Due to the mountainous terrain and the resistant Caribs who inhabited it, Dominica was unclaimed by European powers until settled by French planters and missionaries in 1635. In 1686 both nations agreed to relinquish the island to the Caribs, yet repeatedly returned.By 1750, the Caribs had retreated to the rugged windward coast (they now reside in an area called the Carib Reserve).The island has few white sand beaches, but numerous waterfalls and rivers (Dominicans say there is one for each day of the year). The 1991 population census counted 71,183 persons and provided an estimate for 1998 of 74,300 people.About twenty thousand reside in Roseau and its environs, reflecting the "drift" to the urban center during the last several decades of the twentieth century.In 1763, France ceded Dominica to England in the Treaty of Paris.The French captured the island in 1778, but the English regained control in 1783.A peasant-based agricultural economy and creole culture emerged.
The country became an associated state within the British Commonwealth in 1967 before claiming independence in 1978. Social and political unrest (including attempted coups in 19), economic instability, and the devastating Hurricane David in 1979 complicated the transition to independence.English has been the official language since the British took control in 1763, but it ranges from the standard varieties spoken in Roseau to creolized varieties in rural villages.A distinct English-based creole called Kokoy is spoken in Wesley and Marigot, two villages on the Atlantic coast that were settled by Methodist missionaries, estate owners, and their slave laborers from Antigua and other Leeward Islands in the late eighteenth century.The last fluent speaker of the Carib language reportedly died in the 1920s, although efforts are now being made to revive that language.A French-based creole, known officially as Kwéyo`l but also commonly called Patois or Patwa, arose in the early eighteenth century through contact between French colonizers and enslaved West Africans.