The Raka are the indigenous peoples of the Copper Isles.
The Haiming Dynasty
For many years, the Copper Isles, or the Kyprish Isles, as they were referred to then—in reference to Kyprioth—were ruled by warrior queens of the Haiming Dynasty. It is unknown for how long exactly the Haiming queens ruled, or what house ruled before them, but by the late 100s HE, rivalries had sprung up between the main and cadet branches of the family. Blood was shed and there were many battles.
The Fall of the Haiming Dynasty
Due to the rivalries and bloodshed caused by the unrest within the Haiming family, the normally formidable Kyprish Isles seemed open for the taking. After the assassination of Imiary VI Haiming, a raka queen who tried to restore peace, by her kinswoman Dilsubai Haiming, the Kyprish Isles were plunged into a state of unrest. Dilsubai enslaved her enemies and greatly honored her supporters, causing more factions to form and rivalries to rise up. Rittevon of Lenman, a luarin—white person—took advantage of the rift and began the Luarin Conquest in 174 HE. They defeated the raka warriors in 181 HE, and Rittevon was crowned King of the Copper Isles.
The Rittevon rulers
Rebellions and uprisings ensued after the coronation, but were unsuccessful due to the previous rifts and rivalries of the raka nobility. King Rittevon and his armies imposed legislation known as the "Conqueror's Laws", which were brutal laws that targeted raka. Many raka were enslaved by the luarin, and very few of the old raka nobility survived. The Temaida family did, however, as they surrendered to the Rittevon rulers.
The Kyprish Prophecy
To give his people hope, the god Kyprioth gave his people a prophecy known as the Kyprish Prophecy. It spoke of the return of the old ways, justice, and autonomy, as well as a twice-royal queen who would be wise and an emblem of truth. A cadet branch of the old Haiming Dynasty did survive the purge laid out by King Rittevon, the Temaida family. They secretly carried the Haiming royal blood for almost three centuries, taking care to not give the luarin rulers any reason to execute them. The raka conspiracy was probably formed in 200 HE, when the Kyprish Prophecy was first written down, to keep the hope and the goal alive, and to look out for a twice royal queen. This would be a long time in coming, as the Rittevon family would see it as dirtying themselves to even converse with a raka.
The Twice Royal Ladies
Mequen Balitang, a luarin duke who probably had a Rittevon princess for a mother, seeing as he was the cousin of King Oron, married Lady Sarugani, a member of House Temaida and a carrier of the Haiming blood. Their two daughters were therefore twice-royal, making them potential heroines of the Kyprish Prophecy.
The raka are described as being dark-skinned with black hair and dark brown eyes. (Note: In the books they are usually described as dark-skinned, but Pierce has also described their skin as "more bronze, like Indonesian/Malaysian mixes" and said that human crows are darker than raka.) Part-blood raka (people with both raka and luarin parentage) are usually of a bit lighter skin than full-blood raka.
The raka speak a language called Kyprish, which is not a dialect of nor related to Common. When the luarin came from the Eastern Lands, they introduced Common as well as their religion sometimes forcefully to the raka people.
Raka children are traditionally not named exactly after recently-deceased loved ones. It is believed that reusing an exact name brings bad luck, but using a variant of the same name is permissible.
Real World Connections
Tamora Pierce has stated that the Copper Isles were based on the over fifty different cultures of Indonesia. Raka culture and politics were additionally inspired by a variety of enslaved peoples worldwide.