Honoring Dominica Independence DayNov 03, 2020 08:00AM ● By Oga Africa
Happy Independence Day, Dominica! Join us as we take a journey inside this beautiful, lush Caribbean country.
The native inhabitants of this small island were the Ortoiroid people, followed by the Kalinago people, who called the island Waitukbuli, which translates to ‘tall is her body’. When Columbus landed on the island and the colonizers attempted to take the land, the Kalingo showed great resistance. Because of this, the country now known as Dominica was the last island in the Caribbean to become a colony. Columbus renamed the island Dominica, which means Sunday in Italian.
Because there was no gold on the island, and due to the Carib’s resistance, the Spanish lost interest in the island and the French and British battled for it until the 18th century.
During the transAtlantic slave era, many Africans were brought in to work the sugar plantations. The Kalinago people and the newly arrived Africans established partnerships, as they both resisted colonization from the Europeans.
Maroon people are groups that were brought to the islands to be enslaved but resisted. In countries like Jamaica, Dominica, Brazil and more, brave Africans, who were most often skilled warriors that had been taken and sold as war captives, fled to bush areas to reject the terrors of slavery and establish their own society.
In the 1770s, an African born man by the name of Maroon Chief Jacko escaped from the plantation he slaved on and settled in present day Belles, Dominica. He and other enslaved peoples who absconded formed Maroon societies in the mountains. Wars between the Maroons and the enslavers continued, and Maroon Chief Jacko was the major leader in these wars. Forty years later in 1814, the governor targeted and killed this leader in attempts to stifle the maroon movement. Other Maroon chiefs that existed in Dominica include Chief Balla, Chief Elephant, Chief Pharcell, Chief Quashie, and female leaders Calypso, Victorie and Angelique.
In 1834, slavery in the country was abolished, and by 1838, Dominica was the first and single British colony to have Black controlled legislature. However, the country did not become independent until November 3rd, 1978.
The island itself stretches just 27 miles long and 16 miles wide. Roseau is the capital of the country. In 2001, the population was reportedly made up of 86.6% African descendants, 9.1% Mixed race, 2.9% Indigenous, 1.3% other and .2% unspecified. In 2018, the population was recorded at 71,625. English is the official language, and French patois is also commonly spoken throughout the island.
Dame Eugenia Charles was elected as the first female prime minister in the country in 1980, and lasted through two coup d’etat attempts. The current president, Roosevelt Skerrit, is from a Rastafarian family, and has been in office since 2004, following two consecutive deaths of former prime ministers.
The national dish is Mountain Chicken, a large frog that is now an endangered species, Manicou or opossum stew with rice, Callaloo Soup, Chatou Water or Octopus Soup, Codfish Sandwich and more.
(Fruit growing on a tree in Dominica)
Thanks for reading!