Monday, October 8, 2018


The very first Taíno Day in Jamaica was in 2007.

©2018 Michael Auld

(Jamaica annually celebrates Taíno Day with educational programs, lectures performances and exhibitions.)
Indigenous Yamaye (Jamaican) Taíno  symbols

While the US observes Columbus Day in October, Jamaicans, instead,  celebrate Taíno Day on May 5th. By way of many conferences, the day for honoring the Taíno was in 2007. Conversely, the USA is stuck with Columbus Day to placate its influential Italian émigrés who revere their hero, Saint Christopher. And a deep Eurocentric need to discover people into existence. Where as Jamaicans, once removed from under British yoke in 1962, began to challenge old notions and charted their own course and reality

Yet, a growing number of Americans have arrived at the same conclusion as Jamaicans did in 2004, by wanting to abolish the celebratory day that honors a man whom caused the Amerindian Holocaust. Jamaica, by way of much deliberation, has led the way to honoring the Indigenous people of this hemisphere instead.

How Jamaica Did It.

“In 2004, during the Haitian Bicentennial, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) discussed the possibility of replacing the contested “Encounter Day”, an annual commemorative event on the organisation’s calendar usually held on May 5 to mark the meeting of the cultures, with the equally contentious “Taino Day”. Actually, my preference as a historian was for “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” in order to be more inclusive of the civilizations which existed in the island before the invasion by the Europeans.

“We wanted to introduce Jamaicans to Taíno, their knowledge of the rest of the
Caribbean; their regionalism; their belief system; their economic, social and political systems. The idea then, that our history should always be determined by what happened after the European colonization was unpalatable to some of us.”
--Prof. Verene A. Shepherd, former Board Chair, JNHT—

The first Taíno Day was a historic occasion, with the participation of two members from the Kalinago (“Carib”) community in Dominica (who were then students at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and who were sponsored by that campus). Our guest lecturer was Professor Rita Pemberton from the St. AugustineTrinidad, History Department and there were in attendance hundreds of visitors and students from schools around the island. Those who could not attend were kept abreast of the day’s excitement by IRIE FM.

The second reason was to cement the idea firmly in the consciousness of youngsters that people were living in the Caribbean before Columbus’s invasion of the region.
“Why Taino Day? By Prof. Verene A. Shepherd, historian and former Board Chair, JNHT -- TAINO DAY.pdf


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