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