The mixed descendants of the last Island Caribs who inhabited the Lesser Antilles live on the north-east coast of Dominica. This simple fact has been so exaggerated and distorted over the last thirty years of tourism publicity, that there tends to be much misunderstanding, bewilderment and eventual disappointment among visitors who come to view the Carib Territory as one of the ‘attractions’ of Dominica.

When the British formally took over in 1763 European conquest was complete. British surveyors divided the island up into lots for sale and plantations were established around the island. Only 232 acres of mountainous land and rocky shoreline at Salybia were left for the Caribs. This was done, legend has it, at the request of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. This subsequently developed into the myth that Charlotte had left them half of Dominica — a myth which today many older Caribs consider, erroneously, to be an historical fact.

For another 130 years the Caribs were left to themselves, shadowy figures hardly seen by the growing Creole society of African slaves, free men and European officials and landowners. Now and then they appeared in the estate yards and at Sunday markets to sell baskets and fish, but quickly dissolved into the mountains once more along forest tracks towards Salybia.

When Sir Robert Hamilton was sent out by the British Colonial Office as Commissioner in 1893 to find out why Dominica was: more backward and less developed than almost any other of the islands, and why its people were: less prosperous and contented than HerMajesty’s other West Indian subjects, he received a tragic little letter from the Caribs:

In the name of God. My Lord, We humble beg of your kindness to accept our petition of your poor people, Indians or Caraibe, of Salibia, to ... emplore the marcy of our Beloved Mother and Queen Victoria, for her poor and unfortunate childrens. We dont have nothings to support us, no church, no school, no shope, no store. We are very far in the forest; no money, no dress . . . They call us u’ild savages. No my beloved Queen, it is not savages but poverty. We humble kneel down in your feet to beg of your assistance. Accept your humble childrens of Salibia.

[Isle Of Adventure]
Lennox Honychurch

Lovely Dominica
The Indigenous Peoples of Dominica

The First Settlers
The first human beings to set foot on the shores of Dominica came by the sea along the island chain from the region of the Orinoco River delta on the coast of South America. Recent research indicates that they set out on their journey 5,000 years before the birth of Christ. There is proof that people were living on neighbouring islands in 3,100 BC and others may have been here even earlier. But who they were, what they called themselves and exactly how they lived we will probably never know.
Up until quite recently there was a simple theory given to explain the groups of people who lived on these islands before the Europeans arrived in 1493. First came the Ciboney or ‘stone people’, then came the ‘peaceful Arawaks’ who were followed and killed off by the ‘warlike Caribs’. Because there was no other general information on the matter, this was the theory we were taught and which was repeated well up to the end of the twentieth century.

To understand how these indigenous people lived, we depended on the accounts printed by European explorers and missionaries dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth enturies. Their opinions were republished by others verbatim over the last three hundred years and were used as the basis for educational material up to the present time.

The original texts were often biased and had to be carefully assessed for obvious inaccuracies. But apart from some general archaeological informa-tion, there were few other sources for historians to work with when locally produced Caribbean text books began to be published in the 1960s. How-ever, detailed research carried out in more recent years, particularly since the 1970s, has shown that the story is far more complex. To understand how it has been pieced together we need to consider how the different branches of research have contributed to the improvement of our know-ledge on the origin and culture of the indigenous people of our island and how this work enables us to take a fresh look at the new evidence which has now emerged. Extracts from The Dominica Story

The Kalinago — The ‘Island Carib’

It was the Europeans who called these people the Caribs, for that is what they called themselves. While Christopher Columbus was still on first voyage he picked up the word, or something like it, from the Tainos the Greater Antilles.

The earliest mention of the Caribs is that made by Columbus in journal on 26 November 1492: ‘All the people that he has found up to today, he says, are very frightened of those of can iba or can ima.’ Note that it is mentioned as a place where people live rather than the name of the people themselves. In other statements the Tainos may have been using the term to refer not to a specific ethnic group but to any hostile band who attacked their villages, particularly those who came from the small islands to the east of where they were in Hispaniola. Again on 13 January 1493, the journal notes: ‘The admiral also says that on the islands he passed they were greatly fearful of Carib or on some they call it Caniba, but on Espafiola, Carib.’ This was modified in later Spanish writing to canibal and in other texts to caribi or can be. Once the word hit the printing presses of Europe and became common parlance, the name ‘Carib’, like ‘Indian’ and ‘West Indies’, even if based on a mistake, was to remain for ever more.

One hundred and fifty years later in Dominica, the French priest Fr Raymond Breton who lived among the ‘Caribs’ recorded the people’s own name for themselves as Calliponam in the women’s speech, and Callinago in that of the men. Another ancient Arawakan language term for them was probably kaniripbuna, or kallipina, origin of the term garifuna which is what the ‘Black Caribs’ of Belize call themselves. Because the mainland immigrants who entered the Windward Islands in about 1400 were essentially a male-dominated band, who took brides and fathered a new group within the islands, it would be accurate to use their name in the men’s language: Callinago.

In Fr Breton’s day, the letter ‘k’ did not exist in the French language so the printers of his ‘Carib Dictionary’ used ‘c’ throughout. The word is however better represented phonetically as Kalina go. But things were to get even more confusing. In the twentieth century, anthropologists needed to differentiate between the ‘Caribs’ on the islands and their supposed ancestral people on the mainland. To do so they coined a new term: ‘Island Carib’ when referring to those of the Lesser Antilles and maintained ‘Carib’ when referring to those on mainland South America. To simplify and indeed to try to correct matters, I shall be referring to this distinct group of people, who emerged on the Windward Islands and Guadeloupe, by the name which they called themselves: the Kalinago.

The Kalinago control of the Windward Islands lasted from about 1400 to 1700, with the last of them holding on to Dominica and St Vincent for another twenty or thirty years before finally retreating to the most inacces- sible parts of those islands in the face of English and French colonisation. In St Vincent they mixed with escaped African slaves and held out against the British until 1796, when some 5,0Q0 were deported to the island of Ruatan off Honduras and moved to the area of what today is southern Belize. In Dominica they concentrated themselves on the isolated parts of the north-east coast where they were eventually granted 3,700 acres of land by the British in 1903. They were the last of the Amerindians to enter the region and they were the last to survive.

Our knowledge of the Kalinago is based almost entirely on the written reports of European observers. The Kalinago had arrived in the islands from South America less than a hundred years before the Spanish arrived from across the Atlantic. The first encounter of the two groups was on 4 November 1493 on Guadeloupe, the day after Columbus had sighted Dominica on his second voyage.

Unlike the Tainos, the Kalinago had arrived in the islands recently enough to have retained traditions of their mainland origin. They were accustomed to making trips back and forth between the mainland and the Windward Islands. They explained this to European missionaries and told them that they had conquered an ethnic group named Igneri or Eyeri. Their raids were aimed at bride capture. The capture of women of an enemy group was a feature of raiding and warfare among tribes who were tradi-rionally in conflict with each other. Such inter tribal raiding was common to several South American forest tribes. A well-known example would be the Yanomamo of Amazonia. According to theories of primitive marriage in all races, the earliest form of marriage was bride-capture, when shortage of females obliged early man to seek his mate in war.

By the time Columbus arrived, the Kalinago were raiding Taino villages on Puerto Rico to obtain additional wives. The admiral found over twenty iaino women when he visited Kalinago villages on Guadeloupe during his is voyage, and returned them to their homes on the Greater Antilles. This taking of captives by one Amerindian tribe from another was a method of avoiding inter-marriage among the small communities. The Kalimagos, like other tribes on the mainland, integrated their captives as wives or, in the case of males as poitos (sons-in-law) into their kinship network. Extracts from The Dominica Story

Exit Here

The Carib Territory :
The voters list of 2000 showed that 1,987 voters were registered to vote in the 2000 January 2000 General Elections.

Handicrafts :
Carib handicrafts are unique because the designs have been handed down from one generation to the next since long before the time Columbus. The designs originated in the rainforests of the River Basin. Today similar designs using the same materials as those of the Island Caribs are still made by the Amerindian tribes along the banks of the Orinoco. This is fascinating considering that there has been no interaction for over five hundred years and yet the material and styles survive independently. This makes the possession of a Carib basket more than just the souvenir of a visit but gives a tangible link with the Caribbean before 1492.

Today, we think of handicrafts as decorative pieces of local work made merely for sale to tourists and for adorning the walls and floors of houses. This is a relatively recent viewpoint since most of our local handicrafts originated as vital pieces of equipment for domestic use.

Carib baskets were the only form of baggage containers for most of the people. The Cassava coulevre and sifter were important processing tools. Grass hats and mats were the only such things available before imported items flooded the market with foreign alternatives. Today, bamboo, coconut and tree fern or fwigé are being used to make purely decorative items, while each of the older style of handicrafts was intended to serve a useful purpose.

Carib baskets are quite distinct from other West Indian straw work which is mainly produced from grass or palm leaves. Carib work is produced from the outer skin of the larouma reed and therefore has a firmer texture. The colours are always black, brown and off- white woven into various patterns.
[Isle Of Adventure]
Lennox Honychurch