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St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence from Britian on 19 September 1983. This module provides an overview of the key events on St. Kitts and Nevis' road to independence.

Road to Independence

Present-day Saint Kitts and Nevis was the site of Great Britain’s first Caribbean settlement in 1623. The islands of St Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, along with the somewhat more distant Anguilla, experienced a number of administrative configurations and changes of status during the course of colonial history. Beginning in 1671, St. Kitts and Nevis joined Antigua (with Barbuda and Redonda) and Montserrat as part of the Leeward Caribbee Islands Government under a British governor. This arrangement endured until 1806, when the Leeward Caribbees were split into two separate governmental units, with St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands comprising one of these units. The Leewards were reunited as a single administrative entity in 1871, with Dominica included in the grouping. St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla was established as a "presidency" within the Leeward Islands Federation in 1882, a status it kept until 1956.

The three-island grouping participated in the ill-fated West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962 and took part in the unsuccessful negotiations of the so-called Little Eight, which broke off in 1966. In 1967, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, along with most of the other small Caribbean colonies, accepted the British offer of associated statehood, which provided for domestic self-government while Britain maintained responsibility for external affairs and defense.  Anguillans later rebelled, and separated from the others in 1971.

There were objections by Anguilla to the administration, which it considered to be dominated by St Kitts, and independence was declared by Anguilla later that year. Negotiations to resolve the dispute failed, and after being placed directly under British control in 1971, Anguilla was granted its own constitution in 1975 and union with St Kitts and Nevis formally severed in 1980.

There was a Constitutional Conference in London in 1982 to discuss the independence of St Kitts and Nevis. Despite disagreements over special provisions for Nevis in the proposed constitution, the independence process continued and was formally achieved on 19 September 1983. The objections came principally from the Labour Party Opposition, which until recently had dominated the administration and was still the largest party. Since 1980, however, the Government had consisted of a coalition of the People's Action Movement and Nevis's Reform Party, which held the balance of power and which the Opposition felt was instrumental in achieving Nevis's strong position in the new constitution.  Kennedy Simmonds became the federation's first Prime Minister.  Sir Clement Arrindell became the first Governor-General.

The constitution establishes a federal entity consisting of two constituent units – the island of St. Kitts and the island of Nevis. The federal system established by the constitution is asymmetrical in that only Nevis is endowed with its own government, the Nevis Island Assembly (NIA) headed by the Nevis Island Administration led by a Premier and located in Charlestown

Meaning of Independence

St. Kitts and Nevis becoming an independent nation, now meant that Britain, no longer controlled the affairs of the country. It was now the responsibility of the newly elected Prime Minister and the locally elected Cabinet.

Independence also meant that a Constitution, symbols, emblems, an army, and passports had to be developed for the country.

As an independent nation, St. Kitts and Nevis assigns Ambassadors overseas who represent the country. They sign treaties on behalf of St. Kitts and Nevis and become members of various international organisations. This is important, as it gives the country equal rights on various issues relating to international trade, policies and treaties.

Symbols of Independence

Click to enlarge The Coat of Arms of St. Kitts and Nevis

The Saint Kitts and Nevis Coat of Arms displays the motto "Country Above Self".

The centre of the coat of arms is dominated by a shield at the base of which is a lighter in full sail. The lighter is one of the traditional means of transportation. A red chevron is highlighted by two Poinciana flowers.

At the top of the shield, on the blue background, is the head of a Carib, supported by the fleur de lis and a rose. The Caribs were the early inhabitants of the islands and the fleur de lis and rose signify the French and English influences.

A helmet topped with the battlements   of a tower appears with a flaming torch upheld by the hands of an African, European and a person of mix descent. The torch signifies the struggle and quest for freedom by a people of diverse ethnic origins but united in purpose.

The shield is supported on either side by pelicans with wings extended, displaying a sugar cane plant and a coconut palm tree, which are extensively cultivated throughout St. Kitts and Nevis.

Click to enlarge The National Flag of St. Kitts and Nevis

The National Flag of St. Kitts and Nevis was designed by Edris Lewis. It features green for our fertile lands, yellow for our year-round sunshine, black for our African heritage and red for our struggle from slavery through colonialism to Independence. It also displays two white stars on a black diagonal bar, symbols of hope and liberty.

Title O Land of Beauty!
Composer Kenrick Anderson Georges
Lyricist Kenrick Anderson Georges
Adopted 1983

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The National Anthem of St. Kitts and Nevis

The National Anthem was written and composed by Mr. Kenrick Anderson Georges, and was adopted after independence, 19 September 1983.

O Land of Beauty!
Our country where peace abounds,
Thy children stand free
On the strength of will and love.
With God in all our struggles,
Saint Kitts and Nevis be
A Nation bound together
With a common destiny.

As stalwarts we stand,
For justice and liberty,
With wisdom and truth
We will serve and honour thee.
No sword nor spear can conquer,
For God will sure defend.
His blessings shall for ever
To posterity extend.

Click to enlarge The National Flower of St. Kitts and Nevis

The national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis  is the Poinciana or Flamboyant, named after Monsieur de  Poincy, the first French Governor of St. Kitts, who is said to have introduced  it to the region. Its  scientific name is Delonix Regia, and is said to have originated in Madagascar. The Flamboyant is one of the most striking trees of the tropics, with its umbrella–shaped crown and its compound deciduous leaves and red and yellow scalloped flowers followed by long, black seedpods.  It blooms from May to August, and is generally used along roadsides or by itself . A fast-growing tree, it  requires a deep soil but tolerates a dry climate.

Click to enlarge The National Bird of St. Kitts and Nevis

The national bird of St. Kitts and Nevis is the brown pelican, whose scientific name is the Pelecanus Occidentalis.

In its youth, the brown pelican is brown on the head, neck and upper parts of the body, and mostly white below. As it matures, the majority of the body becomes dark brown while the upper part of the head turns white. During the post-nuptial moult the adult’s neck turns white. The neck and head are not extended during flight .

Brown pelicans are sometimes solitary feeders, but may also be found in small flocks as they feed on schools of fish at the surface of the sea. They can be found throughout the West Indies and in sub-tropical regions of the Americas. They nest in colonies along the coast, in low trees, and in bushes.

Click to enlarge The National Wear of St. Kitts and Nevis

The National Wear was designed by Dwayne Weekes, Grace Woodley, Vaughan Woodley and Joyette Woodley. It is a combination of African and European influences which have shaped the history of St. Kitts and Nevis is evident in both the male and female outfits.

Men’s  Wear
A straw hat trimmed with madras offered protection from the hot day’s sun. The short sleeved, v-neck jack shirt trimmed with madras is made from off-white cotton. The design is similar to traditional shirts worn by Africans. The beige cotton, ankle length pant is a reflection of the local fabrics  that were commonly used during the colonial period. 

Women’s Wear
It is customary for African women to wrap their heads for protection. The main dress is off-white cotton , with a corset top and an ankle length, wide flare petticoat bottom . The beige cotton sleeves are short and puffed using  the drawstring. A short lap skirt made from crocus is worn over the main dress to protect it from dirt “The Cane Soda Wrap “, which was used to carry soda while fertilizing sugar cane, is draped around the waist . The crocus drawstring bag was a safe way for women to secure their money.

Click to enlarge The National Dish of St. Kitts and Nevis

The national dish of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis was created by Jacqueline Ryan. The National Dish is normally served as a main entrée. It is a delicious mixture of stewed saltfish served with spicy plantains, coconut dumplings and seasoned breadfruit. It is a tasty blend of locally available vegetables, spices, coconut and salted cod fish, prepared with a distinct St. Kitts and Nevis flavour.

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Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret arrives at Golden Rock Airport, St. Kitts, 1983.
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Princess Margaret is welcomed at Golden Rock Airport., 1983.
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Choir performs the National Anthem for the first time: "O Land of Beauty!" during Independence celebrations 1983.
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PM Kennedy Simmonds taking the Oth of Office independence celebrations 1983
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PM Kennedy Simmonds during independence celebrations 1983.
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The National Flag of St. Kitts and Nevis about to be raised for the first time at Warner Park, Basseterre. 1983.
Download The St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution 1983
Download The St. Kitts and Nevis Termination of Association Order 1983
Download 1983 Independence Address given by Prime Minister The Hon Dr. Kennedy Simmonds
Download Recent Independence Addresses
Download National Symbols brochure
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