History of the TCI

The Turks and Caicos Islands may be a relatively young country in terms of development, but it still retains a storied history filled with events from its first settlers to its newest government. Late in the first millennia, the islands were settled by the Taino Indians - later to be known as the Lucayans. Traces of their civilization can still be found around the islands.

In the centuries leading up to British rule over the TCI, the islands saw the arrival of Europeans and resulting eradication of the Lucayan population. Years after their absence, Bermudians took up seasonal salt raking on the uninhabited islands, a practice that would later become a staple industry for the fledgling country.

The British officially claimed the islands in 1764, putting them under Bahamian jurisdiction two years later. Over the next 80 years the country remained largely unchanged. The end of the American Revolution brought a small influx of British loyalists who took to sisal farming, but their success was relatively short lived.

NASA photo: John Glenn entering Friendship 7

After completing three orbits around the Earth in Friendship 7, U.S.Astronaut John Glenn landed in the waters near Grand Turk.

In 1848, the country was separated from the Bahamas, and for the first time self-governance ensued for a 25 year period known as the Presidency Era. Until 1873, a President reigned over the nation, assisted by Council, under the superintendence of the governor of Jamaica. As a result of unsustainable taxation created to offset increasing debts, the country was annexed to Jamaica, where it would remain until Jamaica claimed their independence from Britain in 1962. Those years saw events such as the institution of the TCI’s own currency — which was replaced with the Jamaican currency 25 years later — and the construction of a U.S. missile base on Grand Turk.

The first Turks and Caicos Constitution was established and the first elections occurred in 1959.

When Jamaica separated from the British Crown in 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands was returned to Bahamian jurisdiction, at which time they adopted the U.S. dollar as their currency. Ten years later the Bahamas would go independent as well, and the TCI would receive its first governor.

In 1976, after the installation of a new constitution, JAGS McCartney was elected as the first Chief Minister of the TCI leading a ministerial-style government. After a Commission of Inquiry in 2009, England suspended the TCI Constitution for a second time in its history (the first in 1986) due to allegations of corruption, and took over the administration of the nation. Elections in November 2012 marked the return of the TCI to its former self-governance practice under its own reinstated and revised constitution. The Progressive National Party was elected by majority to govern the country and their leader, Dr. Rufus Ewing, was inaugurated as the third Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Source: History of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Dr. Carlton Mills, editor