Chief Ajareaty Waiapi Female Cacike of the Waipi people of the Brazilian Amazon.

Common Questions asked about Taino Indians and the Caribbean Islands



Were there Female Chiefs/Cacike in the Caribbean?

Are the Taino Indians Arawak?

What did the Taino call themselves?

What was the original name of the Dominican Republic?

Was Kiskeya the original name of the Dominican Republic?

Is Kiskeya a Taino word?

What were the names of the 3 rivers first explored by the Spaniards on the island of Boriken?

Did the Taino of Boriken know of the Taino wars in Kiskeya?

Are the Taino Indians related to the Mayans or Aztecs?

  Q: Were there Female Chiefs/Cacike in the Caribbean?



A: This question is easy to answer.......YES there were indeed Female Cacike in the Caribbean prior to contact.


However after 500 years of colonization, it is rather easy to understand why this is question is even asked, and often times disputed.  Let us look at this from various angles:


The late, great, Puerto Rican Archaeologist, Ricardo Alegria correctly asserted that the name CACICA (hispanization of the male  Cacike) did not exist prior to the Spanish arrival.  This is correct, Taino did not use Spanish gender-specific names. We used our own.

 The closest living language to Taino Arawak is of course Lokono and the related Wapichan, Wapishana and Arawak of Suriname and French Guyana.

In these Arawak languages, there are distinct words for either male or female leadership.

Kashikwaro - Female Cacike (note this is where the word Cacike comes from)

Kashikwali- Male Cacike

This term literally means, the head (leader) of the house, land, area, etc

Please read: Arawak-English Dictionary by John Peter Bennet page 61

 Another word is:

Kabuyaltho - Landlady

Kabuyalthi- Landlord

Please read: Arawak-English Dictionary by John Peter Bennet page 62

Both of these names denote power and prestige and sex does not determine importance, they are equal. This is exactly how a Matrilineal society works.

Moving Westerward towards the Caribbean basin between Colombia and Venezuela are the Wayu People, also Ta-Arawak. Here too we find male and female Chiefs-

Alaülashi (Alau-la-shi) Male leader

Alaulasu (Alau-la-su) Female leader

Please read: 


David M. Captain y Linda B. Captain / page 74



First hand Eyewitness reports during the contact period mention female cacike from the beginning.  

The island of Hispaniola 1503, first island colonized by the Spaniards-

In 1503 the first Repartimento was held on Hispaniola. This is where the local Indian population was rounded up and were given to Spaniards who had been allotted lands on the island. They were forced to work for Spanish lords in return for an Education in their religion and language. 

1) Both Male and female Cacike were named in the first repartimiento. This is evident in the writings of Francisco Fernández de Bobadilla (c. 1448 – 11 July 1502)  (NOTE- Actual sources to come soon!) Please see Male Names AND Female Names


2) Frey Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres (1460 – 29 May 1511)  was a Spanish soldier who would become Governor of Hispaniola. His dealings with Cacike Anacaona are historical. It was he who had the Cacike Garroted (hanged). He was also responsible for luring 80 of her sub-cacike into a hut and burning them alive. In the lands of Xaragua and Maguana arguably two of the most powerful ISAUKA (Cacicazgo/Chiefdom) Cacike  Anacaonas word was law. 

Anacaona is revered to this day on the island by descendants of the Taino people.

3) Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (August 1478 – 1557),  This chronicler is important in that he is credited with writing these two works

a) Historia General de las Indias

b) La Conquista y asentamiento de la isla de Boriquen-


AS the Spaniards made their way towards the lands of Higuey, all the Indians scouts /guides accompanying them mentioned that Cacike HIGUANAMA was the most powerful Cacike on the island. Higuanama was a female Cacike. When the Spaniards arrived in her village, they found an elderly woman in her 90s was the great Higuanama, whom all the Taino and Macorix feared! Rather than find out later, the Spaniards hung her outright. Her Taino people fought like demons under Cacike Kayacoa and Cacike Cotubanama a man said to be nearly 7 feet tall!

Once again, Female Cacike are mentioned 

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés  goes on to "pacify the last Indian resistance of the island. Now his sites are towards Boriken.


Boriken meets Oviedo:

The Governor visited the island of Boriken. In his narratives, he constantly mentions the similarities between the Taino of Boriken and Kiskeya. In fact, he was surprised to learn that Cacike Dona Ines (Female) knew of the wars in Higuey and had cautioned her son not to anger the Spaniards and fall prey to their anger! Communication between the islands was constant it seems.




A) Some have argued that the Spaniards purposely made women leaders in order to offend the Taino men. This is ludicrous because in every instance where Spaniards held REPARTIMIENTO and ENCOMIENDA the Taino had already been conquered. To mock them would make no sense and in fact, confuse and offend the Spaniards. After all, in Spanish Society women held no power.  On the Contrary what we see is Spanish men, marrying Taino women with title in order to take their lands.

b) Spaniards set up female Cacike after 1510. Another false statement. In the Chronicles or 

Andrés Bernáldez, (Fuentes de LeónBadajoz, hacia 1450 - Los Palacios y Villafranca, 1513)

Bartholomew Columbus 1461 – 1515)

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés

Pedro Martyr de Angleria




Etc etc etc

All Mentioned female Cacike!



There is not a single Text, log, book, writing, manuscript, historical or religious where there is an official decree of the Spanish creating an institution of female leaders not one.

There is not a single sentence where it is clearly stated that there were only men leaders in the Caribbean.

What we do find is 3rd hand or 4th hand accounts by modern scholars who cannot fathom that Indian people were so advanced and had created a society where genders were totally equal.


According to the late Jose Juan Arrom The very name for the creator 

Yocahu Baguamarocoti translates to "Lord of the Yuca and Ocean without male ancestor" suggesting that even the creator of all things, had a mother. 

The classic Taino people were matrilineal plain and simple.


*NOTE* I had not planned to write such a long narrative due to most of my books and sources being packed for my family's move. However I will be updating this page constantly from here on out and make sure the sources and information are verifiable.  



Q: Are the Taino Indians Arawak?

A: Yes. The Taino Indians are a branch of the Arawak Maiupurean Linguistic stock. This language family is the most wide spread of all South American Languages, ranging from Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia , Guyana,  French Guyana, Suriname, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Until the late 1800’s no one knew what Linguistic branch the Taino people belonged to.  In 1871, American Ethnologist, Surgeon, & Archaeologist, Danial Garrison Brinton (May 13, 1837- July 31, 1899) was the first to analyze and conclude that all the topography of the Caribbean islands as well as the multitude of Indigenous words surviving in the Caribbean were in fact Arawakan in structure. 



“Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles” by Julian Granbery

“Voces del Bohio” by Rafael Garcia Bido

“Arqueologia Linguistica” by Manuel Alvarez Nazario

“Huellas de un Mundo Perdido” by NelsonRafael Collazo

“Diccionario Taino Ilustrado” by Edwin Miner Sola

“Palabras Indigenas de la Republica Dominicana” by Emiliano Tejera



Q: What did the Taino call themselves?

A: According to Linguist Dr. Alexandra Aikhenvald, It is a common practice among Arawakan peoples not to divulge personal names or even the names of villages to strangers for fear of sorcery.

The Taino peoples lived in Villages and Chiefdoms (a conglomerate  of many villages) each village having its own name. The Europeans would not be able to record the  “sole”  ethnic name of the entire Caribbean basin for this reason. Although apparently mono cultured, the Taino nevertheless had regional differences and this extended to language.  Taino were not one singe ethnic group.


“Languages of the Amazon” by Dr. Alexandra Aikhenvald

“Origins of the Tainan Culture” by Sven Loven


Q: What was the original name of the Dominican Republic?

A: The island of Hispaniola was divided into 5 kingdoms (Cacicazgos) and two sub-kingdoms. It is hard to fathom why we would assume that the island only had one name.  Three (3) languages were known to have been spoken a) Classic Taino, b) Ciguayo c) Macorix. Today we know that all three languages must have been related as Ancient DNA analysis by Dr. David Reich has demonstrated that all the peoples of the island had South American Arawak decent, but they were not one people. Thus 3 very different dialects existed. It is without question that each dialect would have its own native name.

The two Native names associated with the island are Haiti, and Kiskeya



 “A genetic history of the pre-contact Caribbean” by David Reich, et al


 Q: Was Kiskeya the original name of the Dominican Republic?

 A: Kiskeya/Quisqueya is one of several names for this large island. Columbus and the Spaniards landed on the North Western side of the island. The natives there called the island Haiti.  Curiously the North Eastern Side of the island has a region called “Haitise”. This alone explains that the names given to the island were regional.  Kiskeya was probably the name used for a specific region. Of course that is a theory on our part

The name Kiskeya was recorded by Italian ethnographer, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera  who tasked by the Spanish Monarchy with with documenting the stories of the sailors arriving from the “new world” which at the time was the Caribbean. Peter mentions the word KISKEYA no less than 5 times. He stated “The native attested that the original natives of the island called it Kiskeya. The “original” natives suggests the first migrations to the island.  This implies that topographical names had changed little since the first Arawak migrations to the island.




 “De orbe nov” o by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, 

 “Origins of the Tainan Culture” by Sven Loven


Q. Is Kiskeya a Taino word?

A: YES! Part of the reason why the word Kiskeya was rejected by some scholars is that  the Pre-fix “Kis” does not fit into the Arawak Language.  It was argued by many that Peter Martyr de Anghiera simply made up the term. In fact when her first mentions the name he states that the island had 3 names, Haiti, Kiskeya and Cipangu! Cipangu was the name the Spanish thought to be modern day Japan. How did this happen? Well, for starters When Columbus first entered the CIBAO region of the island, he thought it sounded very much like CIPANGU and felt that CIBAO was the same word in the local dialect! So we can clearly see that of the 3 names recorded by Martyr, Cipangu was an error. But what of Kiskeya?


Dominican Linguist, Rafael Garcia Bido suggested (rightfully so in our opnion) that the prefix should not be KIS but rather KI SI. This brings it back to the Arawak language structure.. There are several places on the island with similar names such as QUISINIGUA.

Ki-Attributive Prefix (as in THE)

Si- rough



The rough distant land.  It is our opinion that this is the true translation of the word based on our work.

Of course there are other theories;

American Linguist, Julian Granberry believes the word comes from the TOL language stock. In that language the word  QUEZQUELLA means Large Island. He believed the word to originate with the Ciguayo people who were supposedly the last remnants from the earliest migrations from Central America. Unfortunately, recent ancient DNA sequencing disproves this theory, although it is still possible.

Anthropologist Dicey Tailor believes the word may have been corrupted from a Kalinago word KISKAIRI meaning large island. Also plauisible.

In any event, all modern linguistic inquiry tells us that the word KISKEYA is indeed Indigenous and not an “Invention” by Peter Martyr de”Anghiera!

Q: What were the names of the 3 rivers first explored by the Spaniards on the island of Boriken?


A: According to a map made by Tomaso Porcacchi Castilione (1530–1576[1]) an Italian born in Tuscany, author and cartographer, the island had three rivers which impressed him  the most;



He acknowledged Oviedo as being the source of his information.



“The most famous islands of the world (1576)”  by Tomaso Porcacchi  Castilione 


Q: Did the Taino of Boriken know of the Taino wars in Kiskeya?

A: Yes. When Ponce de Leon met with Cacike  Dona Ines , her husband Don Francisco and her brother Anasco they informed de Leon that they had heard of the killings in Higuey and she continually told and counseled her husband and son to be good to the Spanish or the if they did not wish to die at their hands!



The Conquest of Puerto Rico by Fernando Gonzales de Oveido


Q: Are the Taino Indians related to the Mayans or Aztecs?

A: NO!

Taino culture did not begin to take shape as the European invaders encountered it until 1000 years after the fall of the great Mayan civilizations. Although there was probably occasion trade with the descendants of the Mighty Mayans (On Columbus Fourth voyage he encountered a Mayan chief and his family at sea  near the Central American mainland.  It is easy to imagine these types of trade missions visited the Caribbean islands.  However long and prosperous trade always leads to transculturation and ethnic mixing. To date, no Mayan/Taino or Aztec/Taino admixtures have been found in the skeletal remains. Further there is a very HUGE distinction between Taino Art, Language, Spirituality, and  Agriculture to suggest Central American influence. Without strong evidence to support a Mayan/Aztec-Taino connection, the answer is simply NO!