SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
March 11, 2015
Field Trip to the Kalinago Territory
Anchored in Prince Rupert’s Bay, Portsmouth Dominica
Light winds calm and mostly clear
No marine mammals, but beautiful Frigate birds fly overhead
Sargassum spotted in the eastern bays and beaches passed on our way to the Kalinago Territory.
4:45 am, rise and shine! My day begins with deck watch taking bearings and doing boat checks making sure all is well while the crew slowly wakes up. Another glorious sunrise, and it's time to set the flags-one under which we sail, America, and a courtesy flag of the country we are in, Dominica. "Wai'tukubuli" "tall is her body" is what the indigenous people call the island for her tall forested mountains. Today we visited the Kalinago Territory, home to the descendants of the original inhabitants of the island before the Spanish, British and French arrived to colonize the region. The Kalinago are now a contemporary people numbering approximately 3,000, who also continue to practice ways of the past and teach visitors of their former culture. When we visited the Kalinago Barana Aute (KBA), their cultural interpretation center, we listened to our guide talk of her people's past heritage. I sensed the sadness in her voice as she described a lost language, taken from them when settlers came to enslave her ancestors. Recently, much of the suppressed culture has reemerged through the teachings of community elders and through communication with South American groups with a shared past.
From the Kalinago people I learned of the native plants and recognized them as common household seasonings, herbs to make teas or rubs for a variety of ailments and medicinal purposes. They served us some delightful bush tea as we overlooked a grand ocean view. We were taught how to prepare traditional Cassava bread made from mashed roots of the cassava tree and then we proceed to taste our creation. The Kalinago people extended their hospitality and prepared their native foods to feed us lunch. We ate fresh Mahi mahi, dashine, tannia, yellow yam, sweet potato and roasted plantain. For desert we chewed on sugar cane, a purely sweet treat better than any candy. All the food was harvested locally, and we were amazed by the sustainability of resources that a forest can provide when treated with respect. After lunch we were treated to a performance of song and dance and were soon invited to join in to the beat of the drums. We danced and celebrated culturally important animals such as the snake and the hummingbird.
Driving back to Portsmouth from the Kalinago Territory we passed by houses that line the forest, brightly colored tires have plants potted in them, an interesting a sight that makes me chuckle. Dominica is called "The Nature Island" and rightfully so, its lush greenery and many flowers fill the senses. It smells of fresh rain and rich soil. There are so many natural resources that one could live off the land with proper knowledge. A short dingy ride and we were back aboard our beautiful ship we call home to watch another breathtaking sunset as it drips into the sea.
Later that evening, back onboard the Cramer, the importance of soil and water to the Dominican people was reinforced when we were fortunate enough to have the Honorable Ian Douglas join us onboard for dinner. Minister Douglas is the current Minister of Energy, Trade and Employment on Dominica and is a third generation politician. Minister Douglas discussed Dominican history from the time of Columbus up to the recent elections in December, 2014. His knowledge was extensive and his talk gave us a great perspective on how Dominica came to be an independent nation.
I wish to send along a heartfelt greeting to all the friends and family of this hardy crew. We Love and miss you.