Evidence of Anguilla's earliest history is seen in
several caves on the island and on nearby cays. Pre-Columbian sites are
reminders of Anguilla's earliest inhabitants: the peaceful Arawak Indians.
These first residents called the island "Malliouhana."
Anguilla is one of the richest prehistoric sites in the region, and studies
are ongoing by archaeologists. The earliest known Amerindian site yielded
conch shells broken into drinking vessels as well as axes made from ground
shells, flint blades, and tools dating to about 1300 B.C. Other sites
dating to the 4th century A.D. have also been identified. Archaeologists
believe the island then was inhabited by Amerindians, Arawaks of the Saladoid
culture. These farmers made settlements at Rendezvous Bay and Sandy Ground
by the sixth century. The Arawaks are credited with carving the Jocahu
stalagmite that was found at the Fountain (see Eco-tourism later in this
chapter), one of the most important archaeological sites on the island.
Jocahu or the "Creator-Giver of Cassava" was probably a spiritual
figure that was carved on the cave's stalagmite along with several petroglyphs
at the cave and freshwater source.
Did Columbus Ever See Anguilla?
Although Columbus came near this island on his 1493 voyage to Guadeloupe,
Montserrat, Antigua, St. Martin, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola,
no record exists of the explorer sighting flat Anguilla. With a maximum
elevation of just 213 feet, Columbus probably sailed right on by, probably
without ever realizing the island existed.
European discovery occurred in 1565, most likely by French explorer Pierre
Laudonnaire who deemed the island "Anguille" or "eel"
for its long, thin shape. (There is some dispute about the nationality
of the European discoverer, however, because the word for eel in French,
Spanish, and Italian is nearly identical.) After European discovery of
the island, the Arawak population quickly died off due to disease and
Colonization of the island began about a century later when the first
English settlers came to Anguilla from St. Kitts, about 70 miles to the
southeast. Their attempts were not completely successful, though. By the
1680s, most settlers abandoned their sugar plantations because of a lack
of water and poor soil. Most moved to the British Virgin Islands and St.
Twice the island was attacked by the French. In 1745, a group of 700 Frenchmen
were stopped by 150 militia members at Crocus Bay. Forty years later,
400 Frenchmen tried another raid at Rendezvous Bay. The fight worked its
way across the island to Sandy Hill Fort. Anguilla sent a boat to St.
Kitts and Antigua for help, which came in the form of an English frigate.
Continued development of Anguilla, with its very limited freshwater supply,
came slowly. Some settlers attempted to grow crops and a limited plantation
system developed, with fields worked by West African slaves until 1834
when slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies.
The governmental structure of Anguilla changed during these years as well.
In the mid-1600s, Anguilla had become part of the Leeward Islands and
was administered from Antigua. In 1825, however, the situation changed
and Anguilla was united with St. Kitts. By 1871, the island was placed
in a federation with St. Kitts, an unpopular move that was protested to
Britain. Nevis was later added to the federation but the name of Anguilla
was never added until 1951. The relationship between the islands was always
a tumultuous one, with claims from Anguilla that St. Kitts ignored the
much smaller isle in terms of representation and aid.
The ill feelings rose in intensity until a 1967 rebellion brought about
independence from St. Kitts. The rebellion caught the attention of the
world and the tiny island was given the nickname "The Mouse that
Roared." The secession became formal in 1980. Today Anguilla is happy
to exist as a British colony and problems with St. Kitts have long been
mended. Many Anguillians have relatives on St. Kitts and say that the
former problems were political, not between the people of the islands.
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