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Kalinago Barana (Sea) Stories & Conservation Project

Interviews with community members/elders

Interview with Napoleon Sanford, March 2021 (video)
Interview with Napoleon Sanford, March 2021 (video)
Interview with Napoleon Sanford, March 2021 (video)
Interview with Napoleon Sanford, March 2021 (video) Interview with Saracen Valmond and Gerard Langlais Interview with Cultural Officer Mr Prosper Paris
The Karina Cultural Group team and groups of 3-4 youth visited and interviewed four community elders with cameraman/videographer Benedict Lestrade, on March 31st and April 1st, 2021.

Key notes: The Barana (sea) played a critical role in the everyday life of Kalinago People.

  1. Canoe building with rituals and herbs
  2. Fishing techniques and navigation - sap for poison arrows, herbs, brews
  3. Sea travel to trade, sign treaties, baptize, go to church - sea travel easier than land
  4. Food from sea and food prepared for hurricane season
  5. Tools - conch shells, fishbones, harpoons
  6. Myths and legends - sea monsters, islets, great snake, boat/fishing experiences
  7. Rituals to protect and bring good luck - names of herbs

Gerard and Miranda Langlais interview by Oonya Kempadoo - March 24, 2021
(by Oonya Kempadoo, Whatsapp call, no recording)

Key notes: Gerard and Miranda Langlais had heard some of the same stories told to them as children, by their parents, grandparents and elders. Miranda’s father was a boat builder and fisherman and was part of the Gli Gli project. Her brother presently builds traditional canoes.

Gerard is also a shaman and noted: “Kalinago spiritual customs and traditions were oppressed by Christianity. People who knew of spiritual rituals had to be secretive, very few were trusted and received passed-on knowledge. Some died with the knowledge. Some were fortunate to receive it - as if the spirit had a purpose for them.”

  • Legends: The first man to come to Waitukubuli - Loukuo. He came on a canoe from South America. He had many children, was poisoned by his cousin. When he died he turned into a Caiman - and still lives in the rivers of South America. Maruka & Samari (two males) came from South America. They had children. One died and one is still alive in the Orinoco River. It is said that everywhere the Kalinago settled - they were always between 2 or 3 islets. “These rocks coincide with the sacred spirits of forefathers resting place. They are the entry to the underworld and at a certain time of the year would turn into sea canoes - and travel to the mainland to see the spirits of ancestors.”

  • Canoe building - details of the process including mention of rituals with herbs.

  • Charms, herbs, techniques and tricks used in fishing: “Things are used to create an environment for the fish... These secrets are passed on.” ‘Tricks’ are used on each other (fellow fishermen) “the science - related to tools of fishing.”

  • Rituals and sea-related healing: Many things noted - from when and where to bathe to remove negative energy, to how stones are used in healing and as weapons.

  • The importance of asking the sea for permission, guidance or protection: “ have to speak to the ocean, talk, do rituals, be guided.”

  • Food from the sea: a list including different types of sea moss and medicinal uses.

  • Dances and songs: long ago when there were eclipses in the sky it was thought that evil, “Maboya might swallow the light of the sun.” “Dances, cutting themselves to get rid of an omen, beating animals etc. went on”. The Fishing Dance: a celebration of when the fish come in, movement imitating the fishing. *The Karina Cultural Group performs the Fishing Dance - there may be a recording of it.

  • Gerard’s own sea experience: between Dominica and Marie Galante with a live donkey (a sea story). Later performed as a skit out of the workshop.

  • For the future, would like to see:
    - these stories (from this project) made into drawings, books, cartoons.
    - canoe building - preserve, keep alive - improve. Noted: the trees are diminishing.
    - youth become educators and leaders. “Youth losing consciousness, no strong sense of identity. We are trying to give a footing on what is there, to be proud of it. There is not enough education of our culture.”

General note, in addition to the traditional knowledge recorded, as we reviewed the results of the recordings together:

  • A regatta: was the brainchild of former chief, Charles William - who tried to develop a festival using the major aspect of Kalinago culture - the traditional canoe. (Mr Langlais)

  • Food preservation and hurricane preparedness: used to dry fish in preparation for hurricane season - to store - expecting the bad spirit to destroy the environment. They would roast and then sun dry periodically to preserve. Mouinas (long houses), low and flat - were built behind the hill to prepare and store. (Mr Langlais)

  • Kalinago ability to swim/relationship with water: “They say a baby would be thrown in pan of water and if they float - they are Kalinago” (Mr Langlais)

  • Fishermen techniques (it was said) “they would carry a pig - if they get lost, they would put the pig in water and follow it’s direction as it swims.” (Mr Dangleben)

  • Trading, depends on relations with French authorities - as leadership changes it varies. (Mr Langlais)

  • The French (islands and people) have strong affinity to Kalinago. French visitors come to Dominica to visit the Kalinago. It could be possible to visit French islands without a visa but not enough is done. Craft vendors need visitors - the French are the main customers. (Mr Dangleben)

  • The Ministry of Agriculture has a project and is in contact with boatbuilders: After Maria damaged a lot of boats - the government realized that the Territory has knowledge to build - this is economic income and is attracting young people (EC$2000 to $5000 per boat.) (Mrs Langlais)

Oonya Kempadoo © 2021 FDL