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NOT ‘HIS’TORY – (Fifth in series)

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Our previous series concluded with the covetous eyes of the British colonialists on the lands of the native people of this tiny island. However in spite of their recognition of the value of the lands, a big hurdle had to be crossed.

This, explains Dr Marshall, the historian from whose work, “Slavery, Law and Society…” we are publishing excerpts, was due to the fact that “…in 1767 this (occupation of the lands) was not a feasibility since the Commissioners had no authority to put up these lands for sale because of feared native resistance”.

So the full machinery of British colonialism was employed to set the stage for forceful occupation. Let us again read Dr. Marshall’s account:

“The Chief Commissioner, therefore in response to settler pressure, quickly sought to convince the British Government not only that penetration into this part of the island (the Windward) was desirable but also how it might be accomplished. He suggested that the Black Caribs (Garifuna) be told that the king (of England) regarded them as his ‘loving subjects’ and that he would protect them as long as they behaved ‘peacefully and faithfully’ and submitted themselves to the laws in force for the government of free blacks”.

It was an old story of European colonisation, whether by the Spanish in Latin America, the French in Africa and the Caribbean, the Dutch in the Pacific and now the British in the Caribbean and later in North America to subjugate the native peoples.

Not only were the native people to be duped into submission, but the British had the gall to suggest that the rightful owners of the land should “assist the Commissioners in a survey of the land they inhabited”. Moreover the Garifuna were “to be allowed to chose apportion” of their own land, but “in a specific area to be designated by the Commissioners”, would be “granted” a five year period to remove themselves to this “chosen” spot and that “they would be granted compensation at the rate of ten pounds per acre”.

Irrespective of the Garifuna position on this affront, by 1768 the British began to put in motion their grand designs for occupation. It was not to be as easy as they had imagined. Let us quote Dr. Marshall once more:

“These proposals were rejected by the Black Caribs (Garifuna). Chatoyer, one of the most formidable of the Chiefs, gave an outright ‘NO’ and refused to entertain any further discussion. But the Commissioners refused to accept his sentiments, and indeed, they even violated their instructions by beginning early in 1768 to trace a road through Black Carib territory as a preliminary step towards a survey of the lands. However, an armed force of Black Caribs prevented them from going any further than Iambou (Yambou)”.

It is interesting to read these accounts since ‘his’tory had always tried to convince us that the Garifuna people were “warlike” and were the aggressors against those who had come to “civilize”, “Chritianize” and “modernize” them. It was the victims being tried and found guilty not the perpetrators of heinous crimes, genocide and colonial occupation”.

We shall continue next issue as we build up to the Garifuna heroic defence of our homeland.

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