‘I Am Not Extinct’ – Jamaican Taino proudly declares ancestry

Olive Moxam-Dennis (left) with her daughter. Photo: Jamaica Gleaner

WHEN ERICA Dennis of south St Elizabeth was in class at Hampton School in the said parish, a teacher told the students the Tainos in Jamaica were dead. There she was being told that she, a Jamaican Taino, was extinct.

But she said because at the time, students could not talk back to teachers, she kept quiet. Yet, she said she and another Taino girl resisted by calling themselves the ‘Taino Girls’. In her own family, consisting of a Taino mother and an African father, there were eight children.

In the lot, five of them look distinctly Taino and one of her sisters embraces her Taino heritage. And an older brother has always believed he was Taino. But the siblings, who were born in England, are not interested in their Taino identity.

She is now Dr Erica Neeganagwedgin, a professor at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research, Athabasca University in Canada, where she has been living for more than 25 years.


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  1. LucLu
    April 5, 2017

    This article was published in 2014, why is it being posted on DNO now?

  2. Analyst
    April 5, 2017

    No disrespect, I find the older of the women look like Zang. Zang is taino.

  3. Clergy Man
    April 5, 2017

    Boy the Europeans kill, maim and paralyze their way thru the West Indies causing major havoc to Native populations to this day. I wonder what’s their plan for Reparations, at least like the Jews who were nothing close to extinction. Sad!

  4. April 5, 2017

    …and THIS made our DNO news. Why? Caribs are almost extinct yet ya’ll don’t focus on them. 8-O

    • out of south city
      April 5, 2017

      I find your comment is really an ignorant one. Why are you discriminating against the Taino, Kalinagos or other indigenous people? Did you know that they resisted slavery vehemently? You are no different from them because they are humans like you. At least they have tried to keep their culture and are not ashamed of it. What is your culture as a black person living in the West? You need to do some research before you post an empty comment like that.


    • Clergy Man
      April 6, 2017

      I think by Carib you mean Kalinago right?

  5. Let The Truth Be Told - Original
    April 4, 2017

    Residing in Canada, I am familiar with the name, Athabasca. I am employed with an enterprise which has offices all over Canada. This helped me to know of many areas, the remote ones as also small towns.
    I am certain readers would like to know where Athabasca is situated.
    Athabasca /ˌæθəˈbæskə/ (2011 population 2,990), originally named Athabasca Landing, is a town in northern Alberta, Canada. It is located 145 km (90 mi) north of Edmonton at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 55, on the banks of the Athabasca River. It is the centre of Athabasca County.
    Athabasca University’s main campus is located in the Town of Athabasca, Alberta, 145 kilometers North of Edmonton. We also have Learning Centres in Edmonton, St. Albert, and Calgary: Athabasca University, Edmonton.
    Alberta is a Western Province of Canada. Alberta is very cold in winter. Imagine those areas. as Athabasca. Generally the people are much nicer than those who reside in the big cities.

  6. Let The Truth Be Told - Original
    April 4, 2017

    Note the resemblance between mother and daughter.
    The teacher did not perform a research yet came up with the ignorant and ridiculous comment. Little did this teacher know how he/she hurt and insulted the student.
    Interesting! we must always be proud of our ancestry on both sides. Some people look at one side only, namely the African side. We could not be us if we only think of one side only for we have ancestors on two sides. Even the African side could have had another side.
    Go for it and write your book about your ancestry and your experience. This is one book I will purchase. You could also make a movie which I would view. To begin with, there are times it could be first, a made-for-TV movie.
    Canadians would also be interested in viewing it. I am certain CBC – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would be interested to show it. Good luck!

  7. Vellie Nicholas
    April 4, 2017

    Great stuff! I know a number of folks in Dominica who have that characteristic Taino facial features.

    • Cowboy
      April 5, 2017

      It’s quite possible. Many Taino had escaped to Dominica during the days of Spanish persecution and had joined the Carib natives in their villages. In fact, at one point Dominica’s population swelled from about 1000 Caribs to close to 5000 – many of that new population was Taino refugees

        April 6, 2017

        not likely … Da is Carib country, the Caribs pushed out or rather killed all the Arawaks in Da and St Vincent.
        Which is why Da and St Vincent were the last islands to be colonized in the Caribbean. they fought the Europeans for over 160 years!
        Tainos/Arawaks mainly lived in the greater Antilles. Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. they were massacred and killed from disease by Europeans. those that survived were able to do so by mixing with black and white. There are no more 100% Arawak people. Da is the only place in the Caribbean the original inhabitants still exist. Call them Kalinago or whatever they are Caribs, the region was named after them!

      • Clergy Man
        April 9, 2017

        @Udoereadyet: .. The Caribs/or rather Kalinago DID NOT kill off all the Arawaks. Actually Europeans did and their historians, as usual, distorted and blamed Kalinago who had usual territorial beef with Arawaks or anyone else for hundreds of years without wiping each other out. The Europeans/combolus landed on these islands hungry and tired, knew nothing of the terrain nor the agouti the Kalinago hunted, manioc etc., so they obviously resorted to make it easy by eating the curious Kalinago that ran to the beaches to meet them, then they along with historians claimed that the Caribs eat the Europeans. The Caribs were not the ones who ran out of supplies at see, they were sufficiently fed. So do not believe their anancy story.

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