Taino people

A Taino couple in their traditional clothing
Regions with significant populations
 Mascylla2,389,000 (2017)
24px Tainoa1,231,000 (2017)
 Gyldenport10,000 (2016)
Taino, Ciboney
Worship of Zemis and Cemi

The Taino (Taino pronunciation: ['tai:nɔ]) are the indigenous Columbian people of Tainoa and a majority of the Columbian Sea and its islands. Taino originated with settlers from northern Rennekka, who arrived in Tainoa in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 900 and 1000. Over several centuries in isolation, the Columbian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Taino formed tribal groups based on northern Rennekkan social customs and organisation. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced; later, a prominent warrior culture emerged. The arrival of Asurans to Tainoa, starting in the early 19th century, brought enourmous changes to the Taino way of life.Taino people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Taino and Asurans were largely amicable, and with the signing of the Treaty of Abaqey in 1839, the two cultures coexisted as part of a new Mascyllary autonomous colony. Rising tensions were able to be prevented, with well-thought selling of lands and governing. Epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll of the Taino population, which fell dramatically, while native infections plagued Mascylla for long time. By the start of the 20th century, the Taino population had begun to recover, and efforts have been made to increase their standing in wider Tainoan society and achieve social justice. Traditional Taino culture has thereby enjoyed a significant revival, which was further bolstered by the election of liberal politicians and a common interest for Taino culture, beginning in the 1950s.

In the 2013 census, there were approximately 3.6 million people in Tainoa identifying as Taino, making up more than 85 percent of the insular population, with additional 620,000 in Mascylla in Asura itself. They are the second-largest ethnic group in Mascylla, after Mascyllary Alemannians ("Quaheca"). In addition, more than 10,000 live in the nearby country of Gyldenport. The Taino language is spoken to an extent by about a third of all Taino, representing 35 percent of total Tainoan and 3 percent of Mascyllary population. Taino are active in all spheres of Mascyllary culture and society, with independent representation in areas such as media, politics, or sport.


In the 2013 census, 3,361,057 people globally, around 2.38 million of which in mainlandMascylla alone, identified as being part of the Taino ethnic group, accounting for 12,5 percent of the Mascyllary population, while 668,724 people (2.3 percent) claimed Taino descent. Of those identifying as Taino, 1,478,199 people identified as of sole Taino ethnicity while 960,229 identified as of both Asuran and Taino ethnicity, due to the high rate of intermarriage between the two cultures. Under the Taino Affairs Amendment Regulation of 1974, a Taino is defined as "a person of the Taino race of Tainoa; and includes any descendant of such a person". According to the 2013 census, the largest tribe by population is Qecyua (425,601), followed by Alaymo (371,049), Cuype (354,819) and Tuiay (240,083). However, over 110,000 people of Taino descent could not identify their tribe. Outside of Tainoa, a large Taino population exists in mainland Mascylla, estimated at 2,38 million in 2017, and Gyldenport with around 10,000 in 2016. The Taino Party has suggested a special seat should be created in the Mascyllary parliament representing Taino in Gyldenport. Smaller communities also exist in Liberimery (approx. 8,000), Tudonia (up to 3,500) and Isolaprugna (approx. 1,000).


Traditional culture

Portrait of the one tribal chief on Tainoa, Alyacuype, in 1827

The ancestors of the Taino arrived from northern Rennekka during the 10th century, bringing with them Rennekkan cultural customs and beliefs. Early Asuran researchers, such as Julius von Hast, a geologist, incorrectly interpreted archaeological remains as belonging to a pre-Taino Paleolithic people; later researchers, notably Pertine Schmidt, magnified such theories into an elaborate scenario with a series of sharply-defined cultural stages which had Taino arriving in a Great Fleet in 1050 and replacing the so-called "moa-hunter" culture with a "classical Taino" culture based on horticulture. The development of Taino material culture has been similarly delineated by the Museum of Tainoa Qe Papa Tongareya into "cultural periods", from the earlier "Neyla Kakano" stage to the later "Qe Typunga" period, before the "Classic" period of Taino history. However, the archaeological record indicates a gradual evolution of a neolithic culture that varied in pace and extent according to local resources and conditions. In the course of a few centuries, the growing population led to competition for resources and an increase in warfare. The archaeological record reveals an increased frequency of fortified Ya, although debate continues about the amount of conflict. Various systems arose which aimed to conserve resources; most of these, such as Yaqu and Rayluq, used religious or supernatural threats to discourage people from taking species at particular seasons or from specified areas.

Warfare between tribes was common, generally over land conflicts or to restore Mana. Fighting was carried out between Hayaqu. Although not practised during times of peace, Taino would sometimes eat their conquered enemies. As Taino continued in geographic isolation, performing arts such as the Qayla developed from their Rennekkan roots, as did carving and weaving. Regional dialects arose, with differences in vocabulary and in the pronunciation of some words. In 1819 two young northern chiefs, Tuiay and Tytero, who had learnt to speak and write Alemannic, went to Königsreh, where they met the language expert Samuel Leicht. They stayed with a school teacher, who they told that even in Northern Tainoa there were "different languages and dialects". The language retained enough similarities to other North Rennekkan languages and surprisingly with Polynesian and Ajerrin ones, to the point where Huva, the Ajerrin navigator on Richard Koch's first voyage in the region acted as an interpreter between Taino and the crew of the Unternehmen.

A wooden carving, showing the sailing demi-god Xecu fighting two sea monsters

Belief and religion

Traditional Taino beliefs have their origins in Rennekkan culture. Many stories from Taino mythology are analogous with stories across the Columbian Ocean. Columbian and Rennekkan concepts such as Yapu (sacred), Qola (non-sacred), Nala (authority or prestige) and Wyuria (spirit) governed everyday Taino living. These practices remained until the arrival of Asurans, when much of Taino religion and mythology was supplanted by Alydianism. Today, Taino "tend to be followers of the Aheir Gods, The Church of Alydian, or Māori Alydian groups such as Yatana and Alyinga", but with Irsadic, Derwyedd and other groupings also prominent. Irsad is estimated as the fastest growing religion among Taino, yet Taino Irsadics constitute a very small proportion of Taino. At the 2013 Mascyllary census, 7.8 percent of Taino were affiliated with Taino Alydian denominations and 12.6 percent with other foreign denominations; 36.3 percent of Taino claimed no religion. Proportions of Alydian and irreligious Taino are comparable with Asuran Mascyllary.

Performing arts

A group of Taino chiefs attending an Alapa haqa

Alapa haqa (literally "haqa team") is a traditional Taino performance art, encompassing many forms, that is still popular today. It includes Meyla, to warm up the chorals and to introduce the audience, the Haqa (posture dance), in which primarly men, supported by women, sing aggressively and intimidely challenge their opponents to resemble warfare in action, Yalya (dance accompanied by song and rhythmic movements of the Yalya, a light ball on a string), in which women's dances should resemble the way to improve the agility during battle, and to showcase the beauty and gracefulness of its participating women, Haimalay (action songs) to show the indication of the religious interface between mind and body, and Weiatai (traditional chants). Since 1972 there has been a regular competition, the Qe Taiyama National Festival, where Taino from different regions send representative groups to compete in the biennial competition. There are also Alapa haqa groups in schools, tertiary institutions and workplaces. It is also performed at tourist venues across the country, which further solidify the Alapa haqa as a central part of Taino culture.

Literature and media

A couple (Lehu) performing a special type of Alapa haqa with thicker clothing

Like other cultures, oral folklore was used by Taino to preserve their stories and beliefs across many centuries. In the 19th century, Asuran-style literacy was brought to the Taino, which led to Taino history documentation in books, novels and later television. Taino language use began to decline in the early 20th century with Newreyan and Alemannic as the language through which Taino literature became widespread. However, with encouragement of the government, the number of books and other items of media published in Taino language has stadily grown since 2000. Notable Taino novelists include Patrizia Grelch, Illya Xecuma and Quec Alydiac. Once Were Warriors, a 1994 film adapted from a 1990 novel of the same name by Quec Alydiac, brought the plight of some urban Taino to a wide audience. It was the highest-grossing film in Tainonand Mascylla until 2006, and received international acclaim, winning several international film prizes. While some Taino feared that viewers would consider the violent male characters an accurate portrayal of Taino men, most critics praised it as exposing the raw side of domestic violence. Some Taino opinion, particularly feminist, welcomed the debate on domestic violence that the film enabled. Well-known Taino actors and actresses include Temuera Cheldua, Dennis Xemely, Laura Makoare, Manuly Steldt and Ceisha Burg. They are in films like Once were Warriors, The End of the World, Contingency, The Red Keep, and many more. In most cases their roles in movie productions have them portraying ethnic groups other than Taino, though more movies potray Taino culture with Taino actors.


Taino participate fully in Mascylla's sporting culture, and are well-represented in rugby union, rugby league and football teams at all levels. The Mascyllary national rugby union team performs a Haqa, a traditional Taino challenge, before international matches. As well as participation in national sports teams, there are the Taino rugby union, rugby league and sailing representative teams that play in international competitions. Taino also maintain excessive and large sailibg competitions and sailing races, such as the Qe Helay. At olympic games events, 41 of the 199 competitors (20.5 percent) were and are of Taino descent in the Mascyllary delegation, with the rugby sevens squads alone having 17 Taino competitors (out of 24). There were also three competitors of Taino descent in the Gyldenportian delegation. Cihoabe and Tapaxei are two sports of Taino origin. Cihoabe got an unexpected boost when Jennssen chose it to represent Taino culture and sports. Tapaxei (outrigger canoeing) is also very popular with Taino, especially in very large groups.


Historical development

A Taino Mahaie family from Celphuc in the 1850's

Columbian and Rennekkan settlers in Tainoa developed a distinct society over several hundred years. Social groups were tribal, with no unified society or single Taino identity until after the arrival of Asurans. Nevertheless, common elements could be found in all Taino groups in pre-Asuran Tainoa, including a shared Columbian heritage, a common basic language, familial associations, traditions of warfare, and similar mythologies and religious beliefs. Most Taino lived in villages, which were inhabited by several Yanaui (extended families) who collectively formed a Haqu (clan or subtribe). Members of a Haqu cooperated with food production, gathering resources, raising families and defence.

Human sacrifice of a Mokay during a religious ritual (Taino drawing, 1829)

Taino society across Taino was broadly stratified into three classes of people: chiefs and ruling families; Tainoaya, commoners; and Mokay, slaves. Tohunghca also held special standing in their communities as specialists of revered arts, skills and esoteric knowledge. Shared ancestry, intermarriage and trade strengthened relationships between different groups. Many Haqu with mutually-recognised shared ancestry formed Alay, or tribes, which were the largest social unit in Taino society. Haqu and Alay often united for expeditions to gather food and resources, or in times of conflict. In contrast, warfare developed as an integral part of traditional life, as different groups competed for food and resources, settled personal disputes, and sought to increase their prestige and authority.

The arrival of Asurans to Tainoa dates back to the 18th century, although it was not until the expeditions of Robert Koch over a hundred years later that any meaningful interactions occurred between Asurans and Taino. For Taino, the new arrivals brought opportunities for trade, which many groups embraced eagerly. Early Asuran settlers introduced tools, weapons, clothing and foods to Taino across Tainoa, in exchange for resources, land and labour. Taino began selectively adopting elements of Western society during the 19th century, including Asuran clothing and food, and later Western education, religion and architecture, though most of their principles have yet remained, for example the tolerance to be nude in public or body confoguration, which have been allowed by Mascyllary officials. But as the 19th century wore on, relations between Asuran colonial settlers and different Taino groups became increasingly strained. Tensions led to conflict in the 1880s, and the confiscation of millions of acres of Taino land. Significant amounts of land were also purchased by the colonial government and later through the Native Land Court.

20th century

A typical Taino family from the Alaymo tribe in the 1960's

By the start of the 20th century, a greater awareness had emerged of a unified Taino identity, particularly in comparison to Quaheca, who now established themselfs as a minority on Tainoa. Taino and Quaheca societies remained largely separate—socially, culturally, economically and geographically—for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The key reason for this was that Taino remained almost exclusively a rural population, whereas increasingly the Asuran population was urban especially after 1900. Nevertheless, Taino groups continued to engage with the government and in legal processes to increase their standing in (and ultimately further their incorporation into) wider Mascyllary society. The main point of contact with the government were the fourty Taino Members of Parliament. Yet, they still maintained political superiority over the islands, and with contracts with Government, they maintained their tribal political and cultural structure.

A typical Taino house (Bohio) built from palm logs and leafs (drawing, 1901)

Many Taino migrated to larger rural towns and cities during the Depression and post-GWII periods in search of better live quality, in which the urban areas where slowly integrated as tribal homelands. Yet while standards of living improved among Taini, they continued to lag behind Quaheca in areas such as health, income, skilled employment and access to higher levels of education. Taino leaders and government policymakers alike struggled to deal with social issues stemming from increased urban migration, including a shortage of housing and jobs, and a rise in urban crime, poverty and health problems. In regards to housing, a 1961 census revealed significant differences in the living conditions of Taino and Asurans. That year, out of all the (unshared) non-Taino private dwellings in Tainoa, 96.8 percent had a bath or shower, 94.1 per cent a hot water service, 88.7 per cent a flush toilet, 81.6 per cent a refrigerator, and 78.6 per cent an electric washing machine. By contrast, for all (unshared) Taino private dwellings that same year, 76.8 per cent had a bath or shower, 68.9 per cent a hot water service, 55.8 per cent a refrigerator, 54.1 per cent a flush toilet, and 47 per cent an electric washing machine.

While the arrival of Asurans had a profound impact on the Taino way of life, many aspects of traditional society have survived into the 21st century. Taino participate fully in all spheres of Mascyllary culture and society, leading largely Western lifestyles while also maintaining their own cultural and social customs. The traditional social strata of Tainoaya has yet remained from Māori society, while the roles of Tohnugca have drastically earned importance. Traditional kinship ties are also actively maintained, and the Alay in particular remains an integral part of Taino life.

Mahaie and Alay

Three children of chiefs, members of the Alay, of each island wearing their traditional headdresses, the Abaceyan, Caylaguan, and Haqayan (from left to right)

Taino society at a local level is particularly visible at the Mahaie. Formerly the central meeting spaces in traditional villages, Mahaie today usually comprise a group of buildings around an open space, that frequently host events such as weddings, funerals, church services and other large gatherings, with traditional protocol and etiquette usually observed. They also serve as the base of one or sometimes several Haqa. Most Taino affiliate with one or more Alay, based on genealogical descent (Yakapaca). Alay vary in size, from a few hundred members to over 400,000 in the case of Quecyua. Many people live in their tribal regions as a result of relocation of social and tribal structures. Alay are usually governed by Tainoaya (governing councils, monarchs or chiefs, or trust boards) which represent the Alay in consultations and negotiations with the Tainoan and Mascyllary government. Tainoaya also manage tribal assets and spearhead health, education, economic and social initiatives to help Alay members.

Race relations

Taino people in their openly traditional clothings

The status of Taino as the indigenous people of Tainoa is recognised in Mascyllary law and the Grand Constitution of 1944 by the term Tayca Tainoa (lit. "people of the islands"), which identifies the traditional connection between Taino and a given area of land. Taino as a whole can be considered as Tayca Tainoa of Tainoa entirely; individual Alay are recognised as Tayca Tainoa for areas of Tainoa in which they are traditionally based, while some Tayca Tainoa are within their Mahaie. Mascyllary law periodically requires consultation between the government and Tayca Tainoa — for example, during major land development projects. This usually takes the form of negotiations between local or subnational government and the Tainoaya of one or more relevant Alay, although the government generally decides which (if any) concerns are acted upon.

Taino issues are a prominent feature of race relations in Tainoa. Historically, many Quaheca viewed race relations in their country as being the "best in the world", a view that prevailed until today, so many. Taino protest movements grew significantly in the 1960s and 1970s seeking redress for past grievances, particularly in regard to land rights. Successive governments have responded by enacting affirmative action programmes, funding cultural rejuvenation initiatives and negotiating tribal settlements for past breaches of the Treaty of Abaqey. Further efforts have focused on cultural preservation and reducing socioeconomic disparity. Nevertheless, race relations remains a contentious issue in Mascyllary society. Taino advocates continue to push for further redress claiming that their concerns are being marginalised or ignored. A 2007 Ministry of the Realm report found that Taino are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system not only because they commit more crimes but also because they face prejudice at many levels: "a number of studies have shown evidence of greater likelihood, associated only with ethnicity, for Taino offenders to have police contact, be charged, lack legal representation, not be granted bail, plead guilty, be convicted, be sentenced to non-monetary penalties, and be denied release to Home Detention". Conversely, critics denounce the scale of assistance given to Taino as amounting to preferential treatment for a select group of people based on race. Both sentiments were highlighted during the foreshore and seabed controversy in 2004, in which the Tainoan government claimed sole ownership of the Tainoan foreshore and seabed, over the objections of Alay groups who were seeking customary title.

Political representation

Flag of the Taino people, proposed and enacted by the Taino Party in 1994

Taino have been involved in Mascyllary politics since the Treaty of Abaqey was signed in 1839. Taino have reserved seats in the Mascyllary Parliament since 1868: presently, this accounts for fourty of the 403 seats in Mascylla's bicameral parliament. The contesting of these seats was the first opportunity for many Taino to participate in national elections, with the elected Taino representatives quickly able to assert significant influence. Taino received universal suffrage with other Mascyllary citizens in 1883. Being a traditionally tribal people, no one organisation ostensibly speaks for all Taino nationwide. The Taino King originated in the 1840s, in which an absolute monarchy was erected under the rulings of the Grand Constitution. The monarch is in close relations with the Mascyllary government and de facto governs Tainoa. A monarchial system with marriages and exerting power is also well established. There are fourty designated Taino seats in the Mascyllary Parliament (and Taino can and do stand in and win general roll seats), and consideration of and consultation with Taino have become routine requirements for councils and government organisations. Debate occurs frequently as to the relevance and legitimacy of the Taino electoral roll and seats. The National Democratic Union announced in 20014 it would abolish the seats when all historic Treaty settlements have been resolved, which it aimed to complete by 2020. However, after the election National reached an agreement with the Taino Party not to abolish the seats until Taino give their approval.

Several Taino political parties have formed over the years to improve the position of Taino in the Mascyllary society. The present Taino Party, formed in 2004, secured 5.32 percent of the party vote at the 2014 general election and held twenty-eight seats in the 51st Mascyllary Parliament, with two MPs serving as Ministers outside the Council of the Crown. The party did also achieve the representation of the Taino via multiple higher governemential offices, such as Mya Alymbya as Minister of the Finances of the Realm (1989-1996), Tyalma Qecexa as Minister of Diplomacy of the Realm (1962-1970) and even the Office of the Prime Minister with Mahey Quicemyla (1943-1959).