I have discovered through the course of my painstaking research for my upcoming historical fiction novel, Children of the Ocean God, that Caribbean history is littered with countless tragic stories of injustice, suffering and genocide. None moreso than the fascinating biography of the illustrious Thomas ‘Indian’ Warner, also widely known as ‘Carib’ Warner.

Thomas Warner was born in 1630 in St. Kitts to a Kalinago (i.e., Carib) mother from Dominica and an English father, Sir Thomas Warner, Governor of the island of St. Kitts. He was raised and educated in French and English in his father’s household until the age of about thirteen, when his father died. Thereafter, he fled St. Kitts to Dominica, where he settled amongst his mother’s people, the Kalinago, and became their chief. From then on, he dedicated himself to preserving Dominica as an inviolable Kalinago homeland, by working tirelessly to unite his people and resist European colonization of the island.

In 1664, Carib Warner was reputedly appointed Lieutenant Governor of Dominica by the Governor of Barbados, Lord Francis Willoughby, who perceived him as a effective challenger to the French who occupied the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, immediately to the north and south of Dominica. But Carib Warner was no English pawn. Keenly aware of Dominica’s strategic importance and that both Franch and England coveted the island in their pursuit of wealth, he used his skills as a diplomat to negotiate several treaties with both European powers, which ensured that the island remained a neutral territory.

Tragically, Indian Warner was murdered in 1674 by his half-brother, Philip Warner, who was at the time Governor of Antigua. It is alleged that Philip sailed to Dominica to hold talks with Carib Warner on behalf of the British Crown. After luring Carib Warner onto his ship and plying him and his party with alcohol, he then murdered them all in cold-blood. After that, even more disturbingly, Philip’s men then massacred an entire village of Caribs before departing. For this insidious act Philip was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, before being tried and acquitted for murder in Barbados. In spite of this injustice, the legacy of Carib independence and resistance to European hegemony left behind by Carib Warner was indelible. This is exemplified in no small measure by the fact that Dominica was not colonized by European powers until 1763, nearly 100 years after his death.

What I find most intriguing about Carib Warner’s story is that he is hardly known outside of Dominica or St. Kitts. In fact, I had never heard about him (not even in Carbbean History class in high school) until I undertook my research for Children of the Ocean God. Equally dumbfounding is that he has surprisingly not (yet) been honored as a national hero of Dominica or of St. Kitts. Hopefully, this recognition will come in due course. Perhaps greater awareness of his tragic story is needed in Dominica and the greater Caribbean region as a whole before this can take place.

I hope you enjoyed this double dose of Caribbean history! As always thanks for stopping by my blog and please feel free to leave a comment below if this post has triggered you. Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing kindly consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.

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