 2) On “November 19th, this day is called Guaaji, “a day of protest to the inasion and mass genocide” upon the “sovereign Taino indigenous people of the Caribbean. This day further marks the beginning of Taino slavery that was supported by the Catholics. (Johnson 5). To conclude, the Taino Indians of the island of Hispaniola, now Dominican Republic and Haiti are believed to have been the first tribe of the New World to encounter the famous explorer Christopher Columbus. The Taino world of 1492 was a thriving place.
The Taino islands supported large populations that had existed in an environment of Spanish-Taino conflict. Like All-American indigenous peoples, the Taino had an involved economic life. They could trade throughout the Caribbean and had systems of governance and beliefs that maintained harmony between humans and natural environments. In the 500 years after the start of the Spanish colonization, other Europeans such as the Irish, French, Dutch and German, also melted into the rich cauldron of ethnicity that compromises today’s Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Cubans, as well as other people from the Bahaman Islands.
It is good to see that several cultural traits have been passed on from generation to generation. Maintaining our culture is of much importance as it plays a major role in our present-day society. As this generation makes way for the future generation, let us continue to share with one another what we have learned and experienced with other cultures alike, above and beyond. Work Cited Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (1986). Tainos (Vol. 11). International Copyright Union. Lemonick, Michael (1998, October). Before Columbus.
Time Magazine, 76-77. Bercht, Fatima. (1997). Taino Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the Caribbean. New York: El Museo del Bario: Monacelli Press, 1997. Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People who Greeted Columbus. New Haven: Yale University Press. Corbett, Bob. (1994). Internet. Pre-Columbian Hispaniola HC5: Pre-Columbian Hispaniola – Arawak/Taino Native Americans. Barreiro, Jose. (1990). A Note on Tainos; Whither Progress. Internet. Tainos, 66-77. Johnson, Neil. (1995). Taino Indians. New York: Warner.