PARAMARIBO, Suriname — University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) professor, Dr Kumar Mahabir, recently presented a research paper on St Kitts at an international conference in Suriname.
The paper entitled “The Lost Indians of St Kitts” was presented at conference on Free and Forced Migration, Diaspora and Identity Formation: The Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labour in Historical and Contemporary Context.
The conference was held in Paramaribo in Suriname from June 6 to 12, 2013. It was organised by the Institute for Graduate Studies and Research (IGSR), Social Science Research Institute (IMWO) of the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, in collaboration with the National Archives Suriname (NAS)
Mahabir is an anthropologist and assistant professor at the Corinth campus in the Centre for Education Programmes at UTT.
Mahabir noted that most of the studies on the history of East Indians in the Caribbean have focused on the larger countries such as Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad. Some research has been done on the smaller islands such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent. Among these smaller islands, St Kitts has barely been examined.
In 2006, Mahabir visited St Kitts in search of the descendants of Indians. Unfortunately, he found no traces of them in the form of physiological features, names, food or other remnants of cultural legacy.
After the emancipation of slaves, about 337 Indian indentured labourers were brought from India to St Kitts to work in the sugarcane plantations. Though they numbered about five percent of the population at the time, their descendants have now mysteriously disappeared, certainly not altogether through inter-marriage.
Using personal interviews, genealogical accounts and archival records, his research sought to explain their disappearance.