New book by Adrian Fraser tells story of Chief Chatoyer ‘not clouded by colonial bias’
Texts left behind by the colonials have depicted Chatoyer as blood thirsty, sanguinary, ruthless, desperate and accustomed to warfare and bloodshed.
“Cruelty rather than courage had been his trademark, but the question is, how did a man so described become our National Hero?
“This has to do with the whole colonial system and our move away from that system,” explained historian Dr Adrian Fraser during the launch of his latest publication on Thursday September 19.
The book, “From Villain to National Hero – Chatoyer and the Early Struggle for the Independence of St Vincent (Yurumein)”, was written so persons can have a version of our history not clouded by colonial bias.
“Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter and that is the problem…because in this case the hunters were the British planters and the colonial officials and most of the indigenous people were exiled from St Vincent,” Fraser told persons at the book launch.
He added that after the indigenous people were exiled, the only persons left in a position to tell the story were the British and the stories we were told, were the stories of the hunter.
“So, for a long time, we have been fed their version of what happened and while it easy to question assumptions and conclusions it is difficult to question narratives,” Fraser said.
He added that fortunately for us we have access to some French sources and even though the French have their biases we are able to have a more objective picture.
“In fact, the French worked closely with the indigenous people, the Garifuna, simply because the French when they allowed them to live in St Vincent, were into small farming and not interested in putting down large plantations,” said Fraser.
He said that on the other hand, the British came in primarily to plant sugar, and needed large plantations and the whole struggle came about because of this.
Fraser also noted during the launch that for a long time, we believed that Chatoyer died in a duel with Major Leith and we have accepted this version but that does not seem to have been the case.
“The first question we have to ask, why would Chatoyer be fighting a duel up to one o clock in the morning?” questioned Dr. Fraser who added that for historical accuracy, Chatoyer actually died on March 15 and not March 14. Fraser believes that the mention of a duel between Chatoyer and Major Leith was done for propaganda reasons to depict Major Leith and the British as superior fighters.
The launch of the book also heard remarks from Associate Professor of History at St Mary’s College of Maryland Vincentian Dr Garrey Michael Dennie, head of the department of humanities at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC) Raquel Foster and Caribbean Studies lecturer at the SVGCC Fitzallen Peters.
Program Officer of the UWI Open Campus Monica Browne said the book builds on previous works on Chatoyer and we depend on historians to be custodians of our heritage and Fraser has taken it seriously. She added that she is hoping that his work will deepen the understanding of Chatoyer’s role in the development of our national and cultural identity.
“…and hopefully as a people we would appreciate and embrace the deeds, philosophy and indeed the spirit of Chatoyer as we celebrate 40 years of independence,” said Browne.