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Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
The party of Santa Rosa First Peoples (in red) and Black Indians (two on extreme left) from Trinidad pose with Minister Cecil McKie (fifth from left in back row), Minister Frederick Stephenson (second from right) and the Head of the Venezuelan Mission in St Vincent, Francisco Perez Santana (extreme right) after the annual wreath laying ceremony for the Right Excellent Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer at the Obelisk in Dorsetshire Hill

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by Katherine Renton

For the nation’s first and, as yet, only, National Hero, the Right Excellent Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, his likeness will be carved into statue form.

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture will begin the work on “structures”, including a statue of the Paramount Chief this year, announced the Minister of Housing and acting Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel.

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
“proud Garifuna woman” Audrey Flores delivering remarks at the National Heroes Day celebration

Daniel was speaking at the annual wreath laying ceremony held on National Heroes’ Day, March 14, in memory of Chief Chatoyer, at the Obelisk located at Dorsetshire Hill.

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
Okinada (Chief)
Anderson Patrick of the Black Indian tribe.

In the sunlight of early morning, and above the wind whistling on the hilltop, Daniel, the opposition leader, Dr Godwin Friday, and Minister of Tourism Cecil McKie addressed the well dressed crowd.

They each in turn welcomed the contingent from Trinidad, which included the Santa Rosa First People’s, as well as the Okinada (Chief) of the Black Indian tribe. They also welcomed home the “Hairouna” Garifuna visiting from Honduras and Belize.

For the ceremony, these visitors were dressed in colours and clothing pieces unique to their groups and ancestry. The Okinada, Anderson Patrick, was paying homage to Chief Chatoyer by donning his full dress, including his head piece with horns and feathers from a vulture. The horns symbolize authority and the feathers of the kobo (vulture) which is the highest flying bird, are said to be sacred to them. Snakes around his neck were said to symbolize strength and infinity.

The visiting group from Trinidad also opened with a prayer, lifting their hands intermittently to the heavens and dropping them to the Earth, lifting them again to the North, South, East and West.

The group of visiting Garifuna also delivered remarks, with “proud Garifuna woman” Audrey Flores stating that their hope, “is that we are able to connect with all of our Garifuna brothers and sisters, from Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras and right here in St Vincent, because we are all one people.”

The story of the Chief of the Kalinago people was remembered, and the war that was fought against colonization in the 18th century.

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
Leader of the Opposition New Democratic Party, Dr Godwin Friday making his way to lay a wreath at the obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill during the National Heroes Day celebration

“In an effort to enrich themselves, the colonizers crushed the lives of our natives, by taking away their land, their heritage, their culture, and made us homeless,” Minister Daniel stated in his feature address.

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
Minister of Housing and acting Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel making his way to lay a wreath at the obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill during the National Heroes Day celebration

During the period of conflict, with the Kalinago and Garifuna fighting against the British, “there was a young dominant chief, he was a Carib chief, known as Joseph Chatoyer, who rose and fought the British fiercely, and mercilessly.”

“As fate would have it, Joseph Chatoyer was captured and killed in 1795, and was said to have been buried right here on this very spot,” he stated.

The Minister noted that he has come to every ceremony at Dorsetshire to remember the Kalinago chief, “I have attended every single National Heroes Day celebration right here at this historic site since its inception in 2002. The question can be asked why…”

“…Well it’s simple. As a descendant of the Kalinago people, and understanding my own homegrown family relations, my commitment is to pay my greatest respect to those who have passed on, and to those who have fought valiantly, for the good and the welfare of our people and the nation St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The Minister also said that it was important to recognize the contribution of the Chief who defended the rights of his people against foreign powers, and Daniel expressed gratitude that this was done.

He announced, “This year the Ministry of Tourism and Culture will begin work to establish and develop structures, including a statue of Joseph Chatoyer, to further commemorate his life and work.”

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
His Excellency Sir Frederick Ballantyne getting ready to lay a wreath at the obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill during the National Heroes Day celebration

He said that the Government is hoping that the Chief Joseph Chatoyer National Park will become a “great tourism product”.

“We are hoping by next year, 2020, it is expected that Chatoyer National Park will become the centre of all activites, to commemorate this day, National Heroes Day,” he further declared.

Drawing from Chatoyer’s example of heroism, Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday implored, “Chatoyer’s leadership and courage must inspire us, and serve as the solid, unshakeable foundation upon which we stand as a people, making our way in a challenging time, in a big and rapidly changing world.”

Statue to be carved in likeness of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer
The two men on the right have stood at this spot at Dorsetshire Hill on March 14 since the beginning, when the bill making Chief Chatoyer a National Hero passed in Parliament in 2002

The opposition leader reminded, “Standing up for what is right is never a waste of time, and energy. It was never a waste of a life. As Chatoyer’s children we must know that, and live as though it matters to us. This means opposing injustice wherever we encounter it, speaking out when we see wrong in other people’s actions, and owning up to it when we recognize it in ourselves…”

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