Enough talk, show us the proof!
The Tainos, depicted on the coat of arms, are indigenous to Jamaica.

Dear Editor,

The recent developments regarding some Maroons and their claim of being indigenous people of Jamaica provides us with the opportunity to learn about our history and understand how events of many years and centuries past impact us today. History is not just old stories, but it is based on evidence to support claims made to determine their soundness. Those who make certain claims about history ought to provide evidence to substantiate them and put them beyond the realm of mere ideas, wishes, and theories. Their ideas should be able to stand up to reasonable scrutiny.

The claim that the Maroons are descendants of the indigenous Tainos and Africans is surprising to many.

Most Jamaicans learnt that Jamaican Tainos experienced genocide owing to diseases and savagery brought by the Spaniards in the 1500s, and as such think the claim of Maroons being indigenous is spurious.

We have been taught that Maroons were the repository of the real African traditions in Jamaica and that many aspects of their culture were directly traceable to various parts of West Africa, the motherland, whereas the rest of Afro Jamaican culture was diluted, owing to the prolonged exposure to slavery and other racial groups within Jamaica. Furthermore, the steadfast ways Maroons fought to secure and defend their freedom were legendary and monumental and always trumpeted as examples of their strong African sense of pride and being. Their mixed heritage was never a part of the story.

It would really help if the Maroons and those knowledgeable provide solid historical evidence of these seemingly fantastic claims, beyond historical theory and arcane texts. Many Jamaicans would greatly appreciate answers to the following issues and questions: What is the evidence of the actual interbreeding between Tainos and Africans? How widespread was this? Did the interbreeding take place in all current Maroon settlements? What is the evidence of Taino traits in current Maroon society, such as physical appearance, language, religion, diet, art, and material culture, etc? Did Maroons interbreed with other races who settled in Jamaica and to what extent could Maroons also claim these ancestries? Are all Maroons descendants of Tainos and Africans? To what extent did Maroons interbreed with African descendants before and since Emancipation? Do Maroon communities, formed after the coming of the British in 1655, have Taino ancestry? How much of the genetic make-up of current Maroons is Taino?

The relationship between the Maroons and the rest of the society is colourful and complicated. The treachery of the Maroons and the obstructive role they played in opposition to the freedom aspirations of the remaining Afro-Jamaican population during and after slavery is well known.

One wonders if those mercenary Maroons who returned African runaways from slavery and helped to quash rebellions for a reward of rum, a few shillings, and the dishonourable prestige of participating in the victory parades and feasts of the brutal colonial elites did so while thinking they were descendants of Tainos. Is the notion of Taino/African ancestry a new one?

I am often dismayed and yet intrigued by many Jamaicans, with distinct African features, who go to great length to explain/ 'prove' their mixed ancestry, which occurred a few generations before. The recent claims of Taino descent by the Maroons reminds me of this pitiful tendency to deny and suppress obvious African identity and exalt others.

What is even more concerning is the fact that this supposed Taino-Afro miscegenation occurred over 360 years ago. With such distant occurrences, can current Maroons credibly claim Taino ancestry? Hardly likely.

Based on the aforementioned and what is already known of the Maroons many Jamaicans would not be inclined to believe the claim that the current descendants of the Maroons in Jamaica are descendants of Tainos and Africans.

Duane harris

doharris@hotmail.com

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