Dignity, Power, and Place

Long before Europeans arrived in the Caribbean, indigenous people inhabited the islands. Over the centuries that followed, millions of Taino, Arawak, and Kalinago Indians, who were erroneously christened Caribs by the invaders, suffered ruthless genocide. Today, only the Kalinago survive, and Dominica, Waitukubuli, has the largest settlement of indigenous people in the region. Yet what is the fate of these marginalized people?

To focus attention on their plight, I wrote a short story, “Still We Survive,” which is recently published in Issue 34 of The Caribbean Writer. The 2020 theme of this anthology, jam packed with poetry, short stories, essays and book reviews is: “Dignity, Power, and Place in the Caribbean Space.” I assume this refers to everyone who inhabits these beautiful islands, including the region’s last surviving indigenous people.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated on August 9 of each year. The purpose of this particular day is to raise awareness and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also acknowledges the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve issues like environmental protection and human rights.

This Sunday, let’s all take a moment to reflect on why the lives of indigenous people matter.

  • Indigenous Peoples are culturally distinct societies and communities.
  • Preservation and promotion of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge contains vital information on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate disaster.
  • Indigenous peoples’ struggle to survive shows us that the degradation of the environment can unleash diseases like COVID -19—teaches us much about how to balance our relationship with nature and reduce the risk of pandemics.
  • Now more than ever, we must trust their ancestral knowledge to guide us if human beings are to survive on planet earth.