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Brief History of Calibishie


This is a village on the north coast of Dominica protected from the ocean by the longest barrier reef on the island. In the Arawakan language spoken by the Kalinago/Caribs, the name of this village means: Cali = net, bishie/shibi = reef. Therefore: "a net of reefs". Settlement layout consists of houses along a flat sandy coastal strip between the rivers of Layvyè Salè and Layvyè Dou. It extends to a series of ridges inland with names such as Savanne Paille, Cret Coco, Calibishie Ridge, Baptiste Ridge, Jim, Point Baptiste Ridge and Dubique. Calibishie Bay

Pre-Columbian and later Carib settlements existed in the area known as "The Bay" and at Point Baptiste where one hundred Caribs are recorded as being resident as late as the 1760s. A major natural feature is the off shore rocks known as Port D'Enfè, the Gate of Hell, or Mayanbaccali in Carib. After the Carib period, the present village grew from an area of free peasant farmers that developed between the boundaries of Hampstead Estate to the west and Hodges Estate to the east. Family names such as Warrington, Joseph, George, Cyrille, Nixon, and Celestine have long been associated with the area.

Calibishie Map, c1765

A map showing 'Calibishri'. Made by British map-maker Thomas Jeffreys c1765.

The beautiful village of Calibishie is situated along the seashore protected by the only barrier reef in Dominica. This mile-long coral reef takes the force of the sea swells from the Atlantic Ocean and provides a
quiet lagoon within which fishermen can tie up their boats and homes along the sea side can be protected from the full impact of the ocean. Some of the other natural features of Calibishie are the red clay rocks, which cover the headlands around the bay and the distinctive islets called Port D'Enfer which stand like a gateway to the ocean beyond. The views across the channel to the French Island of The Saintes, Guadeloupe and Mariegalante also add to the beauty of the area.

Grand Baptiste Bay
Grand Baptiste Bay near Calibishie.
Oil on board by Lennox Honychurch

The village of Calibishie has its origins in the earliest human settlement of Dominica when the pre-columbian people made this place their home many hundreds of years ago. In fact the very name of the village itself is from the Carib language just like the neighbouring areas of Bellibou and Batibou.

Here in this village the indigenous people built their canoes and their big Karbay or Taboui houses on the sandy flat where the village stands today.

It was an excellent place for them to live: The reefs provided them with conch (lambi) and lobsters as well as cong and other fish. There were small streams for water and land on the ridges behind for growing their manioc to make kassav and farine, as some people in Calibishie still do today. The forest behind the village provided them with a wealth of material for their everyday lives, from medicinal plants to wood for their houses.

All of this changed after the first French settlers arrived from Guadeloupe as the Caribs moved away from the area towards Salibya. But as late as 1765 there were some one hundred Caribs living at Calibishie. The French gave the village names such as Savanne Paille, Crete Coco, and Riviere Salee.
The Frenchmen left their names here also at places such as Pointe Baptise and Dubique.

Red Rocks Red Rocks
near Calibishie.
Ink and watercolour,
Lennox Honychurch

When the British took over the island of Dominica in 1763 they established the large neighbouring estates of Hampstead and Hodges and the West African people who were brought to work these estates eventually settled here and began to establish the village as we know it today. The fishermen and small farmers were the backbone of the community and we must always respect the memory of these ancestors in providing the foundation of your present community. There are many older people in this community who can provide a detailed oral history of your village and I want to encourage your young people to go out and write down the memories of your older folk so that everyone may learn from their experiences and knowledge. It would be a useful exercise to do.

They will tell you about the days when the road to Portsmouth was only covered in Macadam; when they had to walk all the way to Hampstead Methodist Church to go to school and that to get to Roseau they had to go
to Portsmouth and then catch a boat to take them down the west coast to the capital. They will tell you about the contributions of people such as Giraud Nixon, Hayes Bryant, Elma Napier, Osborne Theodore and Sylvester Joseph and of the several other schoolteachers, parliamentarians and distinguished farmers and fishermen who have all helped to build this community. It is through this understanding of your past that you can build for the future.




 

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