Although the community is heavily dependent on tourism, they have identified that agriculture must now be the area of focus. With the help of the Ministry of the Blue & Green Economy of Dominica, they are being equipped to become more sustainable. Organic farming has been ramped up and with Government assistance, the Kalinago men and women farmers and concentrating on growing more food, most of which are consumed by their people, but some are also sold outside of the Territory.
The Kalinago wisely plant root crops. When hurricanes or tropical storms blow through Dominica, the above-ground crops get washed away but whatever is underneath the soil remains, ensuring that the people will always have food, and they share. The Territory was built on ‘codmeir’ which means voluntary service. The Kalinagos all help each other and they live in unity. One of the main root crops grown by many is cassava which is very unique to their culture. It is used to make a variety of products including bread, biscuit and also wine. Some of their products were once exported. This was halted for a while but exports to Caribbean islands are currently being explored.
Farming, fishing, legends, myths, codmeir and being one with nature are some of the things central to the Kalinago way of life, but without the involvement of the young generation these are at risk of disappearing into just a mere memory. A Kalinago Cultural Officer was therefore assigned to the district. Via the Strong Bodies, Strong Minds after school program, children are being taught Kalinago arts and craft, creative, cultural dances and the Kalinago language, which they have just started to incorporate in the schools. This is of extreme importance. The Chief explained, “18-25-year olds are being influenced by non-Kalinago culture. Our culture needs to be embraced by our young people, or it will be lost. Our way of life needs to live on, our building styles too – it is like no other community on the island.”
The Creole culture is the most dominant in Dominica but the Chief hopes to awaken a passion for Kalinago culture in children at the primary school level in the Territory. To that end, one of the activities introduced by the Cultural Officer has been one that encourages students to create their own concept of what their unique Kalinago national wear should look like, incorporating yellow and white which are the colours of the Kalinago people. White represents purity and yellow represents the sun. This activity was well received by the students and their results were showcased to the public with the Prime Minister in attendance! There are currently five primary schools in the Territory, but no secondary schools. Students attend high schools outside of the community.
A week of activities dedicated to the Kalinago and well-supported by the general Dominican public is held annually in September. During this Kalinago Week, their yellow and white colours, national and traditional garments are worn with pride. For five days, the community becomes a hive of activity, with the following events taking place each year:
Day 1: Language Symposium
Day 2: Homage is paid to their heroes at the spot where an uprising took place in the 1930’s, during which two Kalinagos were killed by police officers
Day 3: A Queen Show is hosted, showcasing different types of traditional wear
Day 4: A food bonanza
Day 5: A big festival ends the week of activities
Although the Kalinagos are fully integrated into Dominican society, the Chief shared that the Kalinago people were once treated with derision and called names. However, things have changed, which is in part attributable to the youths who have begun to publicly embrace their culture.
“I am Kalinago,” Chief Sanford said. “I have to embrace my culture. You have your own culture, embrace it, but do not look down on mine.”