From Carib to Kalinago
I was drawn by the pronouncement by the new minister responsible for Kalinago Affairs of his intent to officially change the name Carib to Kalinago as one of his first order of business.
This is not the first time we have heard such sentiments expressed but this time it seems more serious moves are afoot so to do. I remember fleetingly when changes of names were proposed with respect to the streets in Dominica starting with Roseau's King George, Great George, Virgin Lane, Cork Street, Queen Mary Street to name a few and even Windsor Park, as most can't tell you the significance of a gentleman by the name of Windsor. There was a lot of support for changing these names which really reflected our colonial past and even our exploitation as a people. Yes, I do certainly agree to names changes which reflect the contribution our people have made to National development, to include Melville Hall to Charles-Douglas.
Similar sentiments are expressed by our Kalinago people; note I keep saying Kalinago as I too have accepted the argument that the Caribs should revert to their original name themselves.
However, at the same time I note the concerns expressed to the change of names of Morne Diablotin and Morne Aux Diable by our leading historian. The argument was raised that historically it would negatively affect our history and geography with respect to our map. The name carries with it a history of birds which once inhabited the area and so has touristic appeal and attraction. Yet the change was done in support of calls made by some religious leaders who lamented that our highest peak 'paid homage' to the devil. The few who called for a name change from Columbus' Dominica to the Carib Waitukubuli were not so lucky however.
The question which has to be considered is whether these contrasting points of view hold merit when considering a name change from Carib Territory to Kalinago Territory? Or do we discuss the same using a different yardstick? In all fairness Carib served as a derogatory connotation given by white conquerors that even extended the insult to label the Kalinagos cannibals. But on the other side of the coin, the said Territory may lose its touristic economic appeal as the last bastion of the pure Carib race in the region.
Another question must be posed. Does the world still view the Caribs as "fierce and warlike"? I know that the region does not subscribe to this 'Columbus lie', and have embraced the Kalinagos as a unique people who fought side by side with our Africans ancestors against the white invaders. They were never slaves and can be proud of their resistance, culture and achievement as a people.
Still does a name change affect attitudes or can it change perception of persons? After all some may argue that it's hypocritical that American blacks don't mind being referred to as niggas by another black in their songs or when they meet casually. However it is outlawed for a white to refer to a black as nigga; the N – word is outlawed. They have even gone a step further: those who deem nigga derogatory have now relegated themselves to greeting each other this way: "What's up dog!" For them, it's Ok, in fact they are quite happy to be called this way, because when a black says it, it connotes something different, they argue….I guess when we are all dogs together…they, I mean. So then, maybe it's alright for a Carib to call another brother "Carib" but a sin for a black or, worse still, for an European to do so. The unfortunate stereotyping continues: all black are lazy, unindustrious, yet ironically so many admire the work ethics of Haitians.
Another question is raised: are we holding on to the past while boasting that we are moving forward as a people or is it insecurity or subtle inferiority, a direct inability to assert ourselves as a people and so we hold on to these sentimentalities as a scapegoat for our own failures or prejudices?
Having posed the above I am forced to wonder why a name change should be a priority for the Kalinagos when they are said to live in abject poverty and deprivation. Incest and the giving away of their children to adoption continue to plague the Territory. There is the perennial problem of having land held in common, limiting their ability to source loans at financial institutions who request such collateral, hence hindering their development. With all due respect to the new Kalinago Affairs Minister, I think these should also be high on his list of priorities over a name change! Sadly it is also not a secret that many politicians on both side of the fence think that the Territory is volatile and can be bought with "things" or even "alcohol".
I wish to draw on some analogies put forward by Jamaican B.O. Goodman who wrote to the editor of a Jamaican newspaper citing his opposition to changing of names in his country. Goodman argues that one of the town water supplies comes from a place called "Hog Hole" yet fresh, unpolluted water flows from the source; a place called "Hooker Avenue' is known for upstanding citizens. Well, I can advance that Virgin Lane is not known for virgins nor does Tarish Pit or Gutter suggest that the inhabitants there are up to no good and remain in the gutter. Fond Cole until a decade ago was also stigmatized but today, many nurses reside there and it's the home of the 2013 island scholar.
Wonderful, good looking people, I am told, reside at Monkey Hill in Marigot and the name Ryan Sidebottom did not prevent the cricketer from being one of England best bowlers a few years ago; and not because your surname is Christian you actually live the life. By the way B.O Goodman could be a synonym, and the writer may just represent the opposite-a bad man.