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The First Inhabitants of Jamaica

The first historically written inhabitants of the island Jamaica were the Arawak Indians better known as the Tainos. The Tainos came from Asia along with other Mongolians in the Caribbean via the Bering Strait during the infamous ice age of the century.

The first historically written inhabitants of the island Jamaica were the Arawak Indians better known as the Tainos. The Tainos came from Asia along with other Mongolians in the Caribbean via the Bering Strait during the infamous ice age of the century.

These groups of Amerindians were more pacific and less militant as oppose to the Caribs other wise known as Kalinagos who occupied the Lesser Antilles and the more civilized Incas, Aztecs of central and South America.

 

The Tainos of Jamaica were hunters and farmers, depending on the land for their survival. They lived in large groups of families called villages. Due to their dependence on marine organism for food, most Taino villages were found near the coastline of Jamaica.

The Taino worshipped a god that was called a zemi and the society was constructively patriarchal. Men were allowed to have several wives and concubines.  Women were caregivers and did the domestic duties while the males went out and fish and hunt for protein for the family diet.

The Tainos were a very peaceful people and violence was almost absent from their society.  The Tainos loathed a thief more than murder since every produce was shared equally among their families. A thief did not steal from an individual but from the community and the punishment was pierced repeatedly by a sharp wooden pole.

The Tainos enjoyed smoking tobacco and playing games when they were not working. They played a game similar to foot ball and soccer.  They loved dancing and drinking. They had religious festivals where they drank their concoction made from their main starch food the cassava. The drink was called Orinoco and had hallucinogenic and alcoholic properties in it. Many Tainos became drunk after consuming the Orinoco.

 

There are no descendants of the original Tainos residing in Jamaican today since their population was wiped out by the Spanish who inhabited Jamaica after Christopher Columbus discovered it. Even though the Tainos are gone they have left aspects of their habitué in Jamaica such as the cultural hammock that Jamaicans use as a relaxing support. The famous Jamaican Bammy Cakes are made from Cassava using the original methods that the Tainos used back then for making their cassava cakes.

 Fish and marine life such as crabs, lobsters and shrimps are important parts of the Jamaican diet. There are Jamaicans that live in thatch roof homes as the Tainos did back then. There are many thatch house built by Rastafarians and can be found on tourist attraction sceneries and establishments in Jamaica as a reminder of the Tainos that lived in Jamaica.

The outameni experience in Trelawney, Jamaica is dedicated to demonstrating and exhibiting the lifestyle of the Tainos.  Other historical sites and tourist attractions have references and courses on the Tainos and their contribution to the Jamaican Heritage.

There are some historians that are making claims that Ciboneys inhabited the island before the Tainos but there are few evidences and literature to support that claim.

 

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  1. alensmith

    On January 13, 2010 at 2:57 am


    nice article thanks

  2. bluray

    On January 13, 2010 at 5:41 am


    Very nicely written..

  3. thuanynguyen

    On January 14, 2010 at 2:01 am


    Great write! enjoyed it.

  4. tainodescendant

    On August 28, 2010 at 5:05 pm


    Good article but contains one fundamental mistake – many descendants of the Tainos actually still DO reside in Jamaica today.

    Many Tainos had children with both black and white Jamaicans. I am proud to say that my family are just one example. Our Taino physical characteristics are unmistakable. Many Jamaicans with Taino blood are unaware of their ancestory.

    A lot of attention has (rightly) been given to the African roots of many Jamaicans and it is time some attention was given to the Taino people and culture. We should celebrate all our roots.

  5. tainodescendant

    On August 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm


    Good article but contains one fundamental mistake – many descendants of the Tainos actually still DO reside in Jamaica today.

    Many Tainos had children with both black and white Jamaicans. I am proud to say that my family are just one example. Our Taino physical characteristics are unmistakable.

    Many Jamaicans with Taino blood are unaware of their ancestory.

    A lot of attention has (rightly) been given to the African roots of many Jamaicans and it is time some attention was given to the Taino people and culture. We should celebrate all our roots.

  6. tainodescendant

    On August 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm


    Good article but contains one fundamental mistake – many descendants of the Tainos actually still DO reside in Jamaica today. We may not be 100% Taino, but we are descendants nonetheless.

    Many Tainos had children with both black and white Jamaicans. I am proud to say that my family are just one example. Our Taino physical characteristics are unmistakable.

    Many Jamaicans with Taino blood are unaware of their ancestory.

    A lot of attention has (rightly) been given to the African roots of many Jamaicans and it is time some attention was given to the Taino people and culture. We should celebrate all our roots.

  7. lol

    On February 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm


    Add one more fundamental mistake: The population that initially populated the Americas were not Mongolian as Mongolian did not exist as a cultural group then. It was an early paleo population that diverged like every other group. So, no, this doesn’t make American Indians offshoots of Asians any more than Asians are offshoots of Africans. Tell an Asian he’s African and see what response you’ll get.

  8. lol

    On December 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm


    i believe that taino descendant still are in the the island becuz we found the bodies mixed with black and whites so they are still around time to notice this

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