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The Kalinago People

Many village names in and around Dominica are a mix of Kalinago, French, and English—reflecting the power struggles of the last 500 years. The ‘Kalinago’ people in Dominica are still very much in existence and reside in the North-Eastern side of the Island. There has been rapid integration of the Carib (Kalinago) people into mainstream Dominican life. As the world moves onward into the twenty-first century, the Carib world is under relentless pressure to give up the last vestiges of their culture. The most crucial threat to the survival of the people as a race is their land. The Carib Territory is quite unique in that the land is communally owned. This is the only area in the entire Caribbean with such status. As with other indigenous people together as a family, but the advocates of "modern development" are calling for the privatization of Carib lands.

As the first settlers/inhabitants of Dominica - many nationals of Dominica have worked tirelessly to preserve several aspects of this culture. The Kalinago Territory is made up of eight villages – Sineku, Mahaut River, Gaulette River, Salybia, Crayfish River, Bataka, Atkinson and part of Concord. Kalinago people currently existing in Dominica have their own chief and also a representative in the house of assembly. They are a people who prefer to live secluded lives and some parts of their culture has remained very much unchanged compared to other areas of the island. Today, approximately 2,145 Kalinago inhabit this enclave now known as the Kalinago Territory


They reputedly use 300 different herbs for medicine — some of the best bush doctors hail from the Territory. Dances, traditions, legends, and beliefs have been kept alive by the elders who pass on these traditions through Story-Telling.


The language is only spoken by a few people today and traditional dances are performed by Karifuna, their dance group. Kalinago was and still is a significant part of the Island’s history, with the people calling the island “Waitukubuli,” meaning ‘tall is her body’ in the Kalinago language before it was renamed Dominica.

Overall Experience

The Kalinago Territory though not the same today, is well worth a visit. However, visitors should shred any delusion of finding a primitive people in grass skirts practicing ancient rituals. There is little to differentiate them from the rest of the population. It is, however, still possible to acquire a glimpse of their ancestral roots, especially from their craft, canoe building, and physical attributes. Certainly, it is common to find outbuildings in original tribal design, teeming with traditional cultural activity.


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