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Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has proclaimed the month of March, 2011 as “U.S. Virgin Islands—Denmark Friendship Month” – a time to celebrate the historic ties that bind our territory to Denmark, and the current cooperation between our two peoples.
On March 31, we will recognize the 94th anniversary of the transfer of the former Danish West Indies from the Kingdom of Denmark to the United States. It is a unique time for the people and government of the Virgin Islands to recognize the significant historical ties between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Virgin Islands during the period in which the Danish West Indies were colonized.
We also recognize the ancestral ties of the people of the Virgin Islands to West Africa, some of whom came to the region as slaves. The descendants of these enslaved Africans forced their emancipation on July 3, 1848.
Transfer Day serves as a catalyst to foster trade, cultural exchanges, and promotion of educational programs for youth. The long-standing relationship between Denmark and the former Danish West Indies serves as a foundation for a new and exciting partnership between Denmark and the USVI.
On October 27, 1999, the two governments entered into an agreement for surveying and arranging relevant documentation contained in the Danish West Indian Local Government Archives at the Danish National Archives “the Rigsarkivet” in Copenhagen and the U.S. National Archives. The agreement seeks to establish a program for copying and distributing documents, with a view to supporting cultural, historical and genealogical activities. The agreement also provides for the subsequent transfer of archival material to the territory.
On Dec. 9, 2003, the U.N. General Assembly recognized these initiatives. The two governments have formed a Bilateral Archives Commission co-headed by the Danish National Archives and the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources to oversee implementation of that agreement.
The Danish National Archives has recognized and remained sensitive to the growing demand among U.S. Virgin Islands local researchers, historians and citizens to have better, more immediate access to the pre-1917 history of the islands. Accordingly, the Rigsarkivet plans to digitize its entire holdings of Danish West Indian historical records in time for the centennial celebration of Transfer Day in 2017. Rigsarkivet collections designated as West Indian local archives, i.e., those records from the Danish West Indian period created in the Danish West Indies, have been surveyed and archived. A guide to the organization of those records is available at www.virgin-islands-history.dk/eng/default.asp .
Also, the Danish National Archives recently digitized a collection of Danish West Indian Passenger Records and provided them to the VI Territorial Archives on DVDs , which are in distribution and available to researchers.
Virgin Islands-Danish Friendship month is an opportunity to recognize the cooperative efforts underway between both governments and peoples to preserve our shared history and common ancestral legacies. For that reason, Governor de Jongh asks all Virgin Islanders to recognize the important friendship that exists between the territory and Denmark.