The island was called by various names by its native people, the Taíno Amerindians. No known Taíno texts exist, hence, historical evidence for those names comes to us through three European historians: the Italian Pietro Martyr d‘Anghiera, and the Spaniards Bartolomé de las Casas and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo. Fernández de Oviedo and de las Casas both recorded that the island was called Quizqueia (supposedly "Mother of all Lands") by the Taíno. D'Anghiera added another name, Haiti ("Mountainous Land"), but later research shows that the word does not seem to derive from the original Arawak Taíno language. (Quisqueya is today mostly used in the Dominican Republic.) Although the Taínos' use of Quizqueia is verified, and the name was used by all three historians, evidence suggests that it probably was the Taíno name of the whole island, and for a region (now known as Los Haitises) in the northeastern section of the present-day Dominican Republic.
When Columbus took possession of the island in 1492, he named it Insula Hispana in Latin and La Isla Española in Spanish, with both meaning "the Spanish island". De las Casas shortened the name to "Española", and when d‘Anghiera detailed his account of the island in Latin, he rendered its name as Hispaniola. In the oldest documented map of the island, created by Andrés de Morales, Los Haitises is labeled Montes de Haití ("Haiti Mountains"), and de las Casas apparently named the whole island Haiti on the basis of that particular region, as d'Anghiera states that the name of one part was given to the whole island.
Due to Taíno, Spanish and French influences on the island, historically the whole island was often referred to as Haiti, Hayti, Santo Domingo, St. Domingue, or San Domingo. The colonial terms Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo are sometimes still applied to the whole island, though these names refer, respectively, to the colonies that became Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since Anghiera's literary work was translated into English and French soon after being written, the name Hispaniola became the most frequently used term in English-speaking countries for the island in scientific and cartographic works. In 1918, the United States occupation government, led by Harry Shepard Knapp, obliged the use of the name Hispaniola on the island, and recommended the use of that name to the National Geographic Society.
The name Haïti was adopted by Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines in 1804, as the official name of independent Saint-Domingue, as a tribute to the Amerindian predecessors. It was also adopted as the official name of independent Santo Domingo, as the Republic of Spanish Haiti, a state that existed from November 1821 until its annexation by Haiti in February 1822.
The primary indigenous group on the island of Hispaniola was the Arawak/Taíno people. The Arawak tribe originated in the Orinoco Delta, spreading from Venezuela. They travelled to Hispaniola around 1200 CE. Each society on the island was a small independent kingdom with a lead known as a cacique. In 1492, which is considered the peak of the Taíno, there were five different kingdoms on the island, the Xaragua, Higuey (Caizcimu), Magua (Huhabo), Ciguayos (Cayabo or Maguana), and Marien (Bainoa). Many distinct Taíno languages also existed in this time period. There is still heated debate over the population of Taíno people on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, but estimates range upwards of 750,000.
An Arawak/Taíno home consisted of a circular building with woven straw and palm leaves as covering. Most individuals slept in fashioned hammocks, but grass beds were also used. The cacique lived in a different structure with larger rectangular walls and a porch. The Taíno village also had a flat court used for ball games and festivals. Religiously, the Arawak/Taíno people were polytheists, and their gods were called zemí. Religious worship and dancing were common, and medicine men or priests also consulted the zemí for advise in public ceremonies. For food, the Arawak/Taíno relied on meat and fish as a primary source for protein; some small mammals on the island were hunted such as rats, but ducks, turtles, snakes, and bats as a common food source. The Taíno also relied on agriculture as a primary food source. The indigenous people of Hispaniola raised crops in a conuco, which is a large mound packed with leaves and fixed crops to prevent erosion. Some common agricultural goods were cassava, maize, squash, beans, peppers, peanuts, cotton, and tobacco, which was used as an aspect of social life and religious ceremonies. 
The Arawak/Taíno people travelled often and used hollowed canoes with paddles when on the water for fishing or for migration purposes, and upwards of 100 people could fit into a single canoe. The Taíno came in contact with the Caribs, another indigenous tribe, often. The caribs lived mostly in modern day Puerto Rico and northeast Hispaniola and were known to be hostile towards other tribes. The Arawak/Taíno people had to defend themselves using bow and arrows with poisoned tips and some war clubs. When Columbus landed on Hispaniola, many Taíno leaders wanted protection from the Caribs.
Columbus landing on Hispaniola
Christopher Columbus inadvertently landed on the island during his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492, where his flagship, the Santa Maria, sank after running aground on December 25. A contingent of men were left at an outpost christened La Navidad, on the north coast of present-day Puerto Plata. On his return the following year, Columbus quickly established a second compound farther east in present-day Dominican Republic, La Isabela after the destruction of La Navidad.
The island was inhabited by the Taíno, one of the indigenous Arawak peoples. The Taíno helped Columbus construct La Navidad on what is now Môle-Saint-Nicolas, Haiti, in December 1492. European colonization of the island began in earnest the following year, when 1,300 men arrived from Spain under the watch of Bartolomeo Columbus. In 1496, the town of Nueva Isabela was founded. After being destroyed by a hurricane, it was rebuilt on the opposite side of the Ozama River and called Santo Domingo. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas.
Harsh enslavement by Spanish colonists, as well as redirection of food supplies and labor, had a devastating impact on both mortality and fertility of the Taíno population over the first quarter century. Colonial administrators and Dominican and Hyeronimite priests observed that the search for gold and agrarian enslavement through the encomienda system were depressing population. Demographic data from two provinces in 1514 shows a low birth rate consistent with a 3.5% annual population decline. In 1503 the colony began to import African slaves after a charter was passed in 1501 allowing the import of slaves by Ferdinand and Isabel. The Spanish believed Africans would be more capable of performing physical labor. From 1519 to 1533, the indigenous uprising known as Enriquillo's Revolt, after the Taíno cacique who lead them, ensued, resulting from escaped African slaves on the island possibly working with the Taíno people.
Precious metals played a large role in the history of the island after Columbus's arrival. One of the first inhabitants Columbus came across on this island was "a girl wearing only a gold nose plug". Soon the Taínos were trading pieces of gold for hawk's bells with their cacique declaring the gold came from Cibao. Traveling further east from Navidad, Columbus came across the Yaque del Norte River, which he named Rio de Oro because its "sands abound in gold dust".
On Columbus's return during his second voyage, he learned it was the cacique Caonabo who had massacred his settlement at Navidad. While Columbus established a new settlement at La Isabela on Jan. 1494, he sent Alonso de Ojeda and 15 men to search for the mines of Cibao. After a six-day journey, Ojeda came across an area containing gold, in which the gold was extracted from streams by the Taíno people. Columbus himself visited the mines of Cibao on 12 March 1494. He constructed the Fort of Santo Tomas, present day Janico, with Captain Pedro Margarit in command of 56 men.:119,122–126 On 24 March 1495, Columbus with his ally Guacanagarix, embarked on a war of revenge against Caonabo, capturing him and his family while killing and capturing many natives. Afterwards, every person over the age of fourteen had to produce a hawksbill of gold.:149–150
Miguel Diaz and Francisco de Garay discovered large gold nuggets on the lower Haina River in 1496. These San Cristobal mines were later known as the Minas Viejas mines. Then, in 1499, the first major discovery of gold was made in the cordillera central, which led to a mining boom. By 1501, Columbus's cousin Giovanni Colombo, had discovered gold near Buenaventura. The deposits were later known as Minas Nuevas. Two major mining areas resulted, one along San Cristobal-Buenaventura, and another in Cibao within the La Vega-Cotuy-Bonao triangle, while Santiago de los Caballeros, Concepcion, and Bonao became mining towns. The gold rush of 1500–1508 ensued, and Ovando expropriated the gold mines of Miguel Diaz and Francisco de Garay in 1504, as pit mines became royal mines for Ferdinand, who reserved the best mines for himself, though placers were open to private prospectors. Furthermore, Ferdinand kept 967 natives in the San Cristobal mining area supervised by salaried miners.:68,71,78,125–127
Under Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres' governorship, the Indians were made to work in the gold mines. By 1503, the Spanish Crown legalized the distribution of Indians to work the mines as part of the encomienda system. Once the Indians entered the mines, they were often wiped out by hunger and difficult conditions. By 1508, the Taíno population of about 400,000 was reduced to 60,000, and by 1514, only 26,334 remained. About half resided in the mining towns of Concepcion, Santiago, Santo Domingo, and Buenaventura. The repartimiento of 1514 accelerated emigration of the Spanish colonists, coupled with the exhaustion of the mines. :191–192 The first documented outbreak of smallpox, previously an Eastern hemisphere disease, occurred on Hispaniola in December 1518 among enslaved African miners. Some scholars speculate that European diseases arrived before this date, but there is no compelling evidence for an outbreak. The natives had no immunity to European diseases, including smallpox. By May 1519, as many as one-third of the remaining Taínos had died.
Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane on his second voyage to the island. Molasses was the chief product. Diego Colon's plantation had 40 African slaves in 1522. By 1526, 19 mills were in operation from Azua to Santo Domingo.:224 In 1574, a census taken of the Greater Antilles reported 1,000 Spaniards and 12,000 African slaves on Hispaniola.
As Spain conquered new regions on the mainland of the Americas (Spanish Main), its interest in Hispaniola waned, and the colony’s population grew slowly. By the early 17th century, the island and its smaller neighbors (notably Tortuga) became regular stopping points for Caribbean pirates. In 1606, the government of Philip III ordered all inhabitants of Hispaniola to move close to Santo Domingo, to avoid interaction with pirates. Rather than secure the island, his action meant that French, English and Dutch pirates established their own bases on the abandoned north and west coasts of the island.
French map of Hispaniola by Nicolas de Fer
In 1665, French colonization of the island was officially recognized by King Louis XIV. The French colony was given the name Saint-Domingue. In the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally ceded the western third of the island to France. Saint-Domingue quickly came to overshadow the east in both wealth and population. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Antilles," it became the richest and most prosperous colony in the West Indies, with a system of human enslavement used to grow and harvest sugar cane during a time when sugar demand was high in Europe. Slavery kept prices low and profit was maximized. It was an important port in the Americas for goods and products flowing to and from France and Europe.
European colonists often died young due to tropical fevers, as well as from violent slave resistance in the late eighteenth century. In 1791, during the French Revolution, a major slave revolt broke out on Saint-Domingue. When the French Republic abolished slavery in the colonies on February 4, 1794, it was a European first. The ex-slave army joined forces with France in its war against its European neighbors. In the second 1795 Treaty of Basel (July 22), Spain ceded the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, later to become the Dominican Republic. French settlers had begun to colonize some areas in the Spanish side of the territory.
Under Napoleon, France reimposed slavery in most of its Caribbean islands in 1802 and sent an army to bring Saint-Domingue under tighter control. However, thousands of the French troops succumbed to yellow fever during the summer months, and more than half of the French army died because of disease. After the French removed the surviving 7,000 troops in late 1803, the leaders of the revolution declared western Hispaniola the new nation of independent Haiti in early 1804. France continued to rule Spanish Santo Domingo. In 1805, Haitian troops of General Henri Christophe tried to conquer all of Hispaniola. They invaded Santo Domingo and sacked the towns of Santiago de los Caballeros and Moca, killing most of their residents, but news of a French fleet sailing towards Haiti forced General Christophe to withdraw from the east, leaving it in French hands. In 1808, following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the criollos of Santo Domingo revolted against French rule and, with the aid of the United Kingdom, returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control. Fearing the influence of a society that had successfully fought and won against their enslavers, the United States and European powers refused to recognize Haiti, the second republic in the Western Hemisphere. France demanded a high payment for compensation to slaveholders who lost their property, and Haiti was saddled with unmanageable debt for decades. It became one of the poorest countries in the Americas, while the Dominican Republic  gradually has developed into the one of the largest economies of Central America and the Caribbean.