The Carib Chiefs of Dominica

The Kalinago people never had a monarchy as documented by some of the first Europeans. Traditional governance consisted of the chief supported by the elders.

Throughout history the Chief has played a very important role in keeping the Kalinago people together in times of peace and hostility. Chiefs were selected by the Elders for specific functions, such as hunting or fishing expeditions, but could not exercise authority after the mission was completed. This was the custom in Dominica as the communities consisted of only a few families. But as European rule spread across the region, leaders emerged to mobilize the Kalinago people in defense of their land. Carib Warner was appointed Governor of Dominica by the British colonial authorities and resided on the western coast of the island. He served his people there while mobilizing forces from across the region to carry out raids on European settlements.

The power and the importance of chiefs diminished when the British finally conquered Dominica. Kalinago moved away from the spread of plantations and isolated themselves in the area known as the Carib Reserve (Carib Territory today).

After the 1930 incident in the Carib Territory that resulted in the death of two people, the office of the Carib Chief was banned for more than twenty years. Traditional governance was discarded and the local government system was imposed on the Carib Territory and people. The Chief was now 'democratically' elected by ballot.

The Carib Act of 1978 clearly outlines the powers of the Chief and the duration of his term as Chief, which is five years in the first instance. After serving a term, the individual can contest the election for Chief as often as they wish.

However, the changing times have dictated the role of the modern day Chief. The ceremonial Chief is now history. The demanding role of the Carib Chief requires him to be computer literate, with excellent communication skills, Office and Project Manager, Counselor, Fund Raiser, and Diplomat are all functions that the Chief has to perform.

The Kalinago people respect the position of Chief, seeing him as the person who can champion their cause and help them gain respect and dignity for the Kalinago people.

 

Past Carib Chiefs From 1800 to present:
Chief Pitit Francois half of the nineteenth century
Chief Wakanik middle half of the nineteenth century
Chief Joseph 1850 – 1870
Chief Bruney last quarter of the nineteenth century
Chief Auguiste Francis 1880 to early 20th century
Chief Jules Corriette 1916 to 1920
Chief Jolly John 1926 to 1930
(The office of Chief was suspended by the British Colonial authorities from 1930 to 1953)
Chief Simon John 1953 (6 months)
Chief Whitney Frederick 1953 – 1959
Chief Jermandois Francis 1959 – 1972
Chief Masclem Frederick 1972 -1975
Chief Faustulus Frederick 1975 – 1979
Chief Hillary Frederick 1978 – 1984
Chief Irvince Auguiste 1984 – 1994
Chief Hillary Frederick 1994 – 1999
Chief Garnette Joseph 1999 – 2004
Chief Charles Williams 2004 – 2009
Chief Garnette Jospeh 2009 - present

Article by Garnette Joseph