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Cock crows on new dawn, as Cockpit Country declares its independence from Jamaica

Currie plays chess not chequers

By Ricky Browne

As much of the world is concentrating on containing the Covid-19 virus, many people may have missed that a new state declared its independence on March 21, the tiny Maroon region of the Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. The capital of the state will be Accompong.

“Today, We the indigenous people inhabiting the archipelago within the North American territory of the Americas, now referred to as #Jamaica have proclaimed our independence and the independence for the “State of Cockpit Country,” stated the new Chief of the Maroons via his social media.

“Accompong is now the Capital for the Cockpit Country,” Currie said. Accompong is believed to be the largest of the Maroon communities in Jamaica, with a population of perhaps 600 people. Its hard to find any official estimates, but some sources say that there are about 5,000 Maroons in Jamaica, which would be split between the two areas in the Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains.

The Declaration of Ind

“The Cockpit has remained and will remain a Sovereign territory protected under the 1738 Treaty,” Currie said in his statement.

“The cockpit has remained and will remain a Sovereign territory protected under the 1738 Treaty.

“#Maroons meet some of the fearless faces of the new installed government. Today will be remembered for generations to come. #history.

Today on the equinox, March 21st, 2021, the indigenous people of the land have spoken. Cockpit Cuntry is our home, our territory, our birthright, and our legacy.”

“Our boundary map will be posted shortly so the World can witness the Will of the indigenous people. #chessnotchequers – Currie posted on his social media.

CURRIE… #chessnotchequers

That map will be of great interest as it will show the extent to which the Maroons are prepared to challenge the Jamaican government. The Cockpit Country is a valuable resourse for the country, largely untouched, and containing bauxite as well as being the source of much underground fresh water.

Traditionally it has been accepted that the Maroons only control a small portion of the Cockpit Country – but it appears that Currie will be staking a claim on a much larger chunk – if not all of it.

Recently the Government has been suggesting that lands that some believe are in the protected Cockpit Country area, could be used for mining – something that many people, not just Maroons, are against – largely for environmental reasons.

The Cockpit Country area is a semi-protected forest and is an environmentally unique area, not just in Jamaica – but almost anywhere on the planet. There are believed only a few four other areas in the world that have a similar karst topography, with its little limestone hills alongside little valleys across the area that could be as large as 500 square miles. The others include tourism beauty spots in Cuba, China and Thailand.

Currie is taking an increasingly strident view of the peculiar independence of his people that was given to them by treaty with the British in 1738 – arguably the first free black people in the Western hemisphere, even before the Haitian revolution.

With his message Currie posted two photos of Maroons taking a solemn stance on the occasion, and a more detailed outline of what the declaration means.

Maroons gather to declare independence — with Currie standing in front of the laptop computer

The declaration is headed by a picture of a green abeng on an orange background. The abeng is the traditional hollowed-out cow horn used to call the Maroons to action. Currie has taken to heading many of his messages with the slogan: “Sound the abeng” building the image of the horn as a symbol of the Maroons.

The colours green and orange are also significant, because each represents the colours of the two major political parties on the island – the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (green) and the opposition Peoples National Party (orange) By using both colours, the Maroons are saying they have no political affiliation to either.

“Cockpit Country – The Declaration of Independence of the Cockpit Country” states the heading.

The declaration states:

A predecessor of Richard Currie, Leonard Parkinson in 1796

“The unanimous  Declaration of the Cockpit Country as an independent state. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to assume among the powers of earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and the Creator of all things seen and unseen entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We the People being indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, we freely determine our political status and freely pursue our right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relations to our internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing our autonomous functions. We the people institute this Government to serve ourselves justly, and our future generations for the maintenance of our rights of self-government, self-determination and independence from an power foreign or domestic that shall seek to deprive us of our independence.”

The “ways and means” for financing the state could well be a reference to the cultivation of ganja (marijuana). In an earlier post, Currie showed video of Maroons walking through a vast cultivated field of the weed of wisdom. As an independent state, the Cockpit Country couldn’t be held to Jamaican national laws on the legality of the plant – though those laws are being relaxed.

Looking at the photo a little closer, on the green walls of the auditorium where this declaration seems to have taken place is a mural of what appears to be Marcus Moshiah Garvey – who although a famous national hero of Jamaica, was not known to be a Maroon. There is a national hero from the Maroons in Jamaica. She is Nanny of the Maroons – who many believe was fictional – but if she did exist she came from the group of Maroons based in the Blue Mountains in the east of the islands – far from the Accompong Maroons.

Many of the Maroons in the photo are wearing African prints – to perhaps emphasize a closer relationship to the Motherland than the majority of the population.

Declaration or not, Jamaica seemed far more concerned about the growing severity of the Covid-19 plague, and a press conference by the Prime Minister that outlined new lockdown measures heading into Easter.

Many Jamaicans have at best an ambivalent attitude towards the Maroons. Historically, the Maroons are descendants of slaves freed by the Spanish when English forces took over the island in 1655. They successfully fought the English and then British forces via guerrilla warfare until well into the 18th century. Eventually the British and Maroons signed a treaty, which gave the Maroons some level of independence – on the proviso that they return runaway slaves to the British.

This is a historical sticking point, as it made it that much harder for Jamaican slaves to gain their freedom.

Later, after slavery ended, Maroons in the east of the island are said to have captured national hero Paul Bogle after the famed Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865 and handed him over to the British, who promptly hanged him and hundreds of others. This was not required of them under any treaty, as Paul Bogle – who admittedly was wanted for his involvement in a rebellion that resulted in many deaths – was not a slave, as slavery had been abolished for almost 30 years.

That hasn’t helped their PR image either. But at least the Maroons in the west of the island can disassociate themselves from the then actions of the Maroons in the east of the island.

CURRIE… the Cockpit has remained and will remain a Sovereign territory protected under the 1738 Treaty

Outside of their history of independence, and of collaborating with the British, Maroons have had at least one major influence over Jamaican culture. Maroons are believed to have invented jerk pork, as a way to cook pork under the ground without creating smoke that would have given away their position to the British. Jerk pork and now jerk chicken have basically taken over as Jamaica’s national dish in terms of world-wide recognition – beating ackee and satlfish into second place.

Contribution to Jamaican culture or not, the Maroons have been largely treated as different from the majority population, and largely ignored. The fact that they look pretty much like most other Jamaicans means that can easily blend into society. And their Britiosh-sounding names don’t make them stand out either.

In fact Chief Richard Currie went to business school in Kingston, and had a professional career with blue chip companies in Jamaica before becoming the Maroon Chief for his area.

But the two Maroon areas do still hold that the treaty they signed with the British does mean that they are a separate people.

GO FUND ME

Meanwhile, Currie has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money to support the US$33 million goal for Accompong Water and Infrastructure Project. The page had raised at least US$2984 after more than a week.

Currie posted this photo on the Maroon’s Go Fund Me page

On the Go Fund me page, the Maroons state:

“Since our Treaty was signed 283 years ago the Maroons as indigenous people still face a serious water infrastructure crisis that will only slow the growth of our Body Politic until a plan  is supported by the people and implemented on behalf of the people.

“The Maroon territory provides 40% of all the fresh water supply to the island whereby Jamaica benefits due to its water infrastructure. Providing access to clean, safe water in Maroon territory will help the Maroon people realize the hope they have for their own self reliance and autonomy.”

That 40 percent figure is disputed by some Jamaicans. But it does certainly contain considerable underground water resources.

Currie shrugged aside concerns that the amount was too ambitious in an earlier post.

“It’s interesting how many eyebrows have raised when a nation of people show a USD$33M budget to help uplift their livelihood, but don’t find it strange when a few people in a private company make that amount money consistently. In fact ppl help make the few richer! #SoundDiAbeng,” tweeted Currie.

In the meantime, the Jamaican government may be too taken up with trying to get through the pandemic to give much consideration to the newly declared independence of the Cockpit Country. That could change once things settle down on the Covid-19 front.

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