Dominica Carib Chief Seeks Legislation Barring Intermarriage

Allow me to post the news article before proceeding to offer a personal comment.

The Associated Press, in rare coverage of a Caribbean indigenous community, published the following news on Friday, May 9, 2008:

Dominica rejects legislating intermarriage to save tribe

Fri May 9, 11:12 PM ET

ROSEAU, Dominica – The leader of the last remaining pre-Columbian tribe in the eastern Caribbean says outlawing marriage to outsiders can save Dominica’s dwindling indigenous population, but legislators are balking at deciding who can marry whom.

Chief Charles Williams has proposed a law requiring ethnic Kalinagos to marry only each other for self-preservation. He also requested that foreigners be barred from living on the tribe’s 3,800-acre reserve.

“We would like as many Kalinago people to respond and pair off so that we can multiply and protect the race,” Williams said during a recent news conference.

An estimated 1,000 Kalinagos of the roughly 4,000 who live on the reserve are considered full-blooded Indians. Carib women who marry non-Indians traditionally leave the reserve, while men who do the same are allowed to stay.

Several legislators said Friday that they refuse to entertain the marriage proposal.

Such a measure would be “legislating who a person can marry, and this cannot be so,” Sen. Claduous Stanford told The Associated Press.

Kent Auguiste, a member of the Carib Indian council that oversees the reserve, said the culture should be preserved but not at the expense of personal freedom.

The impoverished Kalinago tribe relies mostly on banana and citrus farming.

Chief Williams is pursuing a very questionable goal of racial purification, presumably with the goal of protecting the economic viability of the limited territory that a growing population of Dominica Caribs must share. Chief Williams is himself the product of intermarriage, as is the overwhelming majority of Dominica Caribs, as they have been since at least the early 1600s. Any impediment to intermarriage is not only too much that is too late, it goes against Carib postcolonial traditions, and it reinforces the idea held by some Dominicans that the Caribs are incurable racists. Indigeneity, construed as located in the blood and visible on the face, is a notion pushed by some Caribists in Dominica not only to the detriment of peaceful relations within their own community, but to the detriment of regional indigenous solidarity networks and to building alliances with Garifuna communities. It is also bad politics: a small community does not need big enemies, and such a move would hardly have won Chief Williams much in the way of sympathy from overseas. Speaking only for myself, I find Chief Williams’ message to be a deplorable one, and I totally repudiate it.

7 thoughts on “Dominica Carib Chief Seeks Legislation Barring Intermarriage

  1. Carib Girl

    I was relating this oddity to a few of my acquiantances lately and wondered if I had gotten my facts incorrect – the story was so unbelievable. I was also hoping that I could return home one day without all these stupidities looming over my future. An educated Carib woman myself living abroard, I find this to be highly uneducated decision-making for the Carib people. It is also alarming to note that if this is the Carib Chief who is speaking on behalf of his people who we assume would agree with him, that the majority of the Caribs will never have anywhere to go in future. In-breeding causing more stupidity, it’s best if the community dies out – one choice is to do so by becoming utterly maimed by inbreeding, the other way is to have everyone marry whom they will. But the latter will bring far more prosperity and development (in all manner) in future.

    It’s about time they get someone intelligent should bring the Carib people out of their destitude as this is utterly a waste of everyone’s time. Incidentally, since I was born in the Carib Reserve and have been visiting throughout the years, I highly doubt that the full-blooded Kalinagos number in the thousand. I reckon that to be nearer 300 if so many so in the final analysis, who do they think they are fooling?

    This is utter rot.

  2. Maximilian Forte

    Thanks very much for writing Carib Girl. Unfortunately there is some old anthropology at work behind Williams’ thinking, and some colonial British thinking, that implanted such ideas and made them seem reasonable and right. I very much doubt that there is majority support for such an idea in the Carib Territory, since many have entered into unions, now and for the past generations, with people of African and other ancestries. I heard when I was there some who argued that Caribness has to show in your face, and in some cases the same people were themselves married to women of African descent. I obviously agree with everything you wrote, and I think it is extremely sad that this racial line has been put forth so openly, forcing people such as myself to reconsider where we stand.

  3. kalinago investigator

    great responses there. another real problem facing this area i got from my sources is the underground pornography that is being produced with carib girls. i got a lead from an inside source who actually saw a dvd with girls who were identified from two villages from kalinago. i havent seen them myself but from the level of detail that was given its more than believable. i am not of kalinago origin but i do feel close to these people, however the problems they face are sad and daily living is less than bearable. i have been investigating them for some time now since they are an interesting type. i am fond of them but the ugly part is very ugly and i wish something could be done. to the other caribs who are away from the territory, i do feel some sting like they do, just me being empathetic.

  4. Pingback: old news – Dominica Carib Chief Seeks Legislation Barring Intermarriage « dominergy

  5. Chief Charles Williams

    It is very interesting to note such hard comments made from persons whose facts are very far from being accurate.
    I maintain that the kalinago or Caribs as popularly known have the greatest history in the Caribbean region, we were out there in the millions before the advent of Columbus and his other European counterparts came to this part of the world.
    over the last 500 years we as the world knows suffered massive genocide, massacres and all evil occurrences so as to exterminate us from the face of the earth; yet we survive.
    Today our population has grown from 30 /40 families to some four thousand strong with approximately 70% mixed mostly with the African descendants, through rapid integration that we got exposed to in the 1960 and even more so presently on going.
    if we are to be proud of ourselves as Caribs, if we are to be grateful for the blood of our ancestors that watered all the islands of the Caribbean, and even the ocean around us, then we aught to do something to preserve our race as a people. because if we don’t, soon from now we will be history.
    Based on this reality i said that we should encourage our indigenous brothers and sisters to pair up as much as possible to multiply the race, and that we are encouraging cultural exchanges with other indigenous brothers in the Americas north south central, so that linkages can be established and that we can have a wider selection of partners we can think of to multiply the population of our people; and the few links that we have established have been producing some results thus far.
    I never spoke of legislation to marry any one; as individuals we all have freedom of choice, we can only encourage and educate but there was never any thought of legislation to keep the race……. very wrong information. Get your facts straight before making such silly comments

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thank you Charles Williams,

      and in the interest of full disclosure, you could also mention that not only have we met and spent time together, I as one of your former guests, but that I also tried repeatedly to send you e-mails asking you for your response. Now, years later, and now that there is a new chief, finally we have your side of the story.

      I understand from the above that you are saying you had no intention to introduce any kind of racial legislation. In that case the Associated Press is wrong, and it is too bad that it took this long to see them contradicted by you.

      What does not seem to be incorrect, however, is your focus on Carib as a race, and your emphasis on racial purity achieved by “encouraging” Caribs to marry one another. Let me just say a few things here. First, as a vision, that is a very seriously deficient one as it virtually encourages inbreeding, given that there are only 3,000 or so Caribs in Dominica. Second, the goal of racial purity becomes nearly impossible to achieve — even if one believes in race — given the fact that the Caribs of Dominica have been mixing with other peoples quite fully since the 1500s. Third, when you think of Carib as a race, rather than as an identity, a body of practices, a way of living, etc., then it really limits the spread of Caribness and it erects barriers between Caribs and their fellow Dominicans, who also suffered colonialism in the most extreme ways.

      Those are just my observations. Anything you say is incorrect about the news article is fine with me of course.

  6. Carla

    I am a black Dominican woman happily married to a Carib man for several years. Yes there are differences but ultimately we share the same culture. I can understand the Chiefs fears about numbers dwindling, but by telling people who to marry will turn Dominica into a dictator island. What will it be next? Saying Caribs should all have 20 children each to keep the numbers high!

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