Updated: Jan 31
The People of First Contact
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". Puerto Rico is currently 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 makeup of people from many nations that make up the fabric of daily Puerto Rican life.
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 are open to the public. Let us take a look at how far our Arawak territory encompassed according to archaeologists.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS DISCOVER TAINO SETTLEMENTS IN GEORGIA
Our ancestors were masters of the sea, trading, and warfare. We are related to almost all of the original, Arawak speaking, tribes located in Bimini (The Land of Many Lakes) also known as Florida. A few years ago archaeologists in the State of Georgia were baffled when they discovered rock carvings with strange symbols and images. Theses carvings did not match the iconography of other tribes in the region such as the Cherokee, Muscogee, Hitchiti, Uchee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw.
They decided to go public with their finds in hopes that someone would recognize where these carvings came from. Experts in Caribbean archaeology immediately recognized the carvings as being almost identical to the carvings found in Puerto Rico. Further archaeological digs turned up evidence of Arawak Taino villages throughout Florida, 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. In the Muscogee Creek language, they called us Toasi-The People of the Toa. Toa is what our Taino people used to grind cassava and that is how we were identified by our Muscogee brothers and sisters.