Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Haiti’s quest for reparations expands to seek compensation for the genocide of indigenous Ayisyen people

BYREA, St. Vincent -- The 360-foot, weather-beaten tunnel, carved out of volcanic rock and leading to the rough surf of the Atlantic, remains one of the few remnants of this eastern Caribbean island’s vexing past.

Constructed by shackled black hands in the early 19th century, it served as a pivotal route to ferry sugar to waiting ships.

But what Black Point Tunnel, 20 miles north of the capital, doesn’t reveal is the massacre, forced exile and stealing of the native Caribbean people’s lands by colonists to produce the sugar that fueled Britain’s development and wealth.

“We were chased off our lands,” said lawyer Zoila Ellis, a descendant of St. Vincent’s native population — known as the Kalinago, Garifuna or Carib people for whom the region is named. “But it is only part of our story; we still don’t know all of it.”

Until recently, much of the focus around a plan by Caribbean leaders — many of them descendants of enslaved Africans — to pursue reparations from formerly slave-holding Europe has centered on the enduring legacy of 300 years of plantation slavery.

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