A map of the Chiefdoms of Hispaniola
Chiefdoms of Hispaniola

Long before Africans were brought to Haiti’s shores, indigenous groups inhabited the land that would become Hispaniola and later Haiti or as they called it, Ayiti — the land of the mountains. At one point, Haiti was inhabited by three distinct indigenous populations — the Guanahatabey, the Arawaks or Tainos, and the Caribs. The Arawaks/Tainos originated from the Orinoco and Amazon basins, while the Caribs came from South America.

Take a look below for the five kingdoms Haiti’s indigenous populations ruled on the island.


Maguá, which is now located in present-day Dominican Republic, was located on the northeastern part of Hispaniola, bordered to the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean, the south by Maguana and Higüey, and west by Marién and Maguana. The chiefdom was divided into 21 territories and was thought to be  one of the richest chiefdoms of the island.


Marién included the entire northwestern part of Hispaniola, bordered to the north by the Atlantic Ocean, the south by Jaragua, east by  Maguá and Maguana, and west by the Windward Passage — a strait in the Caribbean Sea, between the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola Its capital, El Guarico, was  located near the present-day city of Cap-Haïtien. They were the first to welcome Christopher Columbus and to convert to Christianity.


Maguana was located in the center of the island, bounded on the north by Marién and Maguá, south by the Caribbean, east by Maguá and Higüey, and west by  Marién and Jaragua.

The chiefdom was ruled by  Caonabo, husband of the legendary Anacaona. Its center was established at Corral de los Indios located in the present day town of Juan de Herrera in San Juan province. Caonabo was the first to resist the Spanish occupation.


Xaragua spanned the entire southwest of the island of Hispaniola. It was bordered on the north by Marién, south by the Caribbean Sea, east by Maguana, and west by the Strait of Jamaica.  Its center was located in present-day Léogane.


Higüey spanned the entire southeast of Hispaniola, bordered to the north by Maguá and the Bay Samana, south by the Caribbean, east by the Canal de la Mona, and west by  Maguana. The capital of the cacicazgo was located in present-day Higüey in the Dominican Republic.

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