Manataka American Indian Council







Manataka Salutes



Like A Mountain We Stand Alone


The traditional Jatibonicu Taino tribal homeland is composed of a large central mountain territory on the Caribbean Island known today as Puerto Rico. This tribal land base or region, in the past was divided into three smaller villages by the former regional Governor of Puerto Rico Don Diego Colon of the Spanish colonial Government of Spain. In the 1500's the Jatibonicu tribal homeland consisted of three villages known as Yucayeques (villages). These villages are known today as the local municipalities of Orocovis, Morovis, Barranquitas and Aibonito. In Jatibonicu's territorial history, the colonial Government of Spain would come to further geographically divide this region. They would establish or create a fourth (4) village known as Morovis, from one of the barrios or boroughs of the village that was formerly known by the Taino name of "Barros". The village of Barros was officially renamed to Orocovis to honor the memory of Principal Chief Orocobix in the year 1825. These pueblos or villages are located in the Central Mountain Range of what is known today as La Cordillera Central (The Central Mountain Range). Let us now depart on this enjoyable yet historical voyage of our beautiful island region of Borikén (The Land of the Valiant & Noble Lord), that is known today by its Spanish colonial name of Puerto Rico.

The Jatibonicu Taino tribe and it tribal nation officially reorganized in Puerto Rico on November 18, 1970, in Barrio Botijas, Orocovis, Puerto Rico. The rest of Taino revival groups reorganized in the Caribbean and United States on the 18 day of November 1993. This took place on the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) at the "Taino Indian Ceremonial Grounds" of "El Batey Ceremonial de Caguanas",(Ceremonial Ball Court of Caguanas) at Barrio Caguanas, Utuado, Puerto Rico. The Indigenous leaders, elders and many of the island born Tainos of, "The Taino Indian Movement of Boriken (Puerto Rico)" gathered in Utuado, Puerto Rico. Yes the Taino people had finally met in the Caribbean region after 500 years at this sacred Taino ceremony site at Barrio Caguanas, to reaffirm their ethnic Taino Caribbean nationality. The island people met under the leadership of the Elders of "The Taino Council of Boriken". The first Taino Indigenous Congress was held in Boriken (Puerto Rico) at Barrio Caguanas the following year, with the majority of the representatives from the Taino organizations of the Caribbean and United States diaspora.

Meaning of the Tribal Name

Through study of Taino language it was found the word Jatibonico and its end letter "o" was incorrect.  The "O" should be the "U" sound.  In the Taino language cu means sacred or sacred Place.  It is grammatically correct in our language to say Jatibonicu'.  It seems those so-call Spanish Historians of the 1400's have used an incorrect sound in our language by ending or misspelling the word.

Many people have argued over this for many years, and that is why you will find this word spelled in many so-called dictionaries of the Taino language as Jatibonicu, Hatibonico and Jatibonico. The city of Aibonito on the Island of Boriken (or Puerto Rico) furthermore carries a corruption of the word Ja'tibonicu due to the Spanish historians' misspelling of Taino vocal sounds.  The name Ja'-ti-bo-ni-cu' literally means "Sacred High Place of the Great Waters."

Elder Guanikeyu Torres, surviving blood Chief of Jatiboniců Taíno Tribe of the Great People of the Sacred High Waters of Boriken.

(See article "The Historical Roots of a Nation" by Chief Guanikeyu.)





While the sacred ball and ceremonial grounds at Barrio Caguanas, Utuado, Puerto Rico is not as old as the Tribes' Ceremonial Grounds, it far more sacred in the eyes of the Taino people and is their religious center. This image represents a vision of a warrior ghost standing guard over the grounds, linking the past and present struggles of the Taino people.



                        The Guard

Taino Indian Ceremonial Center in Caguana,

Puerto Rico. From the Library of Hummingbird.

Here was carried out the sacred Batey ceremony. Although related to ancient Mayan ball games and the Native North American sacred game now called lacross, it was not so much a game as a judicial contest. In the ceremony of Batey, hundreds of contestants from many tribes would gather in Caguanas to prove their valor. Two teams of twenty-four Guazabaras (warriors) each would enter the contest, one from the East and one from the West. The teams were based on generations, so that if a father was on the East team, he played against his son on the West team. The outcome identified the most valient warriors of the Taino Nation, and the captain of the losing team forfeited his head in sacrifice. Eventually the sacrifice was ended because it was at the cost of too many able warriors.

The Batey ceremonies had an important social function. The outcome of the contest was not decided by the caciques (chiefs), but by the Creator Yaya. Instead of resorting to deadly feud, local squabbles between families were taken to the cacique, who in turn directed the families to resolve their differences by submitting them to Yaya's judgement in the batey ball court. Their ability to resolve feuds in this way is one reason the Tainos were considered such a gentle people.

Although the Caguanas Ceremonial site is seen by many Tainos as their religious center, the Spanish colonists have opened it up to commercial exploitation, and it has become a local and international tourist attraction. Can you belive that they have closed the gates to our traditional sacred ceremonial place of prayer and dare fence our Taino people out? The Tainos have begun a campaign to get back their Sacred Ceremonial Grounds at Barrio Caguanas and are forced to break the laws of the Guamikena (The Covered People) by jumping fences in our own homeland to pursue our constitutional and God-given right of religious freedom!

This is a photograph of Alice Cheverez. She is daughter of Dońa Varin Cheverez. She is a traditional Taino Capa-style varsija ceramics bowl maker from the mountain city of Morrovis, Puerto Rico. In this photo she wears a traditional Taino chiefs headdress made made from macau and green parrot feathers from the Caribbean Yunque rainforest.




Sacred Bird of the Taino

The colibri (hummingbird) is a sacred symbol for the Taino Indians, and its image is displayed in the logo on the main page. It is sacred because the hummingbird is a pollinator and therefore disseminator of new life. It symbolizes the rebirth of the Taino Indigenous Nation in the Caribbean.

The bird is found on many Caribbean islands, but the most sacred species is the Guani, which 500 years ago inhabited all the islands, but today is confined to Cuba. Although the smallest of the Caribbean hummingbirds, only about the size of a penny, it is known by the mountain people as the most noble warrior of the valiant Colibris. In the Caribbean the Colibri is also called Zoom Zoom, Zumbador, Pajaro Mosca and Guacariga. It is greenish blue in color. The ancient Taino stories call him the Guaracacigaba or Guacariga, which means the "Rays of the Sun." They say that the Colibris at one time were flies that were one day converted into little birds by the Sun Father.

A Map of the 17 Taino Tribes and their Principal Chiefs in the Year 1493
"The Jatibonicu Tribal Homeland is the Heart of the Motherland Borikén"



A Taino Story


The Rainbow

The forest dwarfs had caught Yobuenahuaboshka in an ambush and cut off his head.

The head bumped its way back to the land of the Cashinahuas.


Although it had learned to jump and balance gracefully, nobody wanted a head without a body.

"Mother, brothers, countrymen," it said with a sigh, "Why do you reject me? Why are you ashamed of me?"


To stop the complaints and get rid of the head, the mother proposed that it should change itself into something, but the head refused to change into what already existed. The head thought, dreamed, figured. The moon didn't exist. The rainbow didn't exist.


It asked for seven little balls of thread of all colors.


It took aim and threw the balls into the sky one after the other. The balls got hooked up beyond the clouds; the threads gently unraveled toward the earth.


Before going up, the head warned: "Whoever doesn't recognize me will be punished. When you see me up there, say: 'There's the high and handsome Yobuenahuaboshka!'"


Then it plaited the seven hanging threads together and climbed up the rope to the sky.


That night a white gash appeared for the first time among the stars. A girl raised her eyes and asked in astonishment: "What's that?"


Immediately a red parrot swooped upon her, gave a sudden twirl, and pricked her between the legs with his sharp-pointed tail. The girl bled. From that moment, women bleed when the moon says so.


Next morning the cord of seven colors blazed in the sky.


A man pointed his finger at it. "Look, look! How extraordinary!" He said it and fell down.

And that was the first time that someone died.


Our thanks to the Great Jatibonicu Taino Tribe of Borikén




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