"RECOVERY, NOT DISCOVERY": © Lennox Farrell Sept 15th 1991
The Carib name in the 15th Century for their homeland in the azure Caribbean Sea, with mountains that still buttress the sky, was Waitikubuli.
By the time my grandmother, "Ma" a woman of African ancestry was born there some four centuries later, the population of Waitikubuli had been irrevocably altered, and the island re-named Dominica.
The Carib occupants whose militant resistance to European incursions gave the region the present Caribbean name, were reduced to a civilization of museum exhibits by a genocide similar to that committed against the Buffalo and the Carrier Pigeon.
Within fifty years of the Spaniards arriving, the Arawaks, the even less fortunate relations of the Caribs, had been civilized into extinction. These Amerindians had been a people linked by ethnicity and culture to others like the Maya and Apache who had occupied this Hemisphere several millennia before the "discovery" of the "New World", as European scholarship refers to it.
In fact, if anyone "discovered" anything it was the Amerindians who encountered within their old domains, a new world of diseases like smallpox, and new forms of torture and crimes which were part of Europe's cultural baggage. These were carried by her representatives: conquistadors, crusaders, adventurers, pirates, privateers, missionaries, soldiers, settlers, slavers and colonizers.
Ironically, many of these Europeans also came as refugees fleeing the economic and political hardships imposed by the Privileges of Monarchy and Clergy. They had fled the instabilities of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, as well as the barbarities of the Inquisition-ubiquitous tool of Protestant and Catholic, alike. These instabilities and barbarities were now imposed on others.
The newest inhabitants of this "New World" now also included those of African ancestry: descendants of the enslaved; and later, other peoples of East Indian ancestry, descendants of those brought under indentureship-a form of slavery that differed in name only from that imposed on the Africans.
The history of this region can, in short, be described as the forcible replacement of the Original Peoples by Europeans with enslaved Africans stolen from their lands to work lands stolen from the Original Peoples.
Subsequently, the name change from Waitikubuli to Dominica accompanied both the population change, as well as the Europeanization of the enslaved Africans and their descendants.
Thus did "Ma", come by the name, Augusta Wilhelmina DuBique. If her parents had chosen an African name for her, she would not have been baptised by priest nor pastor. If her parents had chosen to practise African religious rites of Shango and Voodoo, they would have been reviled by the society, and hounded by the authorities.
Therefore, despite the fact that she was not European, she carried a European name; and though she was never a Roman Catholic, like other inhabitants she, too, became a "Dominican".
Other places, too, like Guanahani and Iere; respectively renamed San Salvador and Trinidad, also belonged to other peoples. Seizure of these territorities also reflected the twin excesses of the piety and criminality that accompanied "discovery".
Today, some five hundred years after their initial arrival, European institutions and attitudes, the heir to this, "discovery" continue to create refugees. These institutions do so in pursuit of the same old empires of mercantilism and privilege now metamorphosed into the new empires of the transnational corporations. Many of the latter, now pillars of respectability, vastly improved their lot in life on such immoralities and illegalities as the Slave Trade, Piracy and territorial seizures.
The magnitude of what was stolen is not normally researched as part of mainstream European scholarship. However, colonizers and settlers, acting in the name of their gods, Monarchs, privilege, and comforted by an ideology premised on supremacist assumptions, stole territory, that in scope and area is second only to that seized by the vertebrates when they abandoned the oceans for the shore.
Today, five hundred years after the "discovery", if anything has changed it is not so much a lessening of the venality of the ancient swindles as much as it is the refinement of the duplicity used to cover them up. Part of this duplicity includes, in my opinion calls for the current "balance in the debate around the "Discovery". Balance, like honesty, is welcome. However, it is meaningless to advocate for a 'balance of views' without also advocating for a 'balance of resources' needed to air all the views.
Accompanying this imbalance of resources is a geopolitical arrangement comprised of plundered, maldeveloped regions in the Southern hemisphere, trying to escape the grasp of plundering, and equally maldeveloped countries in the Northern hemisphere.
In the meantime, the namings continue. Those who oppose the extremes of poverty and oppression are called extremists. Those with the temerity to think of solutions to human problems are called radical. Those who are insane enough to believe that the truth can set one free are called politically correct.
Regardless of what one's views on what this quincentenary of the arrival of Columbus might mean, it must be celebrated and commemorated. The fact of survival, of resistance and of solidarity with the indigenous and enslaved nations and peoples must be celebrated.
Commemorations, too, can be used to mark the return to the First Nations of the rights and responsibilities that accompany prior ownership. For the peoples of Africa, of Asia and other impoverished regions, this historic anniversary must be used to cancel the debilitating "Third World debt".
The Balance of Payments crisis is the fundamental crisis facing the so-called "Third World". In addition to this cancellation, reparations for chattel slavery must be addressed.
The role of academia, overall, can enlarge the pursuit in scholarship where being rigorous, honorable, courageous and life-enhancing is the norm, not the exception to it. Augusta Wilhelmina DuBique would advise that we, "follow truth as blind men long for light".
Each of us, all individuals, can make a personal committment to transform wherever we live, move and have our being into a world without racism, sexism, other forms of discrimination, and any need for the tools of war.
1492 - 1992, the quincentennary of the arrival of Cristobal Colon in the Caribbean, can truly be a period of, "Recovery, not Discovery".
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