CRUZ BAY — Retired U.S. Virgin Islands Senator and educator Dr. Gilbert Sprauve was more than measured in his remarks October 29 before the joint meeting of two V.I. Senate committees to examine the impact of the V.I. government’s 2013 property tax bills.
The more than 20 residents who had signed up to testify had been divided into groups, with St. Johnian elders, including former island legislators and educators, testifying first. Dr. Sprauve was the final elder to speak.
“There is an irony in what is happening here tonight,” acknowledged Dr. Sprauve.
“A system was put in place to make a lot of things happen, to protect these property rights,” the distinguished educator said of the transfer of “ownership” of the former Danish Virgin Islands to the United States in 1917.
“But this was not about us,” the St. Johnian said of the treaty language when the islands — and the people — were sold to the United States. “This was about the Danes who were staying here.”
“I haven’t seen that (the treaty) was intended for the people who are here tonight,” Dr. Sprauve. “Virgin Islanders don’t need what happened in Hawaii to happen here,” he added in reference to the native Hawaiians loss of ancestral land.
“We have to be very, very careful how we decide to fight the cultural and heritage question in the Virgin Islands,” Dr. Sprauve admonished the assemblage.