Full Feature Speech by Damon Corrie to the Dominica Government for Kalinago Week 2013
I acknowledge His Excellency the Honorable Acting Prime Minister Mr. Reginald Austrie,
The Honorable Minister of Culture,
The Honorable Minister of Education,
The Honorable Minister of Carib Affairs,
His Excellency the Honorable Kalinago Chief Mr. Garnett Joseph and members of the Kalinago Council, and members of the Events Committee for the Kalinago Week 2013 - who sponsored me to be here today;
The Chief Cultural Officer,
Professor Lennox Honeychurch,
Dr. Alwin Bully,
other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen of the Kalinago People who have come out in your numbers to show your support here today...
I take this opportunity to raise 4 important points worthy of consideration before I begin...
On the subject of adoptions....
On the subject of the track record of the Dominica Government in it's treatment of indigenous peoples.... Were it not for Dominica's UN Ambassador giving up his seat - so that indigenous peoples (who were not recognised officially by the UN all those years ago) could address the United Nations General Assembly directly, I daresay that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (of the World) might not have been created, or might STILL be a process languishing in the works to this day - not yet achieving the adoption it received in 2007! Also, as far as I know, Dominica is the ONLY country in the entire world that has granted an official government issued Diplomatic Passport to the elected leader (Chief) of it's indigenous tribal nation....this news has reverberated around the world - and still does to this day!
On the subject of a fair and equitable allocation of Government funds... It is my suggestion - as I had suggested to the late Guyanese President Cheddi Jagan via a dinner my father had with him on his transit through Barbados en-route to Jamaica for the Ratification of the Law of the Sea; that a percentage of the National Annual Budget equal to the percentage of the National Population that the indigenous peoples represent - in this case 3% of Dominicans are Kalinagos - be allocated to the EXCLUSIVE needs/uses of the Kalinago People, all the current running expenses of the Kalinago Territory including the salary of the Kalinago Chief, the salaries of Kalinago teachers, Kalinago medical staff in the Clinic, Kalinago public works crews, Kalinago Forestry Wardens etc. can be easily covered by such an allocation - and there would STILL be enough funds left for Kalinago entrepreneurs who want to start a new business that would compliment Kalinago Development goals and priorities - to access collateral-free...for this is a problem indigenous peoples from communal cultures who do not hold private land titles - experience all over the world, where they are forced to adapt to the Godless Capitalist so-called 'civilization' imposed around them and ON their backs.
On the subject of a fair and equitable distribution of what everyone knows is Kalinago land - back to the Kalinago people... I suggest that 3% of Dominica's land area (approximately 9 square miles out of Dominica's 300 square miles) be contained within an expanded Kalinago Territory that has a population that is steadily increasing. The current Kalinago Territory houses about 4,000 Kalinagos on 7 square miles, and with all the miles of uninhabited land on the western border of Kalinago Territory in Dominica's interior (much of which are still de-facto Kalinago hunting territory as it is) this feat can be easily accomplished with the mere stroke of a Prime Ministers Pen with the support of a progressive cabinet. It is not as hard as you may think if you analyse it.
Dominica has done much to right historical wrongs and treat the unconquered Kalinago People with the EQUITY, dignity, respect and appreciation they deserve, but with just a little effort the Government of Dominica can achieve so much more, and these things would secure the government with the vision and foresight to do them - an unassailable place at the apex as the most cited positive example of International 'Best Practices' in the good governance relationship between National Governments and Tribal Governments worldwide.
Now....some people may be wondering about who I am and why I am here, so please bear with me as I attempt to be brief...in laying a foundation in your hearts and minds - as I make my verbal way to the crux of the matter which has led us all to gather here today; with the noblest of intentions to demonstrate initially in word, and subsequently in deed...the fact that THIS government DOES have an equitable vision for the descendants of the first Dominicans. A proud and free people who's ancestors were the FIRST National Heroes of Dominica - fighting against European Imperialism and Colonialism, by erecting a fitting monument and tribute in their honor - and dedicated to their sacrifices...as many other countries in the Caribbean have already done long ago.
First though, let us examine (albeit briefly) the connections between Dominica and Barbados. I was born in Barbados but my tribal origins lie elsewhere, just like your most famous historical Kalinago Chief 'Carib' Warner...for he too - just like me - was born of an Amerindian Mother and a white father; on an island separate from where his tribal origins lay. Like me, he too decided to return to his mother's people and dedicate his life to serving them. The difference in my case, is the fact that there are both Guyana Lokono-Arawaks and Dominica Kalinagos in my ancestry; so I have dedicated my life to serving both my peoples ...not favoring one over the other...but feeling a genuine and deep love for both.
In 1635 the man who would become famously known as Chief 'Carib' Warner was born in St. Kitts, he was the son of a Kalinago mother from Dominica, and a white father from England - Sir Thomas Warner - who had previously tried and failed to establish an English Colony in Guyana. The English Governor of Barbados at the time - Lord Willoughby - appointed Chief Warner (who had returned to his mother's people in Dominica and grown into adulthood among the Kalinagos here), as the first British recognised Colonel and Lieutenant Governor of Dominica.
The French captured Chief Warner in 1666, and on 9th December 1667 Governor Willoughby of Barbados negotiated for his release - and re-instated him as Governor of Dominica. In February 1668 peace was negotiated between the English in the Southern Caribbean and the Kalinago Tribal Nation through the medium of Chief Warner who had the allegiance of all the other Kalinago Chiefs in their Lesser Antilles Territories, but the English colonists in Antigua were exempted - for the Kalinago had NEVER forgotten how they had joined with the French to betray and slaughtered Chief Tegremon and almost all of his Kalinago people there in St. Kitts who had welcomed them to settle to the north and south of his island decades before. There was no love lost between the Kalinagos and the English settlers of Antigua or St. Kitts - and Chief Warner did not admonish the other Kalinago Chiefs NOT to attack those islands to the north of Dominica, just NOT to attack the other Englishmen in the islands to the south of Dominica. So Phillip Warner - who was Sir Thomas Warner's second (and pure white) son from his English second wife, sailed to Dominica under the pretext of securing a similar peace 'with his dear Indian half-brother' as the English in Barbados were enjoying, Chief 'Carib' Warner had no reason to suspect his own white half-brother meant him any i'll will, so he welcomed his half-brother Phillip with much fanfare and a grand feast was held in Phillips honor. Later in the night when Chief Carib Warner and his men were slumbering intoxicated after the party - Phillip and his English cohorts that accompanied him...murdered Chief Carib Warner in his sleep and butchered almost every Kalinago man, woman and child in the Chief's Village that they could lay their savage hands on - with very few escaping alive into the safety of the forests in the middle of the night.
Now here is where MY connection comes in, there has been a persistent rumour for centuries that one of Chief 'Carib' Warner's many sons (from many wives - as was the polygamous Kalinago custom at the time) was later rescued and eventually taken to Barbados....where the ruling class intended to raise him with the intention to restoring him as a grown man in Dominica; to be the Barbados-friendly Governor as his father had been. However, this plan never materialised and the son of Chief Warner (baptised and registered with the surname 'Warner' in Barbados with no mention of him being an 'Indian' - and giving the appearance on paper - as though he were an English child); remained in Barbados where he grew into manhood and married a local white lady there. This is how the Warner name survived the centuries in my family until his part Kalinago but white looking descendant Florence Warner (my mother's paternal grandmother) - married Julian Alban Corbin; and the couple had 4 children. Both Florence and Julian had blond hair and blue eyes - but only one of their children, their sole daughter Pearl (who later married Errie Ward) had the blond hair and blue-eyes of her parents. The three sons (her brothers) had the Kalinago straight black hair and brown complexion that has been a recurring phenomenon in the family ever since the son of Chief Carib Warner became a father in Barbados - over 300 years ago.
My mother's mother was Princess Marian of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks of Guyana, and the Princess's father was Hereditary Chief 'Amorotahe Haubariria' ('Flying Harpy Eagle') of the Clan, and in the spiritual beliefs of the Lokono-Arawak People, we believe that important things can never remain hidden forever...for the Great Holy Spirit ALWAYS finds a way to bring what was in the dark - into the light one day. So this recurring evidence of Kalinago features in my mother's paternal ancestry which refused to be obliterated by over 300 years of European genetic infusion and dilution- is to us PROOF that the old rumour is true!
Furthermore, I was never raised to view my Kalinago brothers and sisters as being some 'other' people...NO! I was always told by my elders that the Kalinago of Dominica are my people just as much as the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks of Guyana are...and I love them both.
In fact, my great uncle David told me to 'go to our people in Dominica' on my first visit here in November 1992 seeking a Kalinago bride, I knew no-one on the Kalinago Territory at that time and I was told that I was the first Arawak person they can recall to have visited them, and they thought that I was very brave to come as a young man among the Kalinago people who were supposed to be my ancient tribal enemies. His Excellency current Chief Garnet Joseph will remember that time as he wanted to interview me, his excellency Chief Irvince Auguiste was ending his second term in office around that time. I made my first Kalinago friendship with Alvin Thomas (may your soul rest in peace my brother) - who invited me to stay with them, and they offered me every hospitality imaginable.
In late 1992 when people of European descent were for the most part celebrating Columbus...who is a hero to them...but a genocidal villain to us....and marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus's accidental arrival in the Caribbean, and OUR discovery that Europeans existed - and had bigger boats, different diseases and different morals than we did.
So yes, at my then age of 19 I came to Dominica to mark this year of mourning for us by seeking a Kalinago bride to marry - to mark the anniversary with something happy. I stayed for two weeks, unfortunately for me, only on my very last night on the Kalinago Territory - did two beautiful Kalinago girls come to my tent and tell me that they were each willing to marry me....I said to them "But it is too late now - I leave early the next day to return to Barbados"...so I just gave each one a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, and I left Dominica still a single young man.
Because I was unsuccessful my Great Uncle told me to go to our people in Guyana next, and so I did; and during the second week of my two week visit to Pakuri Arawak Territory in Guyana - I met and fell instantly in love with - a beautiful 17 year old Lokono-Arawak girl on 4th December; and on 11th December (just 7 days later) we were married in 1992. Our 21st anniversary is coming up this year, and we have 4 beautiful children, in fact - I left Barbados on the 20th birthday of our first child yesterday, so that I could prepare and be able to present this speech here today on behalf of the Events Committee of Kalinago Week 2013.
This all takes me back to a fact that I did NOT know about my ancestor Chief 'Carib' Warner, only by reading Professor Lennox Honeychurch's work today I learned about the de-facto Peace Treaty that Chief Warner was able to secure in his time, and I smiled to myself as I remembered the Peace Treaty I created and co-signed with former Kalinago Chief Hillary Frederick in 1999 on the Territory - assisted by fellow Kalinago Jacob Frederick. For we believe that the driving force in Great men and women that leads them to serve their people..NEVER dies...but lives on in the DNA of their descendants FOREVER.
Of course there was no war between 'Arawaks and Caribs' in 1999, that was NOT the point of it....the reason for my ceremonial and symbolic peace treaty was purely to close and end a sad chapter in the history of our two peoples, and start a NEW and positive chapter in the history of the Caribbean....one where all the old divisions between black, white, brown and yellow - are erased and replaced by a NEW spirit of Solidarity, Loyalty, and Liberty - for AND between ALL of us who share our lands today.
On that note - I return to the main reason we are all gathered here today:
In Arima Trinidad - there is a statue erected by the government to the greatest Nepuyo Chief of Trinidad - Hiyarima.
In Saint Vincent - the government erected a monument to the greatest Garifuna Chief of Saint Vincent - Chatoyer.
In Baracoa Cuba - two statues were erected by the Cuban government to the two greatest Taino Chiefs of Cuba - Guama and Hatuey - with Chief Hatuey (who actually was from the island shared by Haiti & the Dominican Republic today) - with Chief Hatuey being declared Cuba's first National Hero.
In the Dominican Republic - there are 4 statues erected by the government to their greatest Taino Chiefs - including Kaonabo and Anakaona - the first woman Taino Chief in recorded history.
In Puerto Rico - there are multiple statues and monuments erected by the government to their greatest Taino Chiefs - among them Chief Humaco, Chief Hayuya, Chief Agueybana II, and they even carved the face of Chief Mabodomaka into a mountainside AND named a highway after him.
BUT WHERE IS THE STATUE OR MONUMENT TO THE KALINAGO PEOPLE WHO FOUGHT AND DIED IN DOMINICA - TO KEEP IT FREE OF THE EVILS OF EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM AND COLONIALISM FOR THE LONGEST IN THE CARIBBEAN! The great Kalinago people who fought battles with the Spanish, the French, and the English - but were NEVER conquered or enslaved by ANY of them!
I must admit, I always assumed that there WAS such a fitting and deserved tribute to the first patriots of Dominica somewhere in this country, it was only when the Events Committee informed me that my assumption was incorrect - did I realize that it has been an embarrassing oversight of EVERY government of Dominica until today.
I do not know the Honorable Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, nor his predecessor the Honorable Rosie Douglas who had many close friends at University who were Amerindians, but I have only heard positive things about them, and I trust that Prime Minister Skerrit who is about the same age as myself, IS indeed a man of tremendous vision for Dominica and sincere convictions to the Kalinago People.....as we hear evidenced in the words of the honorable members of his government here with us today offering their enthusiastic verbal support for the proposed monument....and I am certain that the Honorable Prime Minister WILL see that this long overdue monument becomes a reality before Kalinago week 2014.
I thank you all for your time.
Written and delivered on 18th September 2013 by Damon Gerard Corrie
Founder & President of the Pan-Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations,
Co-Founder and President of the registered non-profit Caribbean Amerindian Development Organisation (CADO) - which was itself created as a direct result of 2012 Project Access Training - the motto of which is "Dedicated to the Preservation and Promotion of Amerindian Cultural Heritage, and the Hemispheric National Implementation of Internationally recognised Rights of Indigenous Peoples"
13 Highgate Gardens
Wildey, St. Michael
Tel: (246) 228-0227 Fax: (246) 437-2018
Copyright © 2013 Damon G. Corrie