Dominica’s Indigenous People to be Renamed

On Friday February 20th 2015 history will be reshaped for the indigenous people of this country; a people whose identity almost eluded them because of the name that they were given.

When parliament meets on Friday February 20th, an Act will be passed to officially give the indigenous people of this island the name with which they identify; the name which they have called themselves for centuries.

The indigenous people of Dominica have been at the heart of the Dominica Labour Party Administration since it took up office in 2000.

The Carib Territory or Carib Reserve is the home of about 3000 living in the northeast of the island on 3700 acres of land given to them by the British.

The name Carib was given to the island’s first people by Christopher Columbus.

The first people survived the several wars waged between the British and French as they fought to gain control of the island for over two centuries.

An early assessment conducted by the administration estimated that 70% of persons in the territory were in poor living conditions.

In response to this, over the past decade the Labour Party Administration has committed itself to make life better for the nation’s first people.

The first move was to establish a department and subsequently Ministry of Carib Affairs dedicated to addressing the concerns of the people of that area.

Then one step at a time, Government gave the people opportunities for further education and avenues to sharpen trading skills; realizing record developments to the extent to which no other Government has ever attempted.

Several programmes for training and employment have impacted the Territory.

The Territory has seen major infrastructural improvement such as the most recent Horseback Ridge/ Bataca Link Road, the Bataca/ Atkinson Link Road and the Touna Village Road as well as a new St. Cyr Resource Centre just to name a few.

The people have also benefitted from the sanitation component of Government’s Housing Revolution Programme; a component established with the main focus of eliminating the use of pit latrines on the island.

In September of 2014, $1.4m was expended to give 27 families brand new homes.   Prior to this, 47 homes were made available to the people by government.

And there are others…

According to Dr. Lennox Honychurch, local historian and anthropologist, “A whole revision of their water system because a water system had been put in and it wasn’t working properly so a completely new system has been now been put in.

The Kalinago Barana Aute groundbreaking was actually done by the late Prime Minister Roosevelt Douglas; that’s one of the few things that he fit in in that eight months of him being Prime Minister. Although preparation work was ongoing on that since 1982, it was under the Labour Party Administration the Barana Aute became a workable thing and it has become extremely popular today.”

He also listed the construction of the new Salybia Primary School and the resource centre which is still under construction.

Dr. Honychurch says, “When you add all of these things, it is quite a substantial amount which has been done since 2000.”

 Today, Friday February 20th, will be a crowning event that will boost the pride and reward the perseverance of Dominica’s first people.

“It was Christopher Columbus which began the mistake because when he reached Hispaniola on his first voyage, he was told the by the Taino people that down to the south on islands far away, there were these people who came up and attacked the islands of what is today Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and they gave him a name which he interpreted as Caribe. Sometimes it was written Caribal and Canibal so it was an error in that he mistook what they said. It was only 150 years when missionaries were living among the Kalinago people [it was discovered that] the real name by which they call themselves in Kalinago.”

When Parliament meets, Dominica’s indigenous people will, by an Act of Parliament, formally set aside the name Carib, given to them by the British and will legally take up the name they have always called themselves – Kalinago.

“In 1978, just before Independence, what was called the Carib Reserve Act was passed and that contains a lot of references to Carib people so that Act will now be amended to use the term Kalinago and so correct this and make it official,” the historian said.

The name change was a commitment made to the people by the DLP Government on taking up office for a fourth consecutive term.

Throughout the this term, Government will also seek to develop a Kalinago Language Programme, establish a small business development fund for the Kalinago people, erect a monument in recognition of the people and generally create equal opportunities so that the Kalinago people can benefit without abandoning their heritage.