Written By Dr. Lynne Guitar, expert on the history Caribbean indigenous peoples.
1) Guanahatabeys, erroneously called Ciboneyes, were a hunting-and-gathering people whose food base was fish and shellfish (though some also say they hunted the Giant Sloth and were the cause of its extinction in the Greater Antilles). They migrated by canoe from Central America to Cuba, then to Quisqueya, beginning around 5,000-4,000 B.C.
2) At the same time (5,000-4,000 B.C.) another hunting-and-gathering people (Ortoiroid culture) migrated from the Orinoco River region of South America, canoeing north and northwest up the chain of the Antillean Islands to Puerto Rico. They reached the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola around 1,000 B.C., but do not appear to have crossed the passage for nearly 2,000 years, though they probably established trade relations with the Guanahatabeys on Hispaniola.
3) Around 2,000 B.C., yet another wave of hunting-and-gathering people from the Orinoco River region swept up the Lesser Antilles, most likely because a tidal wave from the multiple meteor impacts in southern South America depopulated the islands’ shore-based settlements. These people, in turn, were hit by a mega-tidal wave caused by yet another meteor impact around 1150 B.C., although some appear to have survived by hiding out in caves.
4) Approximately 1,000-500 B.C., the Caribbean’s first agriculturalists began migrating up the Antillean chain. They were also from the Orinoco River region. Called Pre-Igneris, their language was Arawak based and they are considered to be the ancestors of the Taíno. They reached Borinquen around 400-300 B.C., no doubt conquering, pushing out, and/or intermarrying with the previous non-agricultural settlers.
5) Another wave of agricultural peoples from the Orinoco River region (Saladoid culture) began to move into the Lesser Antilles around 500 B.C. By A.D. 400-500, they had begun to move into the Greater Antilles, no doubt fighting with, pushing out, and/or intermarrying with the earlier settlers, whose culture and language were very similar. The merged peoples are known as Igneri.
6) By A.D. 950, the Igneris had crossed the formerly stable frontier at the Mona Passage and had begun to settle Hispaniola and eastern Cuba, no doubt conquering and/or intermarrying with the Guanahatabeys, who had inhabited Hispaniola by then for approximately 5,000 years. In the process they developed the agricultural techniques, artistic traditions, and other rituals and beliefs that today are identified as Classic Taíno. Taíno people and culture evolved en situ on Hispaniola—they were a mixture of the genes and cultures of at least four distinct peoples.
7) The Taíno population grew rapidly, no doubt due to their improved and very efficient agricultural and fishing techniques. The Taíno people, with their agricultural and cultural traditions, then spread back to Puerto Rico, for the Mona Passage had become an open channel, not a barrier. Then they began settling the Bahamas and Jamaica.
8) Around A.D. 1200, the last wave of indigenous peoples to sweep up the Antillean Chain from the Orinoco River region was a people whom the Taínos called Caribes (they called themselves Kalinago). By 1492, the Caribes had reached today’s Virgin Islands, which was the frontier between the two groups of native peoples. They were bitter enemies, fighting for the islands’ resources, when Europeans arrived in 1492.