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Who are the Arawak Taino Indians?

Updated: Apr 12

Arawak Taino Kacike Areito (July 26, 2014)

This was a beautiful day for family, friends and the extended Arawak Taino community. We set up a booth to share and educate our Arawak Taino people from the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) and other islands about their indigenous history. The day was filled with music, laughter, and joy. The smells of the indigenous food of the islands like pasteles and tostones lingered in the air while Jibaro music from the mountains permeated the air.

There were booths with artisans selling handmade items like guiros, Jibaro straw hats, and almost anything that a Puerto Rican flag can be printed onto. In the afternoon we prepared for the public ceremony for the making of a Kacike. Kacike in the First Nations Taino language means Chief. On this day I was appointed "Kacike" and Laralyn a "Tekina" (Chief and Ambassador) by the Principal Chief and Head Clan Mother.

Kacike (Chief) is an appointed position by the Clan Mothers and Principal Chief of our tribal nation and the ceremony is done in public for the community to witness and approve as well. Once appointed the title remains for life as well as the duties and responsibilities that go with it. in accordance with the traditional ways of our people, a Kacike is a servant of the people.  

Duties include taking care of veterans and their families within in our communities. Making sure that our warriors are not in need and that they know what services are available to them, as well as assisting, in going over paperwork for benefits or other veteran services. We also represent one of many voices of the Taino people who are diverse in every spectrum of beliefs and political associations. We are a unique people that have survived to this day and we are no longer hiding who we are and who our ancestors were.

We try to walk a sacred a sacred path according to Yah Yah's guidance in our lives. No matter the path; we are all Guake-teke in this journey. We bless the elders who have worked hard and endured before us, blessing the next generation with their wisdom, dedication, and love.

Who are The People of First Contact?

Taino Elder Sending Out A Prayer Over The Sea - Smithsonian Article Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and is one of many islands where Arawak "Taino" Native American Indians have survived. It is important to understand that Puerto Rican is not a race, it is a nationality. Our island has a diverse ethnic make up of people from China, Jews, Russians, Spanish, African, Native, French and many others who make up the fabric of daily Puerto Rican life. The Taino are the Tribe of First Contact and the ones who "discovered" Columbus wandering lost in the ocean in 1492.

We are also the first to be called "Indian" Many of our ancestors took refuge from the Spanish in the deep mountain rain forests of our homeland of Boriken and from there have flourished. The town nestled highest in our rain forest mountains is called Hayuya - officially named "The Indigenous Capital of Puerto Rico" and is a place that you don't want to miss when you visit our homeland. Every year there is a gathering of Taino natives celebrating our living culture, songs, and dances that is open to the public.

We Are Still Here, The Taino Still Live!


Recent archaeological evidence has uncovered Arawak Taino villages as far north as Sweetwater near present-day Atlanta, Ga and also Ocmulgee Mound Complex in Macon, Ga. Ocmulgee was the largest trade center in the southeast .  over 100 years after its accidental discovery during the Civil War Ocmulgee is now under the watchful eye of the Muskogee Creek Nation overseeing the preservation of the still intact 40ft tall temple mound, funeral, and ceremonial mounds, trading post, and a few other ancient structures. Studies estimate that approximately 40,000 indigenous people were living and trading with other tribes who would come from the four directions to gather news, trade, shop, discuss politics, business, and the latest news. 

Nestled within this large ceremonial living complex was a small community of Taino identified by the archaeological remains of the Bohio, the thatched roof dwellings that the Arawak Taino were known for constructing. Our ancestors were masters of the sea, trading and warfare. We are related to all the original, Arawak speaking, tribes located in Bimini (The Land of Many Lakes) also known as Florida. The Smithsonian did an incredible article on the Taino and our legacy that lives on to this day. 

Genocide By Paper Cuts

Each year brings new discoveries to the studious descendants of the Taino. There are many scholars of our history, language and cultural traditions focusing on preserving aspects of our First Nations heritage but the road has been long and bumpy in the efforts to be heard as indigenous people. Fighting decades of education that has written our tribe out of existence the evidence continues to be found that our people were not decimated by the Spaniards.  United States Government records and documents from the 19th through 20th century clearly reveal that the Taino still existed into modern day times.

Chief Joseph RiverWind's great-uncle's WWII Draft Card - Race: INDIO A deep wound in the collective history of Native America is the forced assimilation boarding schools. These schools were designed to completely strip away the culture, traditions, and language of indigenous children that were torn from their families and forced into these institutions where many died. Children were rounded up from every tribe which included Taino Indian children. That's right! There were Puerto Rican Taino children in the infamous Carlisle Indian School. The Carlisle Indian School was an educational institution created by General Richard Henry Pratt and backed by the U.S. government with a brutal history of abuse, murder and cultural genocide against First Nations children. 

The sign above the door the children would walk through blatantly proclaiming "Kill the Indian, Save the Man." In operation from 1879 to 1912, the school was a social experiment and its main purpose was to assimilate and acculturate young Native Americans away from their home reservations. The following images are enrollment cards for the children and you will notice under the category of Degree of Indian Blood it says FULL. 

Most of the 10,000 students who attended Carlisle could not read or write in English and were forbidden to speak their own languages which, if caught, they would suffer severe consequences. After the Spanish American War in 1898 and the annexation of Puerto Rico as a U.S. colony, similar tactics were used for the Puerto Ricans.

A group of about 60 young indigenous Puerto Rican Indians were sent to Carlisle Indian School and suffered alongside children from many First Nations tribes throughout the country.


According to an article in Indian Country Today, a pivotal time of cultural acceleration took place when the U.S. Nations Science Foundation funded a genetic study of the people of Puerto Rico in 2010. While many results showed the DNA of African, Spaniard, and Indigenous there were some shocking results. Almost all Puerto Ricans showed traces of Native American DNA but the shocking results were that the closer you got to the isolated mountain region of the island the higher the blood quantum results.

Cheverez family Elder making traditional Taino pottery

Many Taino cultural organizations have been operating for decades educating and preserving the culture and traditions of our Arawak Taino ancestors. As recognized First Nations people by leaders, councils and members of federally and state recognized tribes many projects have been undertaken with the collaborative efforts of our Taino people and leaders of other tribal nations.

As Arawak Taino, we now have representation at the United Nations thanks to the efforts of the United Confederation of Taino People. Efforts are underway for being recognized by the federal government and many steps have been made towards that goal. Our Arawak language is being completely restored as relationships have been re-established with our Arawak relatives in South America in efforts to fill in the gaps of our culture, language and traditions that we were unable to retain over the centuries or augmenting what our grandparents and their grandparents were able to preserve. We are living in exciting times for our indigenous people of Puerto Rico. Our Arawak Taino people have survived over 500 years and continue to thrive. Seneco kakona guakia taino yahabo! 

"Our Arawak Taino ancestors were the first ones to be called "Indian" and we are still here Guakia Taino Yahabo."- Chief Joseph " AmaHura" RiverWind

Revitalizing the Taino Language

Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) revitalization program for Native American languages at the University of Oregon. Dr. Richard Morrow Porrata gives a narrative on the Taino language and sacramental records at the San German de Auxerre Church in Puerto Rico, which holds records identifying parishioners from the 1700's as Taino.

Arawak Taino Resources


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Thank you for the information... My mother passed away last year in July. From a child she was always telling me that i was Taino... Until I found out the we were Hebrews. The real Israelite's That the Puerto Ricans lead the 10 Tribes here in America. Oh by the way America is the Real Isreal, and Cusco Peru is the City Of David, The New Jerusalem. The Navel of the World... Thanks for all the information on the Arawak Indians

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