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Premier of the Virgin Islands, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, OBE led a delegation to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) on March 31 to attend the official ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States of America.
The historic occasion is being observed across the United States Virgin Islands with ceremonies and activities being held on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix until December 31, 2017.
It was on March 31, 1917, the then Danish West Indies were peacefully transferred to the United States of America, in accordance with the agreement for the sale of the Islands for a cost of $25 million.
At a ceremony held on the grounds of the Virgin Islands Legislature in St. Thomas, the symbolic lowering the Danish Dannebrog and the raising of the flag of the United States of America was witnessed by a large gathering.
Premier Smith in remarks at the ceremony, described the transfer as a defining moment in history, as it marked the beginning of a new era in the life of both territories.
Premier Smith said, “On March, 31st 1917, a large number of BVIslanders who migrated to the Danish West Indies became US Citizens when the US Flag was raised. This occurrence cemented the bond between the people of these two Territories”.
Premier Smith said that this occurrence cemented the bond between the people of these two Territories. He said numerous families were split, with parents, brothers and sisters permanently residing in each Territory.
The Premier added, “Children of BVI parentage now living in the US islands returned to the BVI during the summer months to spend time with their grandmothers and to become acquainted with their cousins and other family members.” Please click here for the Premier’s address.
Dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony included the Prime Minister of Denmark, His Excellency, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, and the United States Secretary of the Interior, The Hon. Ryan Zinke.
Premier Smith was accompanied by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Ingrid Moses Scatliffe; Minister for Health and Social Development, Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton; Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Andrew Fahie; Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and Representative for the 5th District, Honourable Delores Christopher; Representative for the 6th District, Honourable Alvera Maduro-Caines; Representative for the 2nd District, Honourable Melvin 'Mitch' Turnbull; Clerk of the House of Assembly, Mrs. Phyillis Evans; Assistant Secretary for External Affairs, Ms. Najan Christopher; and Assistant Secretary for Protocol, Mr. Theodore James.
The Commemoration ceremony featured several presentations highlighting notable achievements in the history of the Territory. It also recognised the contributions of countless men and women who sacrificed to make the Virgin Islands what they are today. The historic occasion is being observed across the United States Virgin Islands with ceremonies and activities being held on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
Many significant historical accomplishments of the last 100 years will be highlighted during the year including the naturalisation of the residents of the former Danish West Indies and the ability of the residents of the US Virgin Islands to elect their own Governor and write their own Constitution.