Bois Caïman (Bwa Kayiman) and plant names

                                          (Li li an Kreyòl)       (Version française)

Author : Rodney Salnave
Function : Dougan (Scribe)
Date : September 7, 2016

Since 1996, it has been circulated the falsehood that the historical place called « Bois Caïman » or « Bwa Kayiman » (in Haitian Creole) originated from the expression « Bwa Kay Iman » that, according to the revisionnists, signifies in Creole a Wooden area (Bwa) that holds a House (Kay) where an Imam (Iman) supposedly resided. (1) And the proponents of the muslim fabulation, not concerned with providing proofs of their assumptions, claimed that the Imam or rather the « Iman » in question was Boukman, the 1791 revolutionary leader whose own name was also supposed to be the result of a linguistic deformation from the English « Book » plus « Man » to signify a Man of the Book. Because in his supposed native Jamaica (which, in a later article, I will prove was never the case) he was said to constantly carry a Book. And such a Book, according to revisionist simplicity, couldn’t be of any other kind than a Coran, the muslim holy book, in the heart of protestant Jamaica. 
"Boukmann se yon gwo potorik gason negriye Angle pran nan kontrebann sou zile Jamayik. Li vin chwe sou bitasyon yon blan Franse ki rele Clemant. Gen listwaryen ki di se yon Afriken Mizilman li te ye paske yo te rele li Boukmann, sa vle di: nèg ki konn li. Listwaryen sa yo di, dòdinè se yon non yo te konn bay Afriken Mizilman ki te konn li liv Koran sou zile blan Angle te kontwole yo." (2) 
Translation : 
"Boukman is a huge man that English enslavers smuggled on the island of Jamaica. He landed on the plantation of a white Frenchman named Clemant. Some historians say he was an African Muslim because he was named Bookman, ie: he was literate. These historians say, it's a name usually given to African Muslims known to read the book of the Koran on islands under English rule."
And to futher justify an islamized Boukman, a mandigo origin was imposed on him. (Which I will also disproof in a subsequent article). The combination of these far-fetched elements would then lead to the conclusion that the Bwa Kayiman ceremony that helped spark the August 22, 1791 insurrection that gave birth to the Haitian Revolution, was in fact the handiwork of a muslim « Iman ».
"Nan zòn Bwa Kay Iman pa genyen e sanble pate janm te genyen bèt ki rele Kayiman an, kikonk sanble se pa la mo a sòti. Daprè kèk fouyapòt, non an sanble wè douvanjou apati prezans Boukmann osnon Fatiman nan zòn nan (Iman, nan relijyon Islam, relijyon Mizilman yo, se yon lidè relijye, kòmkwa yon Oungan/Manbo nan Vodoun). Kidonk Bwa Kay Iman ta ka vle di Bò kote Kay Imann lan ye a osnon Bwa Kay Imann." (3) 
Translation :
"In the Bwa Kay Iman area, there isn't and it seems there was never been the animal called Cayman, thus, it looks like it's not there that the word is derived. According to some researchers, the name seems to origine from Bookman's presence or Fatiman's presence in that area (Iman, in Islam, the Muslims' religion, is a religious leader, same as a houngan/Mambo in Vodoun). Thus, Bwa Kay Iman could mean (Bò kote Kay Imann) Near the spot where House of the Imann is located or Bwa Kay Imann."
And on top of all that, one must also disregard the fact that during the said ceremony at Boukman’s said lieu de résidence (Bwa Kay Iman), a black pig was sacrificed by a priestess (Cécile Fatiman) and its blood drunk by the participants : all practices that are diametrally contrary to islam principles.
Such urban legend-type argument is easily disproved by the quickest glance at Haitian botanical names. Indeed, the combination of plant names beginning with Bois (Bwa) and ending with animal names (such as Caïman (Kayiman)) is all too common :

Bois à cochon (Pig) (p.248)
Bois bourrique (Mule) (p.245)
Bois cabrit (Goat) (pp.263, 290, 291)
Bois cachiman (Not an animal, but a tree (Custard Apple) whose name resembles "Caiman") (p.235)
Bois caiman (pp.260, 261, 279)
Bois cochon (Pig) (p.237, 244)
Bois cochon marron (Maroon Pig)  (p.244)
Bois coq (Rooster) (pp.250, 274)
Bois coq d'Inde (Rooster of India) (p,284)
Bois couleuvre (Snake) (pp.245, 294)
Bois crapaud (Frog) (pp.252, 276)
Bois de coq (Rooster) (p.284)
Bois guepes (Wasp) (p.252)
Bois lezard (Lizard) (p.302)
Bois pigeon (Pigeon) (p.271)
Bois poisson (Fish) (p.297)
Bois poulette (Chick) (p.269)
Bois sadine (Sardine) (p.291)
Bois sardine (Sardine) (p.297)
Bois vache (Cow) (p.252)

Source: Joel Timyan. Bwa Yo : Important Trees of Haiti. Washington, 2006. pp. 235-302.

Here are 5 plants that share the Bois Caïman (Bwa Kayiman) nane in Haitian Creole (4) :

Lonchocarpus domingensis (Turp.)

Dalbergia domingensis Turp., L
DC. domingensis (Pers.) DC.

bois caïman (H); anon de majagua, anon de rio,
anoncillo (RD); guamá de soga (C); genogeno
CPR); savonnette bois, savonnette riviere (G, M)

Photo source :
Lonchocarpus latifolius (Willd.) DC.

Amerimnum latifolium Willd..
Dalbergia pentaphylla Poir., L
heptaphyllus DC., L
pentaphyllus DC.

battre à caïman, bois caïman (H); anon, anon de
majagua (RD); guamá de costa, guamá macho (C);
forte-ventura, palo hediono, palo seco (PR);
lancewood (US) .

Photo source :

Lonchocarpus neurophyllus Urb.

L. ehrenbergii Urb.

bois caïman, bois d'anneau, caïman (H); anon de
majagua, anoncillo de majagua, azota criollo,
biajama (RD)

Photo source :

Piptadenia peregrina (L.) Benth.

Acacia peregrina Willd.,
Anadenanthra pergrina Speg.,
Mimosa peregrina L., Niopa
peregrina Britt. & Rose

bois caïman, bois ecorce, bois galle, oeuf de poule
(H); candelon, candelon de teta, cojoba, tamarindo
de teta (RD); bastard tamarind (J) 

Photo source :

Eugenia domingensis Berg

E. aeruginea auth., not DC.

bois caïman, brignolle, brille (H); guásara, guázara
(RD); comecará (C); guasábara (PR) 

Photo source :

(1) André Gustave. "Haïti/Guerre de l’Indépendance: Bois-Caïman, On s’en souvient". Submitted by Daniel Daréus, August 20, 2012 . URL: ; Retrieved on December 16, 2015.
(2) Jafrikayiti (Jean Saint-Vil). Viv Bondye! Aba relijyon. Ottawa, 2000. p.44.
(3) Jafrikayiti. Ibid. p.46.
(4) Joel Timyan. Bwa Yo : Important Trees of Haiti. Washington, 2006. pp. 260, 261, 279.

How to cite this article :
Rodney Salnave. "Bois Caïman (Bwa Kayiman) and plant names". Sept. 7, 2016. [online] URL : ; Retrieved on [enter date]

Contact :

Twitter : @BwaKayIlMent

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