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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
Visit to the Kalinago Territory, Dominica
15°34.9’N x 061°31.6’W
Anchored in Prince Rupert’s Bay off of Portsmouth, Dominica
All sails stowed
Winds E, Force 2, Seas 1ft, 28.0 Celsius
Our second day in Dominica consisted of a field trip to the Kalinago territory led by our tour guide Patrice. The Kalinago are the indigenous people from Dominica. We took a bumpy car ride that took about an hour to get us to the other side of the island, but offered stunning views of the mountainous and vegetative island. Our first stop on the tour was at David’s Cassava Bakery! Here we learned about the history of the vegetable as a native staple and how the technological advancements in David’s shop helped popularize cassava into a ready-made food that he could quickly make into bread for sale. It was an interactive tour so we participated in the processing of making cassava into the many flavored breads. Michaela S. got to mix the granules in a hotpot while Cooper cooked the coconut flavored bread over the stove. It was truly great to see a man passionate about his cultural foods and continue to aspire to integrate it into the Dominican economy.
Later on, we made our way to the home/community of Robinson Darrous. He spoke to us about natural remedies that the Kalinago use to cure many ailments. He went through an exhaustive list of the many different herbs used to make tea. There was a tea for just about any problem; ranging from the ability to cure a toothache, headache, and stomach-ache, to gonoriah, tuberculosis, and bad spirits. We were able to sample five different teas from cute small drinking vessels made of calabash.
Next, we met with Councilor Frederick of the tribe who spoke of the economic, social, and political history of the Kalinago tribe and present conditions. We learned that because they live in a communal society, it is hard for them to keep up with the economic structures of Dominica. If and when any of them branch out into the city for work, the chances of them maintaining their culture is put at risk because they may find a romantic partner among Dominicans – thus breaking the Kalinago lineage. However, while their political, economic and cultural traditions may be challenged, the Kalinago have a high success rate in the field of education. Councilor Frederick stated that every Kalinago child is enrolled in school and the ones who make it to university come out as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or law officer. I found this quite inspiring because as the cliché goes, “education is a key”; and so if these students are maintaining a strong connection to their culture, they could probably come back to their communities and address some of the tribal issues.
All in all, today was a culturally informative day. We stepped aside from the tourist persona of exploring their beaches and enjoying their delicacies, but instead looked through a historic-cultural lens to learn about the indigenous community of the island. Along the way we made great friends and ended the day by learning a traditional dance with members of the community.