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Vincentians honour National Hero Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer

Vincentians honour National Hero Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer


Describing the word “Carib” as a derogatory name given to the indigenous peoples by colonialists, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said it was time that that the word be “put out of our heads.”

Speaking at the wreath laying ceremony to honour this country’s first National Hero Joseph Chatoyer who was also Paramount Chief of the indigenous peoples Dr Gonslaves explained that the name “Carib” came from the Northern Finnish term which meant “fierce and warlike.” The Prime Minister said that this was an inaccurate description of the indigenous peoples who before the “invasion” of the Europeans called themselves “Callinago” or “the peaceful peoples.”{{more}}

Dr Gonsalves said that the celebration of National Heroes Day was special because it was also the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the struggles of the Callinago or Garifunas was the beginning of the end of slavery.

The Prime Minister said in reclaiming the past the truth of this country’s history must be defended.

The leader of this country said that history seemed to want to repeat itself today with “other people” trying to invade and steal the lands but when the land is defended the indigenous people are slandered.

The Prime Minister critically pointed out, “That’s like modern day invaders, whether they want to invade you with physical weapons or they want to use weapons of the mind and weapons of the economy to try to subjugate us. They talk of how we should be grateful with the state of subjugation and of course there are some in our midst who would want to facilitate that subjugation. I am too old to facilitate that given my history and my struggle.”

Dr Gonslaves also pointed out that there was a need to play more local music on the airwaves to commemorate National Heroes Day and said that the spirit of Chatoyer who was disciplined and a hard worker needed to be seen more in Vincentians.

The Prime Minister however expressed the need to see Chatoyer depicted as the Chief he was and not always in a loin cloth as he often has been envisioned by European historians. He said many of the colonialists who depicted these artistic expressions were racists and the true image of the Paramount Chief in all his majesty must be reflected.

Dr Gonsalves invited everyone to the opening of the Rabbacca Dry River bridge on March 28, which he said was not just the opening of a physical bridge but also a spiritual connection between the people of the north and those to the south.

He stated, “This is an existential link in the consciousness of our people. We are establishing a nexus.”

Meanwhile Minister of Culture the Hon. Rene Baptiste called Chatoyer a legend in history who equals and surpasses people such as Churchill, Wilberforce, Newton and Einstein. She announced that a grant has been given by the US Embassy to research the life of the Callinago Chief and that plans were also being made to produce a documentary on the Chief which she would attempt to have shown on the History and National Geographic channels.

The Culture Minister also expressed the hope to see Team Athletics honour the name of the great leader with the endurance marathon called “Chatoyer Gold” and revealed plans to recognize the Cross Country Trail in North Leeward.

At the wreath laying ceremony which was punctuated by cultural performances, calls were made by Zoila Ellis Browne of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation and Oswald Robinson of the World Garifuna Council to have the island of Balliceaux where 5,000 indigenous peoples perished, be made a sacred heritage place.

Robinson also passionately supported the Prime Minister’s call to delete the word “Carib” from the minds of people and stated that for many years the name “Carib” had a psychological effect on people of that ancestry.

He lashed out, “They called our ancestors cannibals, they called our ancestors destroyers, they say that they were unchristian and uncivilized but in very simple language the term terrorism and invasion did not exist in those days. And that is actually what happened to our ancestors.”