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Kalinago Barana (Sea) Stories & Conservation Project

Interviews with history experts

Gerard Langlais, Dr Lennox Honychurch, Reny Auguiste. Courtesy Karina Cultural Group © 2021. 

Dr Lennox Honychurch - March 18, 2021

Interviewed by the Karina Cultural Group team, Gerard and Miranda Langlais, Marianna Sanford and Reny Auguiste (in person and video recorded), notes taken by Marianna Sanford.

Dr Honychurch is highly regarded in Dominica (and the Caribbean) as an expert on Kalinago, Indigenous, Caribbean and Dominican history. Both Mr Langlais and Reny Auguiste have worked with him on past projects and his contribution to preserving Kalinago culture is appreciated by the Kalinago community.

Interview Key Notes:

  • 1930 uprising, when the government accused the Kalinago of smuggling goods to Marie Galante, the HM Ship came in 1930 to Kalinago Territory, and shot their flare gun to frighten the people.

  • Boatbuilding: person making the canoe will mobilize the community - encourage family and friends, offer incentives (food): Kayanage or Koudmen (helping hand) (less community mobilizing now - more family and friends).

  • Ritual: Before leaving to go to the forest - a ritual to ask favors from spirits of the forest. To calm the sea: shred cassava bread, spread in on the sea. (The ritual - chewing cassava spitting out and spreading it - waving - exists today - as a movement only without the cassava. Noted by Gerard).

  • Sailing: no sails on the canoes but small sails of woven cotton, palmiste/zelmouche was also used to make sails (from colonization). Canoe used in rivers in South America - in open water bordage was added. No need for sails - they would exchange positions with the oars. ‘Govanage’ boat rudder.

  • Navigation: before travelling - observe patterns, animals, birds, tides. Consider the hurricane season. (practiced now).

  • They traveled to trade, signing treaties and attack, find resources in Marie Galante and Guadeloupe - went as far as Trinidad. Trading of Kalinago tools for modern tools e.g knives. During 1800’s and 1900's it was easier to travel to baptize and shop in Marie Galante - some grandparents birth papers in Marie Galante. Treaty of March 31, 1660 (between Charles Houël and Kalinago Chief) that St. Vincent and Dominica would belong to the Kalinago, was never honored.

  • Craft: some sea plants used as ornaments, decoration, circular part of conch used as hooks Kioue (displayed in the museum in Roseau).

  • Kalinago words: the body of the canoe - tiamun, when the boat was overturned - tibilali, overturned in the ocean - tibirame liem, couliala (whole canoe). A strip in the canoe where baskets and food stuff hung - ticouloubi. Islets (where the spirit lives) - mamelabou. Gommier tree - sibui (source Raymond Bretton dictionary).

Peter Hulme - March 31, 2021

Interviewed by Oonya Kempadoo (via Zoom no recording)

Mr Hulme is Professor Emerita, Department of Literature, Film & Theatre Studies, University of Essex, UK. His research in Dominica in the 80’s and 90’s was mainly archive and library based (historical) rather than field research.

Key notes:

  • 1980’s: Was commissioned by the Horniman Museum, South London to document Carib basketry. Garnett Joseph was Chief then. Interviewed Mrs Bruny - took photographs (not digital) and gathered a basket collection. This was exhibited at the museum. Mr Hulme has original photos, Museum has copies:

  • 1990’s: Remembers interest in the ‘Carib War’ of 1930 - “an incident really” - police raid of smuggling liquor which led to resistance and a trial. Niel Whitehead, an anthropologist, got three elders together and had a session talking about the ‘Carib War’. The discussion was recorded by someone in the Carib Territory, a Documentary Project (perhaps Mrs Sylvany Burton). “...For the Caribs, smuggling is not a concept.”

  • Connections between communities were on either side of the sea - land connections were more difficult.

  • He recommends the C.T. Robinson Trust - for Dominica and Guyana as a source for follow up funding for this project results: “Set up by an enthusiast on Caribs and Arawaks who died young, established a posthumous charity to give away money to Caribs in Dominica and an Arawak village in Guyana close to the coast.”

  • Mr Hulme served as an advisor for Dominica for this trust and noted that Polly Patullo currently holds that position. Mr Hulme later provided two PDF copies of Douglas Taylor’s publications about ‘Carib’ star lore, and tales and legends.

Mr Hulme’s current use of the derogatory noun ‘Carib’ (Spanish for Canibal) instead of ‘Kalinago’ prompted questions about cultural sensitivity and awareness. He rationalized it as still being used “by most people” (in Dominica with the name change from ‘Carib Reserve to Carib Territory’) and “I have more interest in the way that the culture has been described rather than the culture itself. Why have that group, the Caribs, been so important for Western imperial culture? I’m interested in representation.”

Mr Hulme’s recommendations and information was appreciated for this project but his statements about definitions of culture and indigenous identity, and his recurring use of the word ‘Carib’ even after being asked about it, was perceived as a sense of academic white superiority.

Oonya Kempadoo © 2021 FDL