Dominica’s History Up To Independence

Dominica’s history is a storied one; filled with tales of native people canoeing from South America, to vile wars between colonial powers and independence from British rule.

First Settlers

Dominica’s first inhabitants, the Ortoroids, arrived from South America around 3100 B.C., and lasted on the island until around 400 B.C. Next came the Arawaks, who settled in about 400 A.D. By 1400, the Kalinago or “Caribs,” moved aggressively up the Caribbean from South America, eliminating the Arawak from the region, including Dominica.

Related: How to Get to Dominica

When Columbus ushered in the era of colonization to Dominica in 1493, the same fate that befell the Arawaks would threaten the Caribs.

The Columbian Era

Ignoring the Kalinago name of “Waitukubuli,” Columbus renamed the island Dominica as he first made landfall on a Sunday. The Caribs successfully resisted efforts of Spanish colonization, but the British and French followed from the 1600s on, battling each other, and the Caribs, to claim the Island.

Through the many battles and ravaged by disease, the Caribs gradually lost control of the island, fleeing back to South America. However, today approximately 2,000 Caribs remain on the island, most living in the Carib Territory in northeast Dominica.



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Related: Places to Stay in Dominica

You many note that many of village names in and around Dominica are a mix of Carib, French and English, reflecting the power struggles of the last 500 years.

Dominica's History
© 2014 Yuri A. Jones | This building is located at Morne Bruce and was part of the 18th century barracks used by troop defending the capital, Roseau.

Independence

On November 3rd 1978, the island was finally granted its independence from Britain. The new era of freedom and independence brought increased challenges, and economic and political struggles. By the mid-1980s though, Dominica had settled down as a stable and peaceful country.

The success of the banana trade, the island’s major export, brought economic buoyancy to the island. By 1992 however, Dominica saw sharp declines in banana exports with the loss of its preferential access on the UK market.

Today, the Government of Dominica is investing heavily in tourism to drive economic development, focusing on the island’s unsurpassed natural beauty, and the popularity of diving, hiking and eco-tours.