Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letter from a Historian

I hope my research can be of use to someone, somehow there on St. Vincent. I really found the story of Chatoyer, Moreau de Jonnes, Eliama, Pakiri and the whole adventure of the Second Carib War to be fascinating. There are connections between them that would be interesting to discover.

According to Moreau de Jonnes, Fleur du Bois and her sister were granddaughters of the "great chief's" mother. Making them likely Chatoyer's daughters or perhaps Duvalle's, who may have been Chatoyer's brother. From the translation of Moreau de Jonnes, it seems that Fleur du Bois may have had a crush on Moreau de Jonnes, as she risks her life to save his in the cave escape, after the second French attempt to capture Kingstown fails and the French and Caribs are in retreat. The grandmother, mother of the great chief, was also a boyer, (shaman or socceress) according to Moreau de Jonnes. She and her granddaughters had captured the British officer/spy, Capt. Dawson, after he escaped from the captured sloop that Moreau de Jonnes was sent to St. Vincent on to warn the Caribs of Dawson's plan to destroy them. The grandmother was about to possibly execute Dawson by roasting him next to a fire, when Moreau de Jonnes stumbles on them in a cave, after joining in the search for the escaped British officer/spy. Moreau de Jonnes is able to get her drunk, and charm her granddaughters, especially, Fleur de Bois, into allowing Dawson to escape and avoid an awful end, though he likely dies in a booby trapped trail anyway.

Apparently, if this grandmother was a boyer and the mother of Chatoyer, she probably provided him with the supposed magical protection that he believed would prevent any British bullets from killing him during the battle on Dorsetshire Hill, where he was slain in the British counter attack, probably by Major Leith. Anyway these possible family connections to Chatoyer would be interesting to investigate, if possible, by someone on St. Vincent, to see if some additional personalities could be added to the lore about St. Vincent's national hero. Moreau de Jonnes seems to be the only one I know of that mentions them and their relationships, and then only in passing, and vaguely. Makes for an interesting story, anyway.

The Garifuna lady who is the head of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation, Mrs.Zoila Ellis-Browne, and wife of the Education Minister, grew up in Belize and may have heard stories growing up about Chatoyer and his family. It would be interesting to see if she knows anything about the connections between Moreau de Jonnes' stories and Garifuna tradition, especially the connection with Fleur de Bois, her grandma, Chatoyer, and Duvalle. I interviewed Mrs. Ellis-Brown at the government office for my thesis research.

I have read more about Moreau de Jonnes and the British translation of part of his memoirs, if fact I bought the book. [Note: After buying one of those myself it took another 8 years to find a copy with the SVG material--you can find it at] It has nothing on St. Vincent in it, but Moreau de Jonnes early life reads like an adventure novel. The British translator left out the section on St. Vincent, sadly. Good that we now have a recent translation. I had an Italian translator, who knew French and English, in Rome, read back in English the copies of the French version of the 100 pages or so about St. Vincent and I took notes, when I was researching my thesis. Now the British researcher, I think Hulme, who wrote about St. Vincent, who I have e-mailed a couple of times, has out his translation. Cool and I have it on my computer, thanks to your link.

Anyway, enjoy your visit to the US. We are going in June to California for a new grandchild on the way in July.

Thank you for helping me get the books to St. Vincent and thank Dr. Adams for his help with my history thesis. If he has written another book on St. Vincent I would like to purchase it, if possible. He was working on it when I was last there, probably back in 2004. I would appreciate any comments on errors in my thesis or addtional information that has been discovered there. It would be cool to find the locations mentioned in Moreau de Jonnes, if they exist. The cave where he and Fleur De Bois escaped the slave soldiers, the cave where he and his men and their equipment were housed near Pakiri's village, some battle sites mentioned might still have artifacts left over from battles and some old campsites and posts might be interesting to visit to look for artifacts. Perhaps some future Vincentian historical archaeologist could have a topic to work on for their future graduate thesis.

Jim Sweeney
Rota, Spain