In this undated The Garifuna Heritage Foundation Inc. photo, a Garifuna woman prostrates herself and wails on the sea shore at Balliceaux.

A group dedicated to rebuilding and retrieving the Garifuna Heritage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Tuesday called for the preservation of Balliceaux, the now uninhabited Grenadine island to which Garifunas were sent before being exiled to Honduras two centuries ago.

The Garifuna Heritage Foundation Inc. (TGHF) made the call at the annual National Heroes Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Obelisk in Dorsetshire Hill.

“We, in the TGHF, continue to support this government and CARICOM’s call for reparations for native genocide,” Christopher Grant, the TGHF’s representative at the event said.

“In addition, because we believe that the death of over 2,000 Garifuna people on Balliceaux was an act of genocide, we call on the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to use all efforts to preserve and protect the island of Balliceaux as a sacred heritage site for the use of future generations,” he said.

Balliceaux Island. (Internet photo)

Grant said the TGHF will continue the public education work to sensitise Vincentians about Garifuna’s unique heritage and significant contribution of the indigenous people to the development of SVG and the world.

“Together, with our partners locally and internationally, all of us must continue to work to harvest the richness of this culture that was born here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and use it for the advancement of our nation,” he said.

The ceremony takes place annually at the Obelisk erected in honour of the nation’s only national hero, the Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer, Paramount Chief of the Garifuna people, who died in Dorsetshire Hill on March 14, 1795.

After Chatoyer’s death, the British banished about 5,000 Garifunas to Balliceaux, a tiny Grenadines island, where half of them died before they were exiled to Roatán, Honduras.

Balliceaux, which is privately owned by a Vincentian family, has been fingered for tourism development and is listed for sale on some websites, with asking prices of up to US$30 million.

Some persons have said that in light of the island’s importance in the nation’s history, it should remain as a heritage site.

3 replies on “Garifuna group calls for preservation of Balliceaux”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Balliceaux was a concentration camp and the Garifuna have a good case for its preservation. They also have a good case for reparations from this government for all the wickedness that was inflicted on the them in the past and their unfair treatment in the present.

    They have an excellent case for this based on indigenous people’s rights in other countries like America and Canada and on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf ) which SVG gladly signed.

    In particular, they have excellent grounds for demanding reparations from our country in the form of restoring their their treaty lands.

    It is a disgrace that both this government — which has implicitly and wrongly stated that reparations to the Garifuna are the responsibility of Great Britain as part of the overall reparations effort, a movement that is dead on arrival — and the largely passive and poorly represented Garifuna have not pressed this issue.

    It is also a disgrace that our own so-called intellectual elite, lead on this issue by Adrian Fraser, have also been missing in action on the Garifuna’s inherent property rights.

    When the people of SVG voted for independence in 1979, they voted to assume all the responsibilities that Britain had over the governance of SVG. Giving back the treaty lands illegally seized from the Garifuna in the late 18th century is the responsibility only of the sovereign people of SVG.

    If a sovereign nation like Canada still continues to restore aboriginal rights that were abrogated by the British Crown during the colonial era without any appeal to Great Britain should make us hang our collective heads in shame for our disgraceful disregard of our own people’s indigenous rights.

    Our continued refusal to give the Garifuna justice is a clear admission that our independence is an empty notion.

  2. perhaps the easy solution would be to pay the Vincentian family the $30M USD from the reparations?

  3. That’s a good point about the Canadians. Our problem is that our political leaders have regarded Crown Lands as a convenient pot of gold into which they can dip to finance their own political goals. And I am afraid that belated justice for our indigenous brothers and sisters has never been very high on the agenda, whatever platitudes we may spout on successive National Heroes Days.

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