Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a resolution in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the independence of The Bahamas, which took place on July 10, 2013.
The proud history and rich culture of the Bahamian people date back centuries, having evolved amid significant influences from foreign settlers and traders who were drawn to their islands' beauty, resources, and strategic location. The very islands were inhabited as early as 300 to 400 AD, and settled by the Lucayan Indians from 900 AD to 1500 AD. In 1492, Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World on San Salvador and, within 25 years, about 40,000 natives were sent to work in the mines of Hispaniola.
British settlement began in 1648 with the arrival of English Puritans led by Captain William Sayle, known as ``Eleutheran Adventurers,'' who sought religious freedom. The capital of The Bahamas, Nassau, was established around 1670 as a commercial port, and experienced several decades of conflict between Spanish, French, and British military forces, as well as privateers and pirates. By 1718, the King of England appointed Captain Woodes Rogers to serve as the first Royal Governor and restore order in The Bahamas, now a crown colony.
Following the American War of Independence, the British issued land grants to American Loyalists who went into exile in The Bahamas. With them they brought slaves and forced the Spanish to retreat from the region. Today, the majority of Bahamians trace back their roots to the thousands of West Africans who were enslaved and brought to the islands in order to work on cotton plantations by those loyal to the British Crown. When Britain abolished its slave trade in 1807, thousands of liberated Africans from foreign slave ships were resettled as free persons in The Bahamas. During the early 19th century, hundreds of American slaves and Black Seminoles escaped from Florida and settled primarily on Andros Island in The Bahamas.
Bahamians were granted self-rule in 1964, and became members of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1969. In December 1972, the Government of The Bahamas, headed by Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Lynden Pindling and the Opposition headed by Sir Kendal Isaacs, led a delegation to London to discuss the Independence Constitution. Less than a year later, on July 10, 1973, The Bahamas became a free and sovereign country, ending 325 years of peaceful British rule. Nowadays, Bahamians typically commemorate their independence with a week-long celebration beginning on July 3rd consisting of a number of ``Junkanoo'' street parades, fireworks, political speeches, and other events.
Mr. Speaker, I join with the people of The Bahamas and the Bahamian diaspora worldwide in commemorating the 40th anniversary of their independence. This resolution reaffirms the strong friendship and partnership between our two countries, which are united by a shared history, common values, and a commitment to democracy and human rights.