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Union Island History & Culture

HISTORY OF UNION ISLAND

Union Island was first inhabited by Amerindians migrating northwards from the Amazon River Delta. They would have used our island as a settlement to travel to other islands in the region, as well as live off plentiful catches of fish and crustaceans.

Union Island History

Europeans arrived in the 15th century though it was not until the mid 1700s that they established a foothold here. Bringing with them large numbers of slaves from West Africa, first French and then British plantation owners used our island to grow and harvest cotton. Following emancipation in the 1830s, like many colonies in this region, Union Island fell into a period of decline with plantations abandoned and liberated slaves forced to survive off subsistence farming and fishing. Ownership of Union Island changed hands several times and it was not until 1920 that Union was eventually purchased by the British Crown.

Like neighbouring Carriacou and Petit Martinique (islands that belong to Grenada), we celebrate our African heritage. This manifests itself at our annual Maroon Festival and our Easterval Celebrations.

 

Maroon Festival

Our Maroon Festival traditionally marks the beginning of the planting season and includes a Big Drum Dance that finds is roots in African tribal heritage. Maroon means "Giving Thanks" and this festival is held to mark the beginning of the planting season.  It is held every year in the month of May, three days before or after the full moon. The Big Drum Dance is perfomred during this festival, as well as at Weddings. The Big Drum is a unique aspect of our culture, called the Nation Dance which consists of six dances:

  • Nation Dance
  • Bongo Dance
  • Cheerup Dance
  • Calendar Dance
  • Alleh Dance
  • Ladderis Dance

 

Easterval

At Easter time (March/April), enjoy our very lively and always entertaining Easterval celebrations, a vibrant pageant of street parades, great food, music and sports competitions. Join in the fun. You're always welcome.

Union Island Events

 

The Cake Dance

The Cake Dance is another important part of our culture, performed when some one in the community is going to be married. The ritual involves a lively dance with flags and cakes. The dancers must ensure that the groom's cake and flag are always kept above the bride's, this signifies the traditional dominance of the man in the home.