Jamaica Unit Study: Taíno Natives – Traditional House & Paper People

Part of the fun of studying another country is not only what it is like now, but it’s history. As part of our Jamaica unit study, I wanted to do an activity that honored the indigenous people of the Caribbean, the Taíno. The ancestors of the Taíno originated in South America, and eventually migrated to these island homes. During the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of the Caribbean, including Jamaica. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage.

In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, the Taíno were almost completely wiped out due to harsh enslavement by the colonists and European diseases that caused the majority of deaths. A smallpox epidemic in Hispaniola in 1518–1519 killed almost 90% of the surviving Taíno, with the remaining survivors absorbing into the cultures of the settlers and slaves that came in coming years. For many years the
Taíno was considered extinct by the end of the century, but recently attempts has found indigenous Taíno identity in rural areas of the Caribbean.

Using images from the internet, I decided to make a little Taíno hut as part of our hands on learning project. A oatmeal container provided the perfect base and I thought bamboo skewers would make a perfect look to our project.

I cut the container down to about half the height.

Then I started gluing the skewers on. I cut them skewers in half and then my daughter handed them to me as I worked the hot glue gun.

We covered our “hut” quicker than I had anticipated, lol.

For our roof, we used a piece of construction paper used masking tape to form a slight slope. You can download the roof patter HERE.

We also glued it on the top of our hut with hot glue. We decided to use natural-colored Raffia as our “grass” for the top of our hut. I had my kiddo cut little chunks and we glued them on, overlapping the grass so the white paper didn’t show through. This actually took a fair amount of time.

As I finished up the roof, I had my daughter cut out our little Taíno people. I drew these simple designs based on images I found on the internet. You can download a copy HERE.

My daughter is only three, but did an amazing job of cutting out these people I felt. I tried to just let her do her thing and not micromanage (it’s hard, the perfectionist in me, lol)

To form the base, we cut a small width of toilet paper tube and glued the white base around the tube with our hot glue gun.

Tada! I should also note our door we used a rectangle of black construction paper. You could also cut a hole in the oatmeal container prior to gluing the skewers for more realism.

Now comes the fun part – my daughter liked to move the people around and we played
Taíno natives until my youngest woke up. My daughter wanted to know why they didn’t like to wear much clothes and why the boy’s hair was in a pony tail. We talked how different people wear their hair and dress differently, and that’s ok. What a fun way to learn about history and culture!

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