taino tradition haiti
Celebrants hold maracas, an instrument widely used by Indigenous peoples, during a rara music festival in 2018. Photo by Patrice Douge

In the United States, the influence of Indigenous peoples live on in a number of traditions, the most well-known being Thanksgiving. The 400-year-old tradition honors the Indigenous Wampanoag’s feast with the English pilgrims. It is also an opportunity to look at the impact of Indigenous people elsewhere, like the Taino that inhabited present-day Haiti.

The Taino, native inhabitants of the Caribbean have impacted Haiti’s religion, music, language and celebrations, among other cultural elements, experts and linguists say. 

Although the Taino population was largely decimated by the mid-1500s, according to historians, their influence can be seen in the Vodou religion and in Haitian Creole vocabulary, the most notable example being Ayiti, or “land of mountains,” the word from which the name of the country Haiti is derived. 

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Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.