Hilary Belgrave Frederick, 45, died Nov. 3 in Roseau General Hospital,
Dominica, West Indies of tuberculosis infection and complications from
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, the young chief was also a delegate to several
international conferences on indigenous peoples held in Europe, Asia,
Central and South America and the United States.
Frederick is credited by many of his people as a leader who moved forward a
stronger political agenda for the Carib people. His international travels
brought word to the rest of the indigenous world of the survival of the
Carib territory and people in Dominica, a small island in the Lesser
Antilles. The 3,000-strong Carib community of Dominica share their country
with some 70,000 other citizens, mostly of African descent and with whom
they share families.
Marginalized over the centuries, the Caribs stood up to Dominica's
political system several times during the 20th century, winning a strong
territorial (reserve) status for their tribal lands on the windward side of
the island. Cultural revitalization movements over the century sustained
many traditions and enough of the indigenous language to attract a major
linguist, Douglas Taylor, who contributed greatly to the knowledge of
Caribbean indigenous languages and migrations. The Frederick family was
noted among leadership in education and assertion of Native identity.
Born and raised in the Carib Territory on Dominica's east coast, Hilary
Frederick was among the first Caribs to study abroad. He came to the United
States at the request of his parents, as a student in 1973, via the efforts
of Professor Arthur Einhorn and Judge George R. Davis (Ret.), of Lowville,
N.Y. 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 Hilary participated in sports, worked on a farm
and on vacations went camping and also visited various Iroquois reserves in
New York state.
On his return home, following graduation from Lowville Academy, Frederick
was elected chief in the first 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 from the OAS in
Washington, D.C. and other funding agencies. This disaster was followed by
a revolution in 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, Conn., 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 the 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 peoples' awareness of their
cultural heritage; a posture that spread to other islands with indigenous
peoples and which some scholars labeled as "Caribism." A movement of
indigenous Caribbean peoples grew from this early work. Regional congresses
with Native people from Trinidad, Puerto Rico (Boriken), Cuba, Dominican
Republic, Belize and coastal Guatemala have been held.