Origins And Etymology Of The Name Jamaica


The investigations into the origins and etymology of the name ‘Jamaica’ I think are impossible to substantiate by modern historical standards due to the ‘unverifiable’ nature of oral history of African descent. Also it is sad that many have reduced the investigation of the origins of the name to laying claim for bragging rights by a particular ethnic group. An all too common misplaced African trait. I believe irrespective of which cultures influenced the name, theirs was a sad history that has created a new people and what they have collectively become today is just as important as where they originally came from.[appbox googleplay ]

That being said, my past research into this revealed some important truths and glaring inconsistencies, albeit unverifiable ones. Let me premise everything by saying, I can only share my personal perspective but I have come to often distrust official narratives especially where it is in the victors interest to rewrite it to suit themselves.

It is public record that captured Asante warriors who were enslaved and sent to the Caribbean were among the biggest regrets of the English sugar producing slave masters. The all too well known Asante ‘stubbornness and pride’ kicked off a revolution that reverberated throughout the Caribbean because not only did they revolt and fight the oppression but they campaigned and spread dissent among the other slave settlements. This history is very common if you search but is rarely mentioned in the official narratives because it is a source of embarrassment for the descendants of the English settlers.

The Asante had on record successfully resisted English oppression several times both in Africa and in the Caribbean. All this is recorded history for anyone seeking to research. Also rarely mentioned is the fact that the Asantè maroons revolt was never conquered. A major source of embarrassment to the equally proud British empire. The British were forced to sign a treaty with the maroons respecting their autonomy. Usually a dubious technique that was often used in Africa to reduce resistance before breaking convenants and invading. See

This did not work this time. Perhaps this generation of Asante maroons had learned that these two timing ‘oppressors’ were never to be trusted. Something we could still learn a thing or two from today perhaps? Till today that treaty stands and they were never defeated.

The official narrative admits one thing that I find contradictory. It is accepted that the original inhabitants of the island were the Arawak. However, official narratives also admit that they were systemically wiped out. Probably as many as half a million. This was not an uncommon technique used by European new world settlers seeking ownership of new lands. All of Africa and America bear evidence of this evil systematic eradication of the indigenous peoples. It is on record that by the time the English moved in to oust the Spanish there were almost NO ARAWAK LEFT*?.

Herein, lies my confusion. It is not in the culture of the European oppressors to adopt the local names of territories they conquer. No need to defend that. Indeed it is even on record that attempts were made to rename by Columbus etc but efforts were “resisted”. ? By whom? The extinct Arawaks?
Anyhow the British introduced their ill-fated slave labor from Africa and their non-ending well documented revolts. This leads to an interesting correlation drawn between the Asante town Jamasi (meaning under the Gyama tree – a common Akan*? landmarking tradition which uses distinguishable trees. See Cotton Tree Freetown) Evidence for this is supported by the continuation of the tree landmarking tradition in the independent county of Accoompong and the Kindah Tree. (See links above). Historically it is said Jamasi was the administrative Silver Stool province of the Asante confederation prior to it’s movement to Mampong till current day.*?
As it is impossible to know for certain what really happened all I can do is ask questions that lead to even more analysis. Did the Akan learn about the Arawak name of the land and stubbornly stick to it as a reminder of the silver stool province of the Asante confederation (Jamasi)? Or did they come up with the name themselves as a memento?
Is the Arawak attribution of the origins of the name by the “dubious” official narratives out of genuine respect for another exterminated race by European invaders OR another now all too familiar attempt to rewrite history and reduce the impact that a stubborn African tribe had on the “almighty British empire” globally? Sadly, we will never know. Let it be stated however the the origin of the name must not be debased by a pissing contest for bragging rights between descendants of much better men and women who rewrote history but should be used as a reminder that WE CANNOT BE SUPPRESSED no matter where we are. May we come to the realization that what connects us is stronger than tribalistic pride and correct the mistakes and misconceptions of our ancestors to secure the existence of our descendants and not be erased like the ARAWAKS. Africa is just one big extended family. Like we know back home, always fighting, always messy but we know we only survive and thrive when we place family first. It’s time to quit thinking tribe and nation and think family. One African family. Cos that’s actually what we really are, wherever we are.

(NB.*? used to denote information that is available either by oral traditions or other sources that the writer has not provided verifiable links or cited sources for. Kindly research for yourself as this is just a personal perspective shared with 3am insomnia. ?

Also forgive the possible numerous typos if any. ?

Lastly, if I tagged you out of the 50 slots I had, prolly means I consider you one among the dwindling numbers of readers or/and analytical minds and am interested in your feedback. Please don’t let that slot go to waste. ? )

Caption… First ever photo with any of my matrimonial aunts, let alone the only 2 of of nine left. Lesson: if you do not allow life to bring you together, death will. Selah.

By Richard Boateng