The Caribbean Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (COIP) welcomes the initiative taken by CARICOM member states to establish National of Reparation Committees, to address the issue of ‘Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide’.
The initiative is noteworthy, not only because it seeks reparation for Slavery, but also for Native Genocide, the latter important since descendants of the ‘First Peoples’ still live on the islands that constitute CARCOM. The descendants of the Callinago (Yellow Caribs) and the Garifuna (Black Caribs) are distinct races within the delightfully mixed population.
The press release issued on 10th December 2013, by the Regional Reparations Committee Chairman, Prof. Hilary Beckles, highlights the issue of Native Genocide. Among other things, the release states:
“The Commission noted that Caribbean societies also experienced the genocide of the native population, which was also declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. The victims of these crimes and their descendants were left in a state of social, psychological, economic and cultural deprivation and disenfranchisement that has ensured their suffering and debilitation today, and from which only reparatory action can alleviate their suffering”.
Much literature exists to show the inhumane treatment endured by Native/Indigenous Peoples on the islands, at the hands of the European settlers, and the subsequent insult of exile from their own country, as is the case of the Garifuna of St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
With regard to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, oral tradition, and historians at home and abroad have kept alive the accounts of the barbaric action against the Garifuna and their heroic fight to defend their homeland. The naming of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer as the country’s First National Hero is testimony to recognition of that struggle. One only has to read Christopher Taylor’s detailed account of the final battles to conclude that Duvalle is a strong contender for the Second National Hero.
COIP, which comprises membership from Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Suriname, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, all CARICOM members, stands ready to play a role in building strong arguments on the Caribbean condition of the descendants of Native Peoples and in favour of reparations for evils inflicted on them.
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community of Trinidad & Tobago, is the current Chair of COIP.