On this day, we pay homage to our brave and resilient Warrior Ancestors who fought for the preservation of Waitu’kubuli and the islands of the Americas. They were the Guardians of the Eastern Gate who fought back the European invaders and colonizers for more than two centuries.
The destruction of the land and genocide of the Kalinago People which followed, lasted for centuries. In this modern age, we need to change how we see ourselves in history. I say we are the survivors of colonialism and genocide, not merely victims.
I say now is the time for a New Beginning for the Kalinago People. Let this International Day of The World’s Indigenous Peoples be a time not only for reflecting on the past but also, a time to create a new vision for ourselves, and take charge of our destiny as we take our rightful place in the Land of Our Ancestors.
The theme for this year’s observance is “Indigenous People’s Languages”
Hundreds of years of domination by European colonialism resulted in the destruction of many aspects of our culture which had developed, and served our ancestors well, over thousands of years. The near total loss of our ancestral language was a most significant blow to the survival of the Kalinago People. It also meant loss of knowledge and skills related to agriculture, astronomy, fisheries, animal behavior and hunting techniques, natural healing, prayers, incantations and rituals, and the mastery of ecological systems.
The inability to pass on sacred and secular knowledge to future generations in their pure form led to further loss of cultural heritage and identity. Therefore, it is very important for us, as a people, to preserve, protect and develop what is left of our Kalinago language.
Because the extent of the loss is so vast, all we have left are lists of words and phrases and the names of plants, animals and places. It might take generations before Kalinagos can once again have meaningful conversation in our language but the longest journey starts with but one step.
After the inauguration of the new Kalinago Council, I will propose the following in an effort to bring about some revival of our language.
* Make a collection of books, manuscripts and documents about, or containing Kalinago language.
* Encourage new Kalinago parents to give Kalinago names to their babies.
*Continue and expand the program of ceremonially renaming Kalinago youth and elders.
* Encourage entrepreneurs of the Territory to give Kalinago names to their businesses.
* Encourage youth, sports, and other community groups to adopt Kalinago names. * Work with teachers and education professionals to design and develop board games, word games, and number games using Kalinago words, phrases and themes.
* Network with Indigenous Peoples in English-speaking countries who are having success in native language revival. This is in order to benefit from knowledge, skills and best practices to boost our own program.
* In the medium to long term, opportunities will be sought for Kalinago teachers to study linguistics; focusing on the Kalinago/Arawakan/ Lokono language family.
* As time goes by, I envision the time when Kalinago language experts will develop curriculum around Kalinago language, myths, legends and culture for use by students of Dominica and the region.
On this day, let us vow to use, as much as is possible, all the words and phrases that we know in our daily speech; and to teach them to our young braves and nataris. On this day, let us recommit ourselves to the presentation of our culture and heritage for the good of the land and for future generations.
The road may be long but it is there and we have the spirit of resilience and determination to fulfill the task.
Let us continue to strive with unity of purpose and love for our beloved Kalinago Territory and Waitu’kubuli.