The Kalinago People called it “Kouanari”. Then, the colonizers came and called it “Castle Bruce” after plantation owner James Bruce, who, according to historical reports, cared nothing about the enslaved people, whom he abused in building his sugar cane plantation. His residence, which overlooked his plantation, was located where the present day Christian Union Mission Church stands.
That’s just part of what the residents of Castle Bruce learned about the history of their village in a detailed presentation on Wednesday 14th August 2019, which formed part of planned activities for their Village Feast – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Those who attended the historical account entitled “From Slavery to Championship”, described it as an interesting and enlightening presentation which enabled them to understand their community and themselves a bit more.
Historian, Dr. Lennox Honychurch, enthralled a captive audience with detailed information about Castle Bruce, which explored its geological formation, the Kalinago presence, slavery and colonization and post slavery and colonization. He compared the geographical layout of Castle Bruce, with its beautiful beach, rivers, flat lands, hills/mountains etc, to that of Roseau which he said, shares a similar topography.
Castle Bruce, which Honychurch described as one of the oldest parts of Dominica, was established as a sugar plantation by slave owners such as James Bruce. The islets (which are its main feature), were very important in the shipping of rum, molasses and lime to Europe from the plantation. There are still some ruins dating back to that time. (Recently, one of those ruins was bulldozed to make way for apartment buildings.) According to the historian, these islets were an interesting place, where the Kalinago people farmed; the colonizers used as a shipping point and it was also a site of murder.
The community learnt that revolt was a common event during the slavery era and not all African descendants were actually slaves, as a group of Africans was released in Castle Bruce, after the British Army around 1837, captured a ship with its illegal cargo.
Castle Bruce residents are portrayed as a people who once fought against injustice. They stood up with a young Atherton Martin in 1972, when the owners of the plantation demanded that Martin fire some workers. He refused to do so. In return, they decided to fire him, but the villagers would not have it.
Stafford Alfred was the first local representative in Government for the community which, today can boast of a United Nations Ambassador in the person of Loreen Bannis- Roberts. Castle Bruce people are also innovators of national events such as The Waitukubuli National Trail (which was conceptualized by Bernard Wiltshire) and village reunions.
There was a general sense of satisfaction among the villagers after the presentation. Some had heard it before; others got new information but for those who heard it for the first time, it was an eye opener.
One lady told Dominica News Online (DNO) that the “history books used to teach our children [should] be banned and our real history should be written and taught in schools. For too long, we are being taught about murderers and criminals whom historians label as “Lord, knight, Sir etc –these men were evil people”.
One young man perhaps most aptly captured the sentiments of the Castle Bruce residents who attended, when he said, “I am proud of my history and where I came from.”