A Mohawk Perspective on Haiti

Haiti is a place of angry spirits yet to be released from the agony of their passing.

This land was called Ayiti by its Arawak-Taino native peoples who may, according to some, be the relatives of the Iroquois. We do have a place of common origin in the American south but while our ancestors migrated to the cool woodlands of the northeast others elected to enter the rich tropical waters of the Caribbean and gradually populate its islands before reaching the South American coast.

Haiti was populated by hundreds of thousands of Natives at the time of contact with the wayward explorer Cristobal Colon (mistakenly called Christopher Columbus) on Dec. 6, 1492. He landed in the northern part of Ayiti and his description of the region is worth quoting from his journal:

"As I approached the entrance of this harbour (St. Nicholas) I marveled at its beauty and excellence....From there it is level as far as the cape where there is a beautiful beach and a grove of a thousand kinds, all loaded with fruit....There must be a lot of people in this region since I have seen many canoes."

On Dec. 13 Colon wrote:

"Their land is so beautiful and fertile...Everyone fled when they heard we were coming leaving behind whatever they had. The village consisted of more than 1,000 houses and must have had a population of over 3,000...they (the Natives) gave beautiful things to everyone they met... My men told me that these people were more handsome and of better disposition than any that we had seen up to now but I do not know how this is possible As to the country, the best in Castile in beauty and fertility cannot compare with this."

So what did Colon and the Spaniards do to this paradise inhabited by Arawak-Tainos who may have numbered as many as three million on that island alone?

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