Sun | May 26, 2024

Tainos want ‘indigenous’ status legitimised

Published:Friday | April 12, 2024 | 12:10 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaican Kasike (chief) Kalaan Nibonrix Kaiman (Robert Pairman).
Jamaican Kasike (chief) Kalaan Nibonrix Kaiman (Robert Pairman).

A GROUP of people who have identified themselves as Jamaican Taínos are calling on the Government to legitimise their status as indigenous people amid concerns that plans that began in 2022 to do so have stalled.

Robert Pairman, Kasike/Chief Kalaan at the Yamaye Guani Council, said that while the Government recognises Taino culture it does not officially classify the group as indigenous people.

Pairman, who joined civil society bodies for the Advocates Network Post-Budget Governance press conference at Spanish Court Hotel on Wednesday, said the responsibility fell on the Jamaica National Heritage Trust after the group sent a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

He said post-Budget debate, he has heard nothing regarding allocation to the Ministry of Culture that would facilitate this process of working with indigenous communities and helping them to identify their place in Jamaica’s history.

Further, he said the UN committee expressed concern about the lack of classification and has urged the Government to re-evaluate its approach to indigenous people, respecting self-identification and engaging in open discussion with Taino and Maroon communities.

“This implies a potential gap between the Government’s action and international recommendation on indigenous rights. The current situation is that the Jamaican Government does not formally recognise the Yamaye and Maroon communities as indigenous people,” Pairman said.

He said this lack of recognition has significant consequences that hinder the exercise of the groups’ cultural practice and self-determination.


Pairman has listed a slew of actions his group wants the Government to take, beginning with formal recognition.

He wants the Government to implement official legal recognition of the indigenous rights of Tainos and Maroons that align with the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Additionally, Pairman is calling for open dialogue. He wants the Government to initiate a meaningful and constructive dialogue with the Yamaye Taino for truth-telling, reconciliation, and resolution of land and self-determination.

The Taino chief said collaboration on national issues of mutual interests can follow.

He also wants the legislative framework to include constitutional provisions to guarantee the rights of both communities to their lands, territories, and resources.

“Protecting us from illegal encroachment,” he said.

He also wants the Government to ensure that free, prior, and informed consent is required and obtained before development for extractive project impacts traditional lands and resources.

The establishment of a formal framework for ongoing engagement between the Government and indigenous communities ensuring adherence to Jamaica’s international obligations has also been proposed.

“Refrain from the use of force, harassment, and intimidation by law-enforcement officials towards indigenous leaders and others defending their rights,” said Pairman.

“Withdraw the Cabinet Office directive and any public statements discouraging collaboration with communities claiming or seeking indigenous rights. An apology for this offence is also requested,” he added.

The Taino chief also wants the Government to seek technical advice from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the rights of indigenous people.

He said this will support efforts to align Jamaica’s legal framework with international law.