Lost Tribe of Ja­maica

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Tony Deyal Tony Deyal was last seen say­ing such is the ig­no­rance and dis­re­spect for the in­ven­tors of cho­co­late milk that Se­in­feld had the temer­ity to joke, “Why do they call it Oval­tine? The mug is round. The jar is round. They should call it Round­tine.”

ONCE UPON a time, there lived in the Caribbean the Taino peo­ple. They gave us words like bar­ba­coa (bar­be­cue), hamaca (ham­mock), kanoa (ca­noe), tabaco (to­bacco), yuca, batata (sweet potato), and ju­ra­can (hur­ri­cane).

It was al­ways thought that they were di­vided into three groups, the West­ern Taino (Ja­maica, most of Cuba, and the Ba­hamas), the Clas­sic Taino (His­pan­iola and Puerto Rico) and the Eastern Taino (north­ern Lesser An­tilles). But now spec­u­la­tion about the ex­is­tence of a lost tribe is in­creas­ing among ar­chae­ol­o­gists, his­to­ri­ans, an­thro­pol­o­gists and the oc­ca­sional news­pa­per colum­nist be­cause of a find­ing by the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tute.

His­tory is full of ‘lost tribes’. Here were the Ten Lost Tribes of Is­rael, named af­ter the sons or grand­sons of Ja­cob. They were later thought to have been as­sim­i­lated by the Assyr­i­ans, but there are also ru­mours that some of them might have ended up in Ja­pan (be­cause of the sim­i­lar­ity of rit­u­als and fes­ti­vals). The Mor­mons also claim that they are among the lost tribes, and many peo­ple agree that they are in­deed lost and should re­main so.

Then there is the Lost Tribe of the An­des, which sounds like the dis­cov­ery of a group of na­tive peo­ple high up in the South Amer­i­can moun­tains, but is re­ally about the hard time a Jewish fam­ily had in adapt­ing to Amer­i­can life.


Then there was the Lost Tribe of the Ama­zon, a group of 35 ‘un­con­tacted’ indige­nous peo­ple, the ‘Ts­apanawas’ or ‘Sa­panahuas’, who were filmed in June 2014 turn­ing up at a vil­lage in Brazil’s Ama­zon near the bor­der with Peru. There was a Lost Tribe in Trinidad, but it turned out to be a car­ni­val band. This wasn’t the same tribe found by the lost ex­plorer who sud­denly found him­self sur­rounded by a blood­thirsty group of na­tives. Upon sur­vey­ing the sit­u­a­tion, he said qui­etly to him­self, “Oh God, I’m his­tory.” A ray of light fell from the sky and a voice boomed out, “No, you are not his­tory. Pick up that stone at your feet and bash in the head of the chief stand­ing in front of you.”

So the ex­plorer picked up the stone and pro­ceeded to bash the life out of the chief. He stood above the life­less body, breath­ing heav­ily, sur­rounded by 100 na­tives with looks of shock on their faces. The voice boomed out again, “Okay, NOW you’re his­tory.”

The old tele­vi­sion se­ries (F-Troop) had some fun with adapt­ing an ‘Xrated’ joke about the lost Fu­gawi In­dian tribe to the Hekawis. This is how the Hekawi tribe got their name. Chief Wild Ea­gle say­ing to the young men of the tribe as they pre­pare for their ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony, “Many moons ago tribe move west be­cause Pil­grims ruin neigh­bour­hood. Tribe travel west, over coun­try and moun­tains and wild streams, then come big day ... tribe fall over cliff, that when Hekawi get name. Medicine man say to my an­ces­tor, ‘I think we lost. Where the heck are we?’”

This is prob­a­bly what Sir Hans Sloane, an Ir­ish-born Bri­tish physi­cian, nat­u­ral­ist and col­lec­tor said to him­self when he ar­rived in Ja­maica in 1687 as the doc­tor at­tached to the new gov­er­nor of Ja­maica, the sec­ond Duke of Al­ber­marle.

Ja­maica was fast be­com­ing a ma­jor source of wealth to the Bri­tish, and there was in­creas­ing in­ter­est in that coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, “Sloane mar­ried El­iz­a­beth Lan­g­ley Rose, the widow of Fulke Rose of Ja­maica and daugh­ter of al­der­man John Lan­g­ley ... . In­come from the su­gar pro­duced by en­slaved African labourers on El­iz­a­beth’s plan­ta­tions at an area known as Six­teen Mile Walk fed the fam­ily for­tunes in Lon­don, and to­gether with Sloane’s med­i­cal rev­enue and Lon­don prop­erty in­vest­ments, gave him the wealth to col­lect on a vast scale.

“Sloane en­coun­tered ca­cao while he was in Ja­maica, where the lo­cals drank it mixed with wa­ter, though he is re­ported to have found it nau­se­at­ing. Many recipes for mix­ing cho­co­late with spice, eggs, su­gar and milk were in cir­cu­la­tion by the 17th Cen­tury. Af­ter re­turn­ing from Ja­maica, Sloane may have de­vised his own recipe for mix­ing cho­co­late with milk, though, if so, he was not the first.


“By the 1750s, a Soho gro­cer named Ni­cholas San­ders claimed to be sell­ing Sloane’s recipe as a medic­i­nal elixir, per­haps mak­ing ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Cho­co­late’ the first brand-name milk cho­co­late. By the 19th Cen­tury, the Cad­bury Broth­ers sold tins of drink­ing cho­co­late whose trade cards also in­voked Sloane’s recipe.”

The Smith­so­nian has now de­bunked the claim that Sloane in­vented cho­co­late milk. It says (Smart News), “But, as with most things, the Euro­pean who gets credit for in­vent­ing some­thing prob­a­bly did not ac­tu­ally in­vent it. Ac­cord­ing to Jame Del­bougo, a his­to­rian, the Ja­maicans were brew­ing ‘a hot bev­er­age brewed from shav­ings of freshly har­vested ca­cao, boiled with milk and cin­na­mon’ as far back as 1494.”

Who were they, those in­ven­tive, in­trepid and in­no­va­tive Ja­maicans who first mixed co­coa with milk, and may have even added su­gar, to cre­ate my favourite drink and drink of choice of mil­lions of peo­ple through­out the world who feast on it ei­ther at break­fast or just be­fore they go to sleep?

I am con­vinced that they were the lost na­tive tribe that formed the Fourth Es­tate or out­post of the Taino cul­ture. They were the ones who grew co­coa and reared cat­tle. They in­vented cho­co­late milk be­fore Hans Sloane. They were even­tu­ally recog­nised, but long af­ter Cad­bury, Fry, Milo, Tono and the other im­posters, in­ter­lop­ers and char­la­tans. They were the Oval­tainos.

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