Nov. 13, 2005 When Christopher Columbus arrived at Salt Fork Bay on St. Croix in 1493, it marked the beginning of a new era for whites and blacks in the Caribbean. It also was the beginning of end for the Caribs and Taino Indian's occupation of the Virgin Islands.
Taino were believed to be flourishing on the islands for hundreds of years with the Caribs being more recent arrivals. Historians conjecture that this first incident of violence between the Europeans and Native Indians was sparked because Columbus was taking back to his ships some Taino who were enslaved by the Caribs.
The Caribs and Taino were both soon overwhelmed by more violence, disease and interbreeding with other cultures. There remains very little in the Virgin Islands to recall the people that lived on these islands centuries longer than any whites or blacks.
Jill and Brian Updyke, owners of Virgin Kayak and Canoe Outfitters, went out to change that and residents will be able to see the result Sunday afternoon at Cane Bay. The Updyke's have invited the public to view their recently imported authentic dugout canoe made by Carib Indians in Dominica.
The canoe is 28 feet long. It was carved out of a 100-year-old Gommier tree and weighs 200 pounds. The Caribs named the boat the Cra Cra which is the Carib name for the Ringed Kingfisher, a native St. Croix bird. Brian drawing on his knowledge of Carib culture did the painting of the boat.
The dugout was unveiled in an official ceremony yesterday in a field by the Virgin Kayak business. Sen. Louis Hill spoke about what a great event this was for the Virgin Islands.
Hill is from Dominica. The island is home to a small reservation of Caribs. These are the people Updyke had build the boat. Hill grew at the reservation and has Carib blood.
Brian said it is one of a very few authentic pre-Columbian canoes built. The man who built the one for the Updykes also built one for the Smithsonian Institute and one that was used to recreate trips between the islands and South America. Brian has a major collection of authentic artifacts from the Taino and Caribs at his business and home.
He has a library of books concerning the native culture and strives to create authentic reproductions of various artifacts. After the unveiling of the canoe and refreshments many people left, but Brian continued. With a bonfire in the field, he put some of his recent replicas in to be fired. And around the flames, the shadowed faces spoke about what life must have been like on these islands five hundred years ago.
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