Two near neighbors of the Turks and Caicos, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Cuba, have been inhabited since AD 1 by Amerindian “Guanahacibibes”, hunters and gatherers who most likely traveled by way of the Yucatan channel. By Ad 500 descendants of the Guiana’s and Venezuela were moving south to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They brought new practices; swidden agriculture, canoe building, and pottery making, specifically a bright red Saladoid pottery making style that made their settlements easily identifiable for archeologists. Unlike their predecessors who had to migrate when their diet resources were scarce, villages were occupied for years thanks to cultivation of staple foods such as manioc (yucca or cassava), beans, peppers, and sweet potatoes. Over time these groups of South American descendants eventually grew to become knows as a single people who referred to themselves as Taino, meaning “noble” in their native language. The earliest Taino habitation to be found to date in the entire Bahamian archipelago, lies on Grand Turk. It has been concluded that around AD 750 Taino’s from the northern coast of Hispaniola arrived by canoe on Turks and Caicos shores. Centuries of evolution in farming, fishing, boat building, salt collecting, wood carving, language, ritual, and religion later, these Taino’s of the Bahamian archipelago had culturally evolved into the Lukka Kaya, “People of the Islands”.
This post is a summary of “Our First Colonists: The Pre-Columbian People of the Turks and Caicos Islands” by Josiah Marvel, Chapter 7 in A History of the Turks and Caicos Islands Ed. Dr. Carlton Mills