History is very important to remember... so our Expedition Team went to explore & learn what transpired on land in order to appreciate what happened at sea!

Before the advent/coming of the Europeans, indigenous people (later called “Indians” by the Europeans) lived on Dominica. People speaking the Arawak language came out of South America. In their tree trunk canoes they island hopped up the chain of islands in the Eastern Caribbean. After they had settled on the islands up to Puerto Rico they lead a relative peaceful existence. Many years later a “warlike” group of South American “Indians” made the same trip; they are now popularly known as “Caribs”. They conquered the Arawaks on many islands and were still at it when the Europeans came.

These were the people the Europeans met on Dominica. They called themselves Kalinago.

The Spaniards visited Dominica early on in the 16th Century.  Prince Rupert Bay was the biggest and best bay to anchor in relative safety. There they found ample fresh water ashore running in streams from the mountains. The main source was what is now known as the Indian River.  Here they met the Kalinago people and soon they were trading with them.  The Kalinago could provide them with all kind of food products including fruits and fish.

However the moment the Spanish tried to colonize the island, the Kalinago resisted in such a fierce way that the Spanish decided to leave Dominica alone.

During the 16th & 17th Century, Prince Rupert Bay became the watering hole for all nations including pirates.

These visitors did not always live peacefully together, they quarreled amongst themselves and with the Kalinago. There was even a sea battle in the bay between two groups of pirates and hurricanes wrecked many ships.  A well-known wreck location is in the southern part of the bay. A collection of small cannons were taken out of the sea years ago and placed on a wall in the garden of a house. Unfortunately they were not preserved and are falling apart. 

The French and the English both tried to conquer the Kalinago. When they failed they decided together that the island should stay neutral. This lasted to well into the 18th Century.

French individuals did however establish farms on the island with the permission of the Kalinago. The Frenchmen settled mostly at the south eastern part of the island opposite Martinique. The local French patois was so wide spread that it is still used today on Dominica. Most places still carry their French or patois names.

So… Explore and Discover Dominica for yourself!  The beauty of this nature island is both above and below the waterline!

By François van der Hoeven, Secretary STIMACUR & Bryan S. Horne, Substation Curacao

Foundation for Maritime Archaeology Curaçao (STIMACUR)