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Gran Abdaraya Toya (Circa 1739 – 1805)

Updated: Jan 17

Mother of the Republic of Haiti

Born in the Kingdom of Dahomey (currently Benin) about 1739, Abdaraya Toya was known to be a midwife, a healer and a Dahomey warrior. She ranked high in

Dahomey council of women.

Abdaraya was abducted and enslaved in Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti), and renamed Victoria Montou by her captors. Here she was forced to work on a sugar plantation where she would ultimately meet a young Jean Jacques Dessalines - the man who would grow up to become a hero and a founding father of Haiti.

Her life as a Dahomey warrior gave Abdaraya skills in the art of war which she secretly began passing onto to others. She personally trained Jean Jacques Dessalines in various combat styles including hand-to-hand combat and how to wield a knife. Her training helped Jean Jacques rise among the enslaved on the plantation and led him to join the 1791 slave rebellion.

After gaining her freedom through the rebellion, Abdaraya set up an indigenous army to support the revolution. Despite being very old at the time of the Haiti Revolution which was being led by Jean Jacques, Abdaraya trained and led her troops to fight and was made the leader of the military by Jean Jacques Dessalines.

Abdaraya lived long enough to witness Jean Jacques Dessalines' proclaim Haiti’s independence. In 1804 Dessalines became Emperor of Haiti, and he gave Abdaraya the title of Duchess. She went onto live in Dessalines' home where she was taken care of until she passed away in 1805.

To honor Abdaraya Toyas' contributions to the Haitian Revolution, she was given a state funeral.

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