Sunday, February 27, 2005

In Memoriam: Hilary Frederick, past Chief of the Dominica Caribs

Hilary Frederick, former Chief of the Dominica Carib Territory, passed away on Wednesday, 03 November, 2004,in the Roseau Hospital from pneumonia and complications arising from tuberculosis.

An obituary was prepared by Arthur Einhorn, an American anthropologist who had sponsored Hilary Frederick during his schooling in the United States. The obituary reads as follows:

"Hilary Belgrave Frederick, 45, Born ca 1961 - d November 3, 2004 in Roseau General Hospital, Dominica, W.I. of TB infection and complications from pneumonia. A former Elected Chief of Dominica's Carib people during three separate terms, and both a Senator and Representative in Dominica's House of Assembly at various times; he also was over the years a delegate to several international conferences on indigenous peoples held in Europe, Asia, Central and South America and the United States.

"Born and raised in the Carib Territory on Dominica's windward east coast, he came to the United States at the request of his parents, as a student in 1973, via the efforts of Arthur Einhorn and Judge George R. Davis (Ret.), of Lowville, Lewis County, New York. Enrolled in Lowville Academy, he lived with the family of Richard Watkins, and later with the Einhorn family, graduating in 1977. During his tenure in the United States he participated in sports, worked on a farm and on vacations went camping and also visited various Iroquois Reserves in New York State. His favorite TV program was 'Colombo', whom he always mimicked as a joke. While here he also envisioned the cultural revitalization of his people.

"On his return home, following graduation from Lowville Academy, he was elected Chief in the first upcoming election. It was a trying time for him to hold office. In 1979 Hurricane David devastated the island, forcing him to travel to the United States to seek emergency aid (Lowville contributed one ton of donated supplies), from the OAS in Washington, DCand other funding agencies. This disaster was followed by a revolution during 1980, which ousted then Prime Minister Patrick R. John, and succeeded by an interim government in which Chief Frederick participated. Later elections brought in Mary Eugenia Charles as PM; the 'Iron Lady' of the West Indies who encouraged President Reagan to invade Grenada.

"A film was produced in 1981 by Philip T. Teuscher of Westport, CT, which featured Chief Frederick's efforts to lead his people and revive their culture. It was the first ethnographic film ever attempted about the life of the Carib Indians in Dominica; a people who met Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. The film was aired on PBS at one time.

"Influenced greatly by Indian affairs in the United States and Canada, Chief Frederick promoted a political philosophy of active confrontation for change in government policies while raising his people's awareness of their cultural heritage; a posturing that spread to other islands with indigenous peoples and which some scholars labeled as Caribism. Since leaving public office Chief Frederick took up traditional Carib farming.

"Hilary's father, the late Andrew Frederick who died in 1999, had been an activist earlier on, communicating with the Indian Defense League of America in Sanborn, New York, headed by the late Tuscarora leader, Clinton Rickard.

"Three children, his mother, and several brothers and sisters survive Chief Frederick. A State Funeral is planned in Dominica."--Arthur Einhorn

Hilary Frederick was honoured with a full state funeral, attended by the Prime Minister, the President, Cabinet Members, and their respective families.

I was privileged to meet and interview then Chief Frederick in September of 1998 on a research trip to Dominica. Along with friends and family, I wish him eternal repose.

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