“Taino Indians are indigenous to the Caribbean Islands, in the area of the Greater Antilles which is comprised of modern day Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.” They were part of the larger Arawak group from South America, many of whom lived in the Caribbean islands at the time of contact with Europeans.

Indigenous Caribbean coqui frog design
Coqui frog, found in Taino petroglyphs, now used as a symbol of Puerto Rico.

“The western world caught its first glimpse of the Taino Indians around 1492 when Christopher Columbus grounded the Santa Maria somewhere close to modern day Dominican Republic. The arrival of the Spanish brought disease, slavery and rebellion by the Taino that reduced their populace from an estimated 50,000 to total extinction in less than 40 years.”

“As a pre-columbian society the Taino had no written alphabet. Instead they had a language called Arawakan, which consisted of petroglyphs, artistic symbols that were carved on rocks. These artful symbols were also tattooed. Taino men had tattoos for spiritual purposes, the women had piercings.”

This figure is one of the Sun symbols found in Taino art.
This figure is one of the Sun symbols found in Taino art.

(The writing above is reproduced in full from the Free Tattoo Designs website.)


  • Coqui: a small frog native to Puerto Rico. It’s also the symbol of the island.
  • Sun: Another of the most popular Taino symbols, the Sun and Moon are represented often in petroglyphs.
  • Animals: small animals like frogs, turtles and lizards occur frequently in Taino art.


More resources:

Smithsonian Magazine: What Became of the Taino?

History of the Taino Indians by Dr. Francisco J. Collazo

Taino Treasures: The legacy of Dr. Ricardo E. Alegria

Wikipedia: The Taino People


Sea turtle petroglyph drawing from the Taino native Caribbean people
Sea turtle petroglyph drawing from the Taino native Caribbean people

Dock Installation crew:

Layout and design: Liz LaManche
Inking: Brian Browne, Carolyn Emberley, Debby Sommer
Sealant Application: Liz LaManche, Brian Browne, Dan Alroy, Carolyn Flesner

Taino Sun Symbol
Taino (Indigenous Caribbean) sun symbol from petroglyphs
Taino (Native Caribbean) tattoo designs, completed
Taino (Native Caribbean) tattoo designs, completed


arawak-borderThe border design at the right side of the pier comes from details on an Arawak beaded figure, and is representative of the repeating geometric and spiral designs found in caves and on pottery. I intentionally joined it with the Life Path element from the Northeastern Native American area, in a continuous line to signify their linked histories and cultural similarities, and ended the linear element with a Pequot/Wampanoag Tree of Life to symbolize cultural survival.