The Honourable Clifton De Coteau addressed the Merikens March on August 20th, 2011. That day was the 195th Anniversary of the Meriken Arrival to South Trinidad where they formed the Company Villages which still exist today.
The Merikens arrived on these lands on August 20th, 1816 – They arrived as refugees from the War of 1812 between America and Britain. These Corps of Colonial Marines were African American Settlers who, in attempt to escape slavery – took arms with Great Britain against their ex-masters; and even though America won the war – it can be said that these ex-soldiers won the battle.
After the War of 1812, the British Colonial Administration was unsure of what should be the fate of these ex-slaves and free Afro Americans who had formed the Corps of Colonial Marines. They were sent to Bermuda for 14 months and then to Nova Scotia where conditions were hostile and unsatisfactory.
One of the refugees, Charles Ball – went amongst the others and talked to them a long time, on the subject of returning home – but found that their heads were full of notions of liberty and happiness in some of the West Indian Islands.
They were dispatched in six companies or consignments – organized during their military involvement.
Each household was given 16 acres of land.
They brought with them their Baptist Religion, their “spirited resolve”, their determination, independence and industrious nature.
The First Company was settled in Hindustan, the Second in Petit Café and Matilda, The Third in Indian Walk, The Fourth in Hardbargain, Williamsville and New Grant Areas, and the Fifth and Sixth Companies – both retained their original names.
The Merikens of the Company Villages may have started out as hundreds, but today- their descendents are spread throughout Trinidad.
The arrival of 1816 represented emancipation and a new life and today’s Merikens should be proud.
The contribution of the Merikens to the Baptist religion is immeasurable with the first churches being established in Indian Walk and along the Moruga Road.
The vibrancy and rejuvenating effects of the religious practices of the Baptist echo in the community.
The birth of stick fighting, carnival celebrations, competitions among companies have been associated with the Merikens.
Their spirit of camaraderie was strong. They all came from the same place and were seeking to make the most of their newfound independence.
The Medicinal Healing of the Merikens is well-known – always accompanied by prayer and Faith.
The writings of the Meriken ancestors have stained thousands of pages of history. Their words record their journey, their arrival and their triumphs.
Forefathers and authors such as Huggins, Weiss, McNish, Vincent and Reverend Saunders have all ensured that the world knows your story.
The Merikens Incorporated, established since 2004, has actively been uplifting the Meriken Name and Heritage.
Their impact and work is noted throughout the Moruga Road community and the Company Villages.
Images courtesy Elijah Khan
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