Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Canyon of Death/Bloody Point

A while back when we took a trip around the island in order to plot everything on the blog map, we passed by a sign for Bloody Point and weren't aware that just up the river (Stone Fort River/Bloody River, to be exact) were some interesting petroglyphs and a lot of history. I recently saw a reference to a hike of the Bloody Point Trail and thought - Hey! - we need to do that. So we did.

We met up with Pat & Steve and headed up the dry riverbed to see what we could find.

We were surrounded by canyon-type walls and lots of hanging Tarzan-like vines, which all of us have learned the hard way not to grab onto and swing from.

Within 15 minutes, we were staring at petroglyphs created by the Carib/Kalinago Indians.

Several have been outlined to make them more obvious, but if you look hard enough there are many more etched into the canyon walls. A little further in, you reach the end where a huge rock blocks your path.

During heavy rains, this amazing structure converts to a roaring waterfall. The story behind this river and its name is that in 1626, the Carib Indians, who had been living peacefully with everyone for 3 years, caught on to the British and French plan to out-populate them and decided to ambush the Europeans. A recently arrived slave woman, Barbe, from the Igneri/Arawak tribe ratted them out, however, before they could carry out their attack. As it turns out, the Igneris had been wiped out by the Carib Indians in St. Kitts in the 1300s and paybacks are a bitch. Add the fact that Barbe was in love with Thomas Warner (the English head honcho) and the Kalinagos were doomed. An estimated 2,000 Carib men, many who had come over from what is now Dominica to help, were massacred and dumped into the river. The river purportedly ran red for weeks, lending it the name Bloody River/Point. Any survivors were shipped over to Dominica, where about 3,000 still live today.

As it turns out, Pat has some Carib blood in her veins. When I asked her if she sensed her ancestors calling out to her, she just stared at me. I'll take that as a no. Maybe that's because in 2002, a ceremony of atonement was held at Bloody Point to release the Kalinagos spirits from the area. Since the trail had been so easy and all four of us are avid hikers we found some nearby trails and gave ourselves a workout.

Upon our return, we found this left of our car!

Just kidding, our ride was fine. This isn't New York. Here that kind of work takes at least a couple of days. big-smile

While reading about the genocide that happened in Bloody Point, I read a few other interesting things. The island was shared by the English and French for years in the 1600s to early 1700s (of course, turning on each other every once in a while). Although the island grew tobacco and then sugar cane successfully, Spanish and French incursions really screwed up the island's agricultural side of things. Despite that, by 1776, St. Kitts was actually the British Empire's richest Caribbean colony (per capita). The end of slavery, the Great Depression, and lots of other factors ended much of the island's profitability. Wikipedia makes an interesting point that the sugar cane industry created a "large class of wage labourers generally resentful of foreign influence. The nature of the sugar industry itself—the production of a nonstaple and essentially nonnutritive commodity for a widely fluctuating world market—only served to deepen this hostility and to motivate Kittitian labourers to seek greater control over their working lives and their political situation."

This resentment spawned what is now known as the Labour Party. What I thought was even more interesting though, was why that party (currently in office) fell out of favor in the mid 1960s: frustration over a raise in electricity rates (electricity came to certain parts of the island in the 1950s). Hmmmm. Today, the government who owns much of the island's land is selling it to foreigners and electricity rates have doubled. Past meets present?