Joseph Chatoyer – The National Hero of St Vincent: by Veronica Williams.
St Vincent and the Grenadines an island in the Caribbean is without doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. Like most of the islands in the Caribbean it was colonised by Europeans, namely the French and British for a period of time. St Vincent is now an independent country, but the struggle to remain free can be seen through the carib wars which took place. One of the main proponents of the struggle was Joseph Chatoyer, who eventually became known as the Chief of Chiefs of the Caribs.
The original inhabitants of the island were thought to be the Ciboneys and Arawaks. These two groups moved further north and were replaced by the Caribs. I mention that the original inhabitants of the island were thought to be Ciboneys and Arawaks, but arguably the first people to populate the Caribbean islands originated in Africa.
Africa is, as we know the birthplace of mankind and if we look at a globe we can theorise as to how black men travelled throughout the globe. One such theory is that the world was constructed differently and that there were connecting lands or land bridges between Africa and the Caribbean. Another idea is that they travelled east around the globe until they reached North America and the Caribbean.
I put forward this view primarily to support an idea that some of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were African men who were the indigenous people of the islands; and not necessarily slaves who had runaway or been shipwrecked and had made these islands their home. It may be argued that when the Europeans arrived and met the carib population they were both yellow caribs and those who were black and very obviously of negro origin. To all extents and purposes both the yellow and black caribs seemed to live quite harmoniously and seemed to have inter- married and assimilated each other’s cultures.
Joseph Chatoyer was in this latter category a black man or Carib(Garifuna). A strong black man of a noble race who fought and died to preserve the land of his fathers. Chatoyer was an outstanding warrior with great leadership skills and qualities. It was claimed that he was a master strategist and diplomat. He earned a great deal of respect from both other Carib leaders and from the Europeans with whom he fought. It is said that after his death some panic ensued from the French who withdrew from the war for some time. The Caribs were also quite distressed and needed some time to recover before once again taking up arms.1
Chatoyer was a significant figure in the struggle to retain the lands and liberty of the original inhabitants of St Vincent. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, we gain an impression that he was middle aged and married with sons. In my opinion this hero can be described as a famous general who was both brave and strong in resisting the British in their quest to take away their lands.
It was during the second Carib War that Chatoyer met his death at the hands of Major Alexander Leith. The story about his death is recounted in tragic terms, and the profound loss at his death was deeply felt by both Caribs and French allies. In March 1795, Duvallier the Windward Carib Chief took down the British flag at Dorsetshire Hill, which was a distinct challenge to the English. Chatoyer eventually joined Duvalier at Dorsetshire Hill and took command. Sadly on the night of March 14th 1795 the English stormed Dorsetshire Hill and Chatoyer was killed.
Chatoyer’s influence on others is successfully established through a play which was written by the first black playwright. It effectively delineates his exceptional abilities as well as portraying his struggle to resist the British. The play which is entitled “The Drama of King Shotaway was written and produced by a gentleman named Mr Browne. A write up to the play states that the facts were taken from the ‘Insurrection of the Caravs in the island of St Vincent.’ The playwright acknowledges that the play was written from his own personal account of the events which took place, it also illustrates Chatoyer’s determination to outwit the British. Mr Browne is recognised as the father of black theatre in America.2
Every year on March 14 in St Vincent and the Grenadines a public holiday is held to respect the great contributions of their national hero Joseph Chatoyer.
1.Chatoyer (Chatawae) National Hero of St Vincent and the Grenadines by Adrian Fraser (PhD) Published Galaxy Print Ltd (2002)
2. Our Cultural Heritage Vol.IV Famous Vincentians – Published by Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadine
Veronica Williams is a graduate in English Literature and has a Masters Degree in Cultural Studies. She was an educator for 25 years and is now retired from the teaching profession. Veronica has a wealth of experience to share and draws on her Christian background when discussing some of her views. In addition to writing educational resources she also writes articles for magazines and newspapers. Additionally she has written her autobiography, which is entitled The Mind of the Individual. She moved to the Caribbean in 2010.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone No. 1(869)664 6438
Links to other published articles by Veronica Williams
Wisdom Magazine’s Web Edition
http://www.wisdom-magazine.com Article for July 2012
It Isn’t Always Appropriate to Laugh
Wisdom Magazine’s Web Edition
http://www.wisdom-magazine.com Article for March 2012
Why It’s Okay to Cry
How to Remain In Paradise