Last modified: 2007-06-02 by dov gutterman
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image by Antonio Martins (based on an original by Jorge Ramos), 3 August 2004
Chief Torres and I just finished editing the write-up for the new Taino tribe flag. The image is on the following website, <www.taino-tribe.org>. Here is the fascinating story behind the flag:
Taino Tribal Nation of Borikén (Puerto Rico) by Cacike Pedro Guanikeyu Torres, Principal Chief (as told to Peter Orenski)
The Jatibonicu Taino of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico is "Borikén" in the Taino language means "Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord", that refers also to the Great Spirit or Creator) are descendants of the original 24 tribal bands that settled in Puerto Rico. Their ancestors are the Central American Indians and the Arawak Indians of South America, who had migrated north in the early centuries of the second millennium and colonized the islands of the Caribbean where Tainos can be found today in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo/Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida (some 15 bands are in Florida) (see: Jatibonicu Taino of New Jersey). Jatibonicu means "The Great People of the Sacred High Waters" (waterfalls), whereas "Taino" is a name first used by the Spanish invaders. It derives from the answer tribesmen gave the Spanish when the latter asked the Jatibonicu people, "Who are you?" The Natives simply answered "Taino" meaning "Good and Noble People" in order to distinguish themselves from some of the more warlike southeastern tribes, such as the feared Caribs or Waib.
The first contact with Europeans which signaled, as it later did for other Native Americans throughout the Hemisphere, the beginning of the end for an estimated 3-8 million Tainos who had spread throughout the Caribbean islands and Florida was on October 12, 1492, when Columbus landed on the island of Guanahani (today, San Salvador in the Bahamas). He later departed for Spain with onboard six Borikén Taino women and one 13-year-old boy named of Gueycan (Center of the Sun), whom happenstance had placed in San Salvador, and whom Columbus paraded before the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain.
When Columbus returned on his second voyage in 1493, he brought the six women and the young Taino boy with him. On seeing the outlines of Puerto Rico on November 18th, 1493, the overjoyed women shouted "Borikén" and jumped overboard and swam for shore. On the 19th day of November, a Sunday morning, Columbus and his men landed on the shores of the island of Borikén (today, Puerto Rico).
The flag of the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation of Borikén (Tribal motto "Like A Mountain We Stand Alone") derives from the prophecy of a Great Three-Colored Rainbow and a later vision, which a Jatibonicu Tribal Elder had in the late 60's while he stood in the ceremonial center during a vision quest in Caguana (named after the Fertility Mother of the Taino tribes), in Puerto Rico. The vision contained all the elements currently shown in the central charge of the flag, and it also contained a field of yellow. The green and red were added later, red standing for tribal blood spilled during the tragic years following European contact, as reflected by "maga", a red flower indigenous to the region. Green signifies Bibi Atabey or Mother Earth. Yellow is for Baba Guey (Father Sun) and indicates the reflection of the rays of the sun a symbol of great illumination and wisdom upon the wings of the Colibri, the hummingbird that is the totem of the Jatibonicu Taino tribe.
Relative stripe ratios and detailed specifications for the central charge were worked out during March and April 2001 by Chief Guanikeyu (Noble Bird of the White Earth) Torres, whom the author assisted with computer graphics. The outer ring of the central charge symbolizes the men's sun circle, and hence Baba Guey, while the inner circle is the women's moon circle, or Atabeira, Grandmother Moon. The outer ring is surrounded by 24 leaves of the sacred Cohobana Tree, the seeds of which are essential for tribal sacred ceremonies. The number of leaves stand for the Nation's 24 original clans or tribal bands in Puerto Rico.
Contrary to first impression, the elements inside the moon circle do not represent a human face, just as the outer leaves do no represent sun rays. Rather, the three circled dots inside the moon circle are a reflection on water of the Sacred Mountain (note Tribal motto) hence the top of the mountain appears at the bottom in the reflection. The three elements that denote the Sacred Mountain symbolize three Spirits. Yaya, at the summit, is the Spirit of Spirits, or Great Spirit, or Creator. The left circled dot, from the viewer's perspective, symbolizes the Spirit of the Living World, or Goiz, while the circled dot on the right is the Spirit of the Ancestors, or Upia. It is important to avoid calling Upia "spirit of the dead" because the Jatibonicu Taino people do not believe in death. The curved lines of the central symbol of the charge symbolize the sacred Snuff Pipe in which crushed seeds from the Cohobana Tree are snuffed during sacred Cohoba visionary ceremonies.
The motto of the new flag is "One People, One Nation, One Destiny" because the flag also represents the three confederated Taino tribal bands in Puerto Rico (The Jatibonicu Taino Tribe of Borikén), Florida (The Tekesta Taino Tribal Band of Bimini Florida), and New Jersey (Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Band of New Jersey). These three confederated Taino tribal bands form the central Grand Council of the Government of The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation.
The flag dimensions are 3:5 and spot colors are Pantone 347 green; Pantone 485 red; Pantone 116 yellow, and black . When using nylon bunting in appliqué work, Irish green, Canada Red, and Daffodil yellow are recommended in Glaser Mills' color card for DuPont Type 66 bright nylon.
Peter Orenski, 4 June 2001
Puerto Ricans are said to genetically comprise Spanish, Afican and Taíno bloods. The original population of Taínos were largely exterminated in Puerto Rico a long time ago, in part do to Spaniard maltreatment, new diseases brought to the island, as chickenpox and siphyllis, war, and expratiation. Notwithstanding this, it is recognized that there are some fellow Puerto Ricans that still carries with them visible Taíno features, specially in the face, hair and, most prominently, maxillary and mandibular architecture. We are very proud of our Taíno heritage. It is very pervasive in our language and in the name of rivers, mountains and cities.
Blas Delgado Ortiz , 7 June 2001
Our tribal flag can be associated with the municipalities of Orocovis, Barranquitas, and Aibonito in Puerto Rico. The Jatibonicu Taino is the local tribe for all three towns. These towns are located within our tribal territory.
Peter Torres, 26 March 2002
image from <www.indio.net/aymaco>, located by Valentin Poposki, 4 April 2006
It seemed to me that one flag was designed to represent the entire Boriken Taino nation and the second to represent a particular tribe of that nation. Reinforcing that impression is a map of the locations of the various Taino tribes of Puerto Rico which can be seen at <www.uctp.org>. You can see that the Aymaco is presented as the tribe living in the northwest corner of the island.
Ned Smith, 4 April 2006
There is a flag of the Baramaya Taino flag that can be seen at <www.starworksentertainment.com>. The Baramaya "tribe" appears to represent a smaller unit than those shown on the map at <www.uctp.org>. A map showing the island divided into such smaller units can be seen at <web.archive.org>. The Baramaya are located near the center of the south coast.
Ned Smith, 4 April 2006
There is one more band of Taino Nation - Maisiti Yukayeke of the Taino Tribe. And there is a flag (?) shown on their website, which is defunct now, but can be reached at <web.archive.org>. It seems there are several bands or clans of Taino Nation in Puerto Rico, but they are not recognized by the authorities as separate entities.
Valentin Poposki, 5 April 2006
Yukayeke Guajataka Taino community website <mypeoplepc.com/members/tekina1/Guajataka>, shows an image which might be their flag.
Valentin Poposki, 5 April 2006
One more organization is called "Taino Nation of the Antilles", which seems to be stationed in New York. You can see the flag here at <nacion_taina.tripod.com>.
Valentin Poposki, 5 April 2006