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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 19, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPreserving the Culture of Native Virgin Islanders

Preserving the Culture of Native Virgin Islanders

Dear Source:
It seems to me that recently I have been reading more and more about people who don't agree with the proposed Native Virgin Islander definition. While I understand the perspective of the dissenters, I also wish they would try to understand the prospective of those who are pushing for this definition. I understand that the dissenters are motivated by a place of fear–fear that the definition will lead to exclusion of their voices, and their interests. And while the idea of a "melting point" is ideal–dissenters must also understand that Native Virgin Islanders are facing the very real possibility of having their culture eroded to the point of extinction. And by the culture I mean, the language, the history, the food, the stories–the things that really make them unique as a people.
Right now Native Virgin Islanders are on the verge of being a people lost from history. I think a friend of mine said it best when he asked, "are there any more 'true' Virgin Islanders out there, since just about everyone has roots elsewhere?" Throughout the history of these islands, our ancestors have fought, died, worked, and endured so that the next generation will be better off than the one before–from Queen Mary to Earl B. Ottley. And while I agree that all of us living here rightfully share in the fruits of this labor, I also think it is time that the Native Virgin Islander stand up and finally define themselves and not let anyone do it for them and not let anyone shame them for asserting who they are. I for one will not let anyone make me feel ashamed of my heritage and the fact that I can say with pride that I am a 100% Native Virgin Islander. To me the definition is not about exclusion, because our society is such that we have all peacefully worked and lived together, it is about defining who we are.
Mary Thomas
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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Dear Source:
It seems to me that recently I have been reading more and more about people who don't agree with the proposed Native Virgin Islander definition. While I understand the perspective of the dissenters, I also wish they would try to understand the prospective of those who are pushing for this definition. I understand that the dissenters are motivated by a place of fear--fear that the definition will lead to exclusion of their voices, and their interests. And while the idea of a "melting point" is ideal--dissenters must also understand that Native Virgin Islanders are facing the very real possibility of having their culture eroded to the point of extinction. And by the culture I mean, the language, the history, the food, the stories--the things that really make them unique as a people.
Right now Native Virgin Islanders are on the verge of being a people lost from history. I think a friend of mine said it best when he asked, "are there any more 'true' Virgin Islanders out there, since just about everyone has roots elsewhere?" Throughout the history of these islands, our ancestors have fought, died, worked, and endured so that the next generation will be better off than the one before--from Queen Mary to Earl B. Ottley. And while I agree that all of us living here rightfully share in the fruits of this labor, I also think it is time that the Native Virgin Islander stand up and finally define themselves and not let anyone do it for them and not let anyone shame them for asserting who they are. I for one will not let anyone make me feel ashamed of my heritage and the fact that I can say with pride that I am a 100% Native Virgin Islander. To me the definition is not about exclusion, because our society is such that we have all peacefully worked and lived together, it is about defining who we are.
Mary Thomas
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.