The Taino Indians were a subgroup of the Arawak people, a language group that spanned from Florida to Venezuela. The Tainos inhabited a small island called Hispaniola in what is now the modern day Dominican Republic. Being a small group that was rather isolated, the Tainos did not come into contact with many other indigenous groups very often, but at times had to fight off the tribes from the main land. These tribes would come to enslave the Tainos, but they were often pushed back and defeated. Other than that occasional invasion, the Tainos lived in peaceful solidarity with little to no outside influence.
The first European explorer to come into contact with the Taino Indians was Christopher Columbus. Taking advantage of their good nature, the explorers (many of whom were convicts) were able to enslave and kill off many Tainos, which greatly reduced the population. The Tainos, however, would not be forced into enslavement without a fight. They had very few aids in their possession, but fashioned thicker and sharper spears than the ones they used for hunting and dipped them in the cyanide that could be extracted from the yucca plant. They even developed an early form of chemical warfare that was developed to counter the swords and armor of the Spanish explorers. They would filled dried gourds with ashes and ground chili peppers, and would proceed to launch them at their enemies. This would create a cloud of "pepper gas," as described by the Europeans, and would allow the Tainos, who were wearing bandanas over their faces to protect themselves from the gas, to slip in and kill troops without being seen or killed. These tactics of chemical and guerrilla warfare were very advanced and demonstrated the Tainos intellectual prowess. Unfortunately, the Tainos were stamped out by the invaders due to their advanced weaponry and were sold into slavery or simply killed.
TAINO INDIANS WEBSITE
The National Museum of the American Indian, NYC
Join the Taíno Music with Irka each Wednesday at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.