Wednesday, 11 June 2014

In Kalinago Territory

By Nathan McCorrister

View of coast line from Kalinago Barana Aute
I will be the first to admit I’m by no means a frequent traveller and nor an international traveller for that matter.  So preparing and coming on my first extended trip to the Kalinago Territory of Dominica has certainly lived up to its experience and learning for me.  Growing up in my home Indigenous community of Peguis First Nation, our family was not rich but we did have the opportunity to travel outside the country at least once and as well as some family trips to the United States.  Up until now, the most my extended vacation family trip was approximately 10 days, and again was with family for vacation purposes.  Knowing my international MDP practicum was at least two months, by myself, in a developing country and working with fellow Indigenous people was certainly going to be a once in a life time experience.

 Dominica is a small Caribbean island of approximately 751 square kilometres and with a population of 73,449 people.  The population is made up of approximately 86.8% of black people and with Indigenous people making up 2.9%.  The official languages are English and French patois.  The Kalinago people of the Carib Reserve or also known as the Kalinago Territory, are only one of a few Indigenous peoples whom remain in the Caribbean islands, their traditional territory.  The Kalinago have a population of approximately 4,500 and the reserve or territory make up approximately 3,782 acres of land located on the northeastern part of Dominica.  

Pagua River located in the Kalinago Territory

The history of the Kalinago people, after the arrival of Europeans, is like so many other Indigenous peoples around the world; a history of colonization.  After the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the national country of Dominica was first French controlled and was “ceded” possession to the English in 1763.  Dominica became an independent country in 1978 and remains a member of the British Commonwealth.   The same year of independence the Dominica Carib Reserve Act was first passed to formally recognise the Kalinago people within the Dominica laws and to recognize the land that was originally set aside by the Crown.  Similar to the Indian Act in Canada, the Carib Reserve Act sets out governance, land management and bylaw making ability for the Kalinago people.  

The history of colonization and conflict in Dominica and with the Kalinago people reminds me much our history in Canada.  With the Kalinago people’s forceful confinement to one side of island, colonization efforts of past colonial governments and existing national governments, the history is very similar to my home community and indeed with so many other Indigenous peoples.

 My trip so far has allowed me to experience and learn of the similarities as Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Caribbean.  Being here in just few short weeks has shown me the beautiful natural lush landscapes to this island and the kindness and honorable people of the Kalinago territory.  In my next blog I will share a bit more about the Kalinago people and current efforts to decolonize and or “Indigenize” there identity and culture through development.

Nathan at Kalinago Barana Aute  - Traditional Kalinago Village

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