I was recently struck by this beautiful coat of arms, or crest, or piece of art, hanging in the airport in Andros, Bahamas. My husband and I had flown there; it is only a 45 minute flight from Stuart. Adros, as most all the islands in the Bahamas, has a connection to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region here in Martin and St Lucie Counties.
Before I start, I’d like to say that I was not only struck by the beauty of this crest with its sailfish, flamingo, and conch but somewhat taken aback by the Spanish ship in the middle under the ancient South American Indian sun symbol of the Great Creator.
The words under the crest read, “forward, upward, onward, together…”Hmmm?
Italian, Christopher Columbus, sponsored by Spanish, king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, came to the Bahamas first in 1492 by ship; years later as the Caribbean became filled with mining operations and sugar plantations of great wealth, the native Arawak/Lucayns people of the islands were forced into slavery. The natives fiercely resisted, but most died of small pox due to having no immune system against Spanish disease. According to documentation, by 1520 the culture was “extinct.” As a former culture they had thousands (40,000 across the Bahamian Islands.)
The story of their annilation is one of the the most brutal instances of genocide in our human history.
Later captured African slaves were forced to replace the Arawak peoples on plantations, and ironically later in the 1800s the Black Seminoles of the United States emigrated via canoe from Florida to Andros. Many live there today in Red Bay working as sponge divers and artisans. After great tribulation, and they are still struggling today, the Bahamas became independent this time from England in 1973.
Time goes on. Things change and people move on for new dreams. Dreams in America. Where justice prevails for “all.”
One of the black families that came to our Indian River Lagoon Region in 1898, not from Andros but from Exuma was the Christie Family. My family holds the Christie family very dear as my mother, who wrote the History of Sewall’ Point in 1992, formed a close relationship with the Christie family as they had worked not as slaves, but a free men and women over generations, for the Andrews family and others who held great land holdings and beautiful winter properties on the peninsula of Sewall’s Point.
According to historian and author, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, “No one family has lived on Sewall’s Point with out interruption longer than the Christies. Their friendships knew no color barrier.”
The Christie Family’s knowledge and relationships with the powerful early families of Sewall’s Point is really what gave my mother, the ability and foundation to write her first book which has led to her career and great documentation of our area.
For the past seven years, I have served with Commissioner and former Mayor, James A. Christie, Jr. who is one of longest-serving public servants of the City of Stuart along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. We serve on the Treasure Coast Council of Governments together. As an elected official, Mr Christie has been a great supporter of the river movement. He will be retiring this September; I will be there to honor him.
So, yes, it really struck me, considering the destruction of native peoples, the environment, slavery, the birth of new counties and the death of old ones, that the crest was so happy and beautiful and read “forward, upward, onward, together…” surrounded by the birds and fish and sea life.
May we find the optimism in this difficult and sometimes horrific world. Let’s save our rivers and yes, let’s work together to “overcome.”
A great book is on “this subject” is History of the Caribbean by Frank Moya Pons