Canouan - History & Culture
The name Canouan emanated from the Kalinago word “Cannoun” which means turtle. Although the Taino (another Amerindian group contemporary with the Kalinago) predated the Kalinago on Canouan, it was the Kalinago who established themselves as the island’s dominant settlers long before European arrival. When the Europeans arrived in the 16th century the English and French fought for ownership and Canouan became a subject of multiple treaties between the 2 nations. In 1770 King George III gifted Canouan to 5 families: Brisbane, Decato,De Gazeau, Patrice and Snagg. The Snagg brothers eventually accumulated 1,700 of the 1,830 acres available which they mostly used for the cultivation of sugar. When sugar became less profitable they switched to cultivation of cotton and wind-powered cotton gins were built at Carenage, Barbruce and Rameau.
The fall of sugar also generated more interest in maritime industry and one of Snagg’s sons invited a British shipwright, Benjamin George Compton, to teach boat building techniques. This was critical for the fishing trade and communication and transportation purposes. In 1921 the original village on the northern side was destroyed by a hurricane and the island was resettled in Charlestown which is more sheltered. In the middle of the 1990s 800 acres on the northern side where the original village was located, were sold to Canouan Resorts Development Limited for hotel development. Canouan has the second largest airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines with a runway that can accommodate aircraft as large as the Boeing 737. There is also a state of the art marina with berths for super yachts.
Boat building is not as prominent on Canouan as it used to be but it is still a bustling fishing and sailing locale. The Canouan Regatta in June is a festival of boat races, sports, games, pageantry, calypso, dance and other cultural particulars.