Saturday, 30 August 2014


By Nathan McCorrister, MDP student

Nathan (L) and Irvince Auguiste (R)

After being in the Kalinago Territory in Dominica for over a month now the practicum has been an amazing life time experience for me.  The people, the territory and country have been great and the scenery breathtaking.  Our host the Kalinago Nation Chief and Council, various community members and in particular Councillor Irvince Auguiste have been great hosts and tending to all our needs.  After being here for a period of time I’ve definitely settled in began making connections and friends with many of the locals in the territory.

Shortly after my arrival in the territory, Chief Joseph and I talked about some of the issues around land management and economic development for the Kalinago Territory.  He shared with me how there are issues with land management; he described how much of the territory is not demarcated (land surveyed) properly both in terms of the outer boundaries and internally within the territory.  In the Kalinago Territory, it is believed the lands set aside as “reserve” lands for the Kalinago people are being encroached upon.  The Kalinago people believe that there may be some boundary disputes because of past encroachments and that existing reserve land is smaller in size because of the encroachments.

Chief Garnet Joseph (L),

Jacqueline Corbette, Administrative Assistant for the Kalinago Council (C) & Nathan at Kalinago Council Office

There are many land management issues and related land based economic development barriers the Kalinago have to overcome. I’m currently working with the local council to identify all the land management and land based economic issues and to develop a strategy to address them. Through preliminary research we identified that there are many previous reports and plans with respect to improving land management and land based economic development for the Kalinago. As such we identified the need to bring together many of the reports and plans and to develop a strategic plan for the Kalinago to implement many of the past recommendation’s.  Included with the strategic plan is a built in action plan and recommendations to address many of the human resource and financial challenges.      

As part of the strategic plan development, I recognized the need to understand the colonial history and colonization efforts of the national government; both past and present. The Kalinago shared with me how they want to protect their rights, their culture and their identity as indigenous people. As part of my research I wanted to ensure the previous plans and recommendations included participatory methods for the Kalinago.  I wanted to ensure there was previous indigenous research methods approach and including a number of ways for the inclusion, direction and consent of the Kalinago. As part of considering land management, we included previous input from community elders, leaders and other community members who participated through focus groups, community meetings and one on one interviews.  

Serpent Snake Trail - Kalinago Creation Story
The Kalinago are making efforts to include traditional, cultural knowledge and practices to land management.  The challenge is with balancing traditional land management, modern day problems including limited land, population growth, and economic development.  In addition to land management, the Kalinago are taking efforts to revitalize their cultural medicine practices, the Kalinago language of Mapuwika, and art of the people.  While here I was humbled and proud of the Kalinago as fellow Indigenous people in recognizing the importance of decolonization and indigenizing their identity.

Friday, 29 August 2014

My time has ended in Dominica

By Gabrielle Heroux, 2nd year MDP student

The last month of my placement, since my first blog post, was a busy one.  There were a number of events planned for the first week of July, to commemorate the 111th anniversary of the creation of the Kalinago Territory on July 4.  One of these was a workshop on land, held on July 4, organized to bring together members of the community to discuss questions of land value, land ownership and inheritance, boundary markers, land as an economic asset, and land protection and degradation.  There were about 15-20 participants, including former chiefs, youth, entrepreneurs, and other Kalinago residents.  Through discussions and small focus group sessions, the participants identified priority issues and produced recommendations that will be worked into a strategic action plan to guide development. 

The next day, I was invited to participate in a hike of the northern boundary of the Territory.  What an experience!  Preceded by men with machetes, hacking a path through the brush, we trekked up and down hills, through lush rainforest, farmland, and ravines.  It had rained during the night, and poured that morning, so the terrain was muddy and slippery and a little bit treacherous.  Along the way, we ate freshly picked mangoes, drank coconut water straight from the source, and heard stories about the families who have inhabited the area for generations.  We ended our hike, dirty, sweaty, and even bloody, with a deeply satisfying swim in the Pagua River. 

Pagua River
 Beach town near Portsmouth

In the weeks that followed, I continued my research on sources of funding for individuals or groups within the Kalinago Territory.  I also had a very interesting meeting with a representative of the National Bank of Dominica, to discuss their policies and practices regarding lending to Kalinago people, and the bank’s perspective on potential partnerships, or other ways forward. 

My time in Dominica was a terrific experience, due mainly to the amazing people I met during my placement.  It has been two weeks since I left, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss that beautiful island, and the community that took me in for three unforgettable months.  I learned so much, and will be forever grateful.