The Kalinago people have been told that it is their duty to join the movement to regain the Kalinago language.
The Kalinago people of Dominica, joined other indigenous peoples of the world in recognition of International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples on Friday August 9, 2019. The United Nation sets this day aside to honor and commemorate the shared history and culture of indigenous people around the world. The UN selected theme for this year’s World Indigenous Peoples Day is: Indigenous Language
In the Kalinago Territory, one of the activities held to mark the occasion was a language symposium which began at 7:00 p.m. at the Salybia Primary School.
Cultural Officer for the Kalinago Territory and Directer of the Carifuna Cultural Group, Prosper Paris, was one of the presenters at the event. He spoke on the topic: The Indigenous and Kalinago language.
Paris said that the focus on indigenous language is to create an awareness and eagerness “to go back to our indigenous language.” He contended that it is the duty of the Kalinago people to become part of the movement to regain the indigenous language and cited the UN Rights of Indigenous People which stipulates that indigenous people have the right to their language.
Another presenter, former Kalinago Chief, Irvince Auguiste, speaking on “The importance of The Indigenous Language”, suggested that a method in which the Kalinago Language can be taught to Kalinago children is through the introduction of the language in the school’s curriculum. He also spoke about his dream of having a school called the Knowledge Centre where the Kalinago language, way of life, and survival skills can be taught.
Historian Cozier Frederick, gave a brief synopsis of the history of the Kalinago language – his topic: A Kalinago Perspective on the Kalinago Language. He noted that the Kalinago Nation has a history of resistance and resilience. While many believe that the language has been obliterated, Frederick argued that it has not been completely lost. He pointed out that the roots of the indigenous language are not only evident in the Kalinago Territory but in every community in Dominica. He said the language remains in the names given to various villages as well as in words that we commonly use. Examples of village names include Itassi (Vielle Case), Layou, Calibishie, Coulibistrie. Other commonly used Kalinago words are: barbeque, balata (tree), sisserou and agouti.
“Language is important to any civilization and we have to honor this for the sake of our ancestors and for our children,” Frederick stated.
Other presenters at the event were former Chief, Garnet Joseph who spoke on “The Origin of the Language”, and cultural icon, Gerard Langlais whose topic was “Personal Experience with the Kalinago Language.”