History of Dominica
One of the great storytellers of Dominica's history is the honorable Dr. Lennox Honychurch. Dr. Honychurch has become a prominent historian in Dominica and has written a multitude of books uncovering the distant past and retelling the recent history of Dominica for younger generations. I found his book The Dominica Story: A History of the Island immensely useful in gathering background on Dominica's history.
Where the Atlantic and Caribbean tectonic plates collide, the Atlantic plate is pushed under the Caribbean plate forging an arc of islands rising out of the sea, which helped to form many of the islands in the Caribbean. One of these tiny islands is Dominica. Dominica (Dom-i-knee-ka) is her name, but she also responds to the original name given by the island's first inhabitants — Waitukubuli. She is clothed by lusciously green mountains, painted with the vibrant colors of flora and fauna, and her rivers drape around her form. While exploring Dominica's beauty, it is easy to see why she is considered the 'Nature Isle' of the Caribbean.
River with leaves drifting in it
Tropical fern leaves
Small purple flower
Flower stems of a tropical plant
Green moss obscured by river water
Tropical rainforest with mist covering the tips of the trees
Sunset over Caribbean Sea
Leaves of trees in the rainforest
Red tropical flowering plant
White rose with rain droplets on its petals
Sun peering through the leaves onto a pink flowering plant
Sulfur water trickling onto orange rocks
Trafalgar Falls shot by Daniella Rolle
The South Equatorial current flowing from the Orinoco River into the Caribbean waters brought seeds, numerous insects, and reptiles to give the island a bounty of biodiversity. Various people groups originating from the Orinoco region of South America used the sea as their highway to settle on the islands of what is now the Caribbean. A hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish, the Kalinago, also known as Carib Indians, settled on several Windward Islands, including the island of Dominica, naming it Wai'tukubuli.
Google Earth Satellite Imagery
Images provided by Discover Dominica Facebook
When the Spaniards arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, the landscape of all the islands in the region would forever change. The beginning of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the Americas eroded the sovereignty of the people living in the region. The Europeans exploited the Caribbean’s natural wealth and imported its most important resource — African slaves.
The French introduced plantation-style agriculture after 1725, drastically changing the island's topography by clearing forests to plant coffee seedlings. Colonists would export the riches of coffee and sugar from the depths of Waitukubuli to Europe and America to earn a fortune.
Dominica was not as heavily ravaged by colonialism in comparison to many of the other islands in the region. This was in part due to Dominica’s rugged terrain which is unsuitable for large scale plantations which grew profitable cash crops on islands such as Barbados. Poor white folks and freed slaves from other islands sought to build plantations in Dominica and develop wealthy assets. Some British plantation owners who had made fortunes on other islands also placed a stake in Dominica, but many never resided on the island.
Map of Land Plots for Sale taken from The Dominica Story: A History of the Island by Dr. Lennox Honychurch, 1995
Another disincentive for large plantations for many years was the skillful fighting of the Kalinagos who would raid other islands for plunder and steal their enslaved people. However, with the ravaging effects of European diseases and warfare to defend their islands, Kalinago people dwindled in numbers crowding in remote parts of the island. Enslaved people would occasionally run away from their plantations and take their chances, hoping the Kalinagos would accept them into their communities. Many runaways found refuge in the mountains' depths, forming their own communities and becaming known as the Maroons, Neg Mawon in Creole.
Image from Wikipedia
The island became a contested battleground between the French and British, both whom were seeking to establish a colony. Eventually the French would forcibly concede the island to the British in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Despite Dominica officially becoming a British colony, many French plantation owners stayed on the island and still played a large part in forming Dominica's distinctive Creole culture.
After hundreds of years of brutal slavery and stripping of the land, the dawn of emancipation from slavery would come when the British abolished it in their colonies on July 31, 1834. Dominica would take up until 1978 to declare its own constitution, demarcating its separation from Britain as one of its colonies and establishing the Commonwealth of Dominica.