Monday, November 24, 2008


Most American have never heard of the Chagos people. Even among intellectual and leftist circles their case is virtually unknown. I had not heard their story until I stumbled across while doing research for an unrelated school project. The Chagossian were brought to Diego Garcia, the largest island of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, as slaves to work French Plantations in the 18th century. They developed into a distinct ethnic group with a unique language. Once freed from slavery the Chagossian worked as fishermen and coconut farmers in their tropical paradise. This way of life would continue until its tragic disruption in 1971.

In 1965 the archipelago was detached from the soon to be independent Mauritius to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. Under the Territory's Constitution the island's residents were not given citizenship and no provision was made for democratic government. Then in 1971 the British government agreed to host a U.S military insulation. The U.S was adamant that the Chagossian be expelled from their homeland. The British complied, deporting the entire population of the islands.

Today the Chagos people yearn to return home. Their great suffering is enough reason to support their return, but their plight is also a symbol. It represents to much of the world the desecration of nature by the lust of the powerful, it reinforces the perception of an evil American military empire, and it symbolizes the indifference of the powerful to the weak. Is this really how we want the rest of the world to view us?


Andrew C said...

It seems like wherever those folks were brought from by the British is their homeland. When they were sent away, where were they sent to?

young_activist said...

From 1967 to 1973 the islanders were expelled to the island of Peros Banhos and in 1973 the group was deported to Mauritius.