Indigenous People’s Day

Today we celebrate the Native People of the USA and elsewhere in the Americas. Traditionally, the first Monday of October honors the maiden transatlantic voyage of Christopher Columbus. Although numerous people regard the latter as a cause for celebration, increasingly, a growing segment of society recognizes the importance of Honoring and Respecting Native People. In like manner, therefore, today is Indigenous People’s Day.

Cuban Woman

Guanahini, Arawak, Taino

As many already know, Columbus and his group arrived in the Lucayan, or the Bahama Archipelago on October 12, 1492. Amid the hundreds of islands, the disputed landing occurred in San Salvador, Bahamas. Or as the Lucayan named it Guanahini. Lucayan, an Anglicized term, for the Hispanicized appellation Lucayos, derives from the Taïno word Lukku-Cairi, meaning People of the Island. The Lucayans spoke the Taïno tongue, a derivative of the Arawakan languages. And as reported from that era, it is the term used by the Indigenous People to call themselves.

Described by the Spaniards as peaceful, these people descend from their maternal line. Accounts of their homes included multi-household dwelling spaces, similar in fashion to the Taïnos. Of course, the latter was the largest group of people inhabiting Cuba, Haïti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands. Moreover, their societal structure was a complex hierarchical religious, political, as well as social systems. Included, among their numerous skills were farming, navigation, music, poetry, and intricate as well as expressive objects.


Taino, Taíno, Taïno

The ancestors of Taïno, meaning Good or Noble; originated in South America, yet their culture developed in the Caribbean. Additionally, the Lucayan, Arawak, and Taïno, grew a variety of agricultural products. Among them were sweet potatoes, cocoyams, arrowroot, leren, yampee, peanuts, beans, also cucurbits. Similarly, along with those cultivated crops came papayas, pineapples, guava, mammee apple, tamarind fruit, and guinep. My favorite of these, guinep, kenèp in French, guinepe or quenepas in Spanish is frustratingly delicious. In the Northeast of the USA, this seasonal fruit is available from Caribbean grocers beginning in late July.

Unfortunately, the existence of the Lucayans in their homeland ended abruptly merely a few decades after these encounters. Reason being, subsequent contact resulted in a series of unbeatable events. In the first place, forced enslavement, then also deportation. Lastly, and most perilously, the inability to defend against foreign diseases. Therefore, by 1520 the Bahama Archipelago experienced complete depopulation. Furthermore, those islands remained unpopulated for another 130 years.

Cuban Woman Smoking Cigar

Cobao, Cubanascnan

On the 28th day of October, the winds, as well as currents, landed those same strange ships on the island of Cuba. Unlike other places along the Caribbean Archipelago, Cuba has multiple pre-16th-century namesakes. For example, Cobao, meaning Large Island or Place, also another Indigenous derived name, Cubanascnan.

The original inhabitants of Cuba were of three major cultural groups. They are the Ciboneyes, the Guanahatabeyes, and the Taínos. The largest of the Antilles divided itself into 29 chiefdoms. Cacique, the leader, inherited their position from their mother’s noble line. Interestingly, however, most of the Indigenous villages became the site of succeeding colonial cities. Later, and up to the present time, many still retained their original Taíno handles. For example; Havana, Batabanó, Camagüey, Baracoa, and Bayamo, all reveal their Taino Indigenous heritage.

Jamaican Peppers, Habanero, Piment

Ayiti, Kiskeya

Later, during the same voyage, Christopher Columbus landed in Haïti, on December 5, 1492. There, he encountered Indigenous People the Taïno, an Arawakan People. These nations called the island Ayiti meaning “Land of High Mountains,” Bohio indicating “Our Home,” or Kiskeya, Quisqueya means “Mother of all Lands.” Kiskeya is the Dominican Republic part of the Island.

Haïti, a country where cultures from Africa, Europe, and Indigenous People blend seamlessly. Some native foods, plants, as well as words from the Arawak Taïno of Haïti include tabak, hurrcan, casaba, indigo, maize, manioc, batata – a deliciously sweet variety of potato. Many Taïno terms survive today in part, in Kreyòl, the Haïtian language.

Rest In Power

Although the Lucayan, Arawak, Taïno People in large part, cease to exist in the Greater Antilles, their spirit and legacy live on in the hearts, smiles, faces, culture, food, and languages of the People of the Caribbean, North, Central, and South America.

Cuba – Cobao – Taíno – Large Island or Place

Haïti – Ayiti – Taïno – Land of High Mountains Land

Dominican Republic – Kiskeya – Taíno – Mother of all Lands

Puerto Rico – Borikén – Taíno – Land of Valiant and Noble Lord

Jamaica – Xaymaca – Taino – Land of Wood and Water or the Land of Springs

Taíno Arawakan Dance from Puerto Rico

On Saturday, October 6, 2018, a deadly earthquake struck Haïti. Please help if you can.

Indigenous People’s Day – Honor and Respect.

Spread Love, Peace, and Cheer, insha’Allaah.


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