BY: NATASHA GREGG
THE FIRST CARIB WAR –
Crucial in the battle between European countries, namely Britain and France to build empires in the Eastern Caribbean were two things, sugar and slaves. The Caribbean islands were prime real estate for producing the profitable commodity sugar and the Atlantic Slave Trade was their means of obtaining the slaves. All islands of the Eastern Caribbean, except Dominica and Saint Vincent, became vast sugar plantation colonies and slave destinations. Dominica and St. Vincent were amongst the last to be colonized because of their steep and largely inaccessible volcanic terrain. On these two islands was a population of people called the Garifuna, also known as the Black Caribs. It was the Black Caribs’ resolve to resist slavery, colonization or any other form of forced control. When the soil in the other colonies eventually became exhausted, the colonists set their sights on the land of St. Vincent and Dominica. The signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1763, effectively ceded St. Vincent, the headquarters of the Black Caribs, to Britain. When the British came knocking to seize their lands and their efforts for colonial expansion, beginning in 1769 and led by Chief Joseph Chatoyer, the Black Caribs mounted a fierce and slow guerrilla style resistance, which became known as the First Carib War. They successfully defended the windward side of the island from a British military survey expedition. Throughout the four years of the war, the Black Caribs rejected Britain’s repeated demands that they give up their lands to the colonial government. Eventually, in 1772, the British, exasperated with the Black Caribs’ resistance, launched a full scale military assault, with their objective being to subdue and deport them from the island. However, with the British unfamiliarity with the rigorous terrain of the island and the Caribs’ strenuous defense, stunted Britain’s advance. An enquiry due to political opposition and the British obstacles in the island, brought about an end to the war. In 1773, a peace agreement was signed between the Black Caribs and the British colonials, outlining boundaries and divesting the Caribs of approximately 4,000 acres of prime land.