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NOT ‘HIS’TORY- Part 6: British greed leads to war

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The British promise “never” to interfere with the lands of the indigenous people was soon to be proven worthless. But a justification had to be found for open aggression, so lying excuses had to be invented.

Rumours began being spread that the rightful owners “had made sales of land to French settlers in Grenada”, according to Dr. Marshall. Given the colonial rivalry between the European powers, these rumours were used to urge the British government that it, “rather than private individuals should be the purchasers.” Nobody bothered to find out whether the Garifuna were interested in such sale.

In the year 1770, the colonial representatives were instructed to put forward proposals for land purchase. However, Dr Marshall informs us that, at a meeting held with Paramount Chief Chatoyer and forty of his men at Morne Garou, those proposals were “flatly rejected” by the Garifuna. The local historian went on to note the significance of Chatoyer’s refusal to part with Garifuna lands.

“The rejection of these proposals marked the turning point in Anglo-Carib relations”, he explained. From then on there was agitation among the greedy settlers urging the British government to take armed action against the indigenous people. Dr. Marshall wrote that they abandoned previous approaches of offering the Garifuna “compensation either in the form of money or other lands or both”. In his words, “now they no longer sang this tune. Indeed after 1771 military force was seen as the only means, compensation was ruled out and the total removal of the Black Caribs from the island was also advocated”.

This is a most important historical fact for it debuks all the colonial hypocrisy about embarking on the so-called Carib wars to stop the “warlike” intentions of the Garifuna and their supposed attacks on the settlers. In fact in the St Vincent Handbook, published in 1938, the author, Robert M. Anderson stated categorically:

“This injustice on the part of the English colonists was the origin of all the Carib wars which subsequently spread such desolation over the island and cost the mother country such sacrifice of blood and treasure”.

What a pity he never seemed to consider what it cost the Garifuna and its effects on this country, including opening the doors wide to plantation slavery, a matter also dealt with by Dr. Marshall later in his book.

The preparation for war against the Garifuna was accompanied by hostile propaganda. The British Commissioners argued that negotiations with the Garifuna would be “fruitless” and that it would be impossible to settle the island “without a sufficient force to terrify them (the Garifuna) into obedience”. They even made the argument that Garifuna sovereignty was an affront to “the honour and dignity of the crown”, and could not be tolerated.

The settlers, greedy for fertile lands to satisfy their plantation lust, echoed the sentiments and egged the British government to act decisively. The scene was set for the first war of liberation and Chatoyer and the Garifuna had to defend our homeland.

(To be continued)

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