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The first Jamaicans


Taino people, the first Jamaicans

 Have you ever wondered about the man and woman on Jamaica’s coat of arms?  They are Taino who share the same ethnicity with the Arawak tribe in Central America.

The Taino are indigenous to the island they named Xaymaca (Jamaica), which means land of wood and water. 

During the 15 century they encountered the Spaniards who took control of the island and its people. 

The Taino people’s fate at the hands of the Spanish and British colonizers was a tragic one. They were virtually wiped out due to slavery, disease, conflict and wide spread execution. 

The deaths of Tainos were so profound that they almost disappeared from the island’s history, were it not for their representation on the national coat of arms.

Thankfully in recent years the Taino’s place in history and their legacy are increasingly recognized.  May 5th is designated as Taino Day by the National Heritage Trust of Jamaica. 

A regional network called the United Federation of Taino People is playing a dynamic role in raising awareness of Taino history and culture in the Caribbean. 

Today Taino artifacts from archeological sites across the island can be seen at Jamaica’s Museum of History and Ethnography in Kingston.  Due to DNA testing for ethnicity and genealogy many Jamaicans are discovering their Taino roots. 

So the Taino people live on in Jamaica.


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Updated June 2020

June 2017