Poet, teacher, politician Déwé Gorodé is a leading independence activist in the French Pacific territory of Kanaky/New Caledonia. For over 30 years, Déwé has contributed to peace building and self-determination: as an author and poet; as a teacher and member of the Kanak popular schools movement; and as a leader of the Kanak independence movement Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS). Jailed by the French authorities in the 1970s, she is the vice president of the government of New Caledonia today.
“My political awakening came in 1969, when I was 20. Then we young people were talking about our heritage as Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia, colonized by France since 1853. The week before I left for university in France was filled with moments that sparked my understanding of colonialism and set me on my future path of political action to work for my people as writer, teacher, and Kanak independence activist. My cousin had just returned from military service in France. He invited me to a political meeting about our land, our future, organized by a pioneering Kanak university graduate, deeply influenced by the student and worker uprisings of May 1968. On the way, we passed a large house in the Vallée des Colons. My cousin asked: “Whose house is that?” I answered: “It belongs to those who live there, of course.” My cousin: “But whose land is it on?” And I realized that it was the land of our people. My cousin: “That is why we are going to the meeting!” The room was full of men, with the Kanak graduate at the front wearing the symbolic red scarf of his Foulard Rouges movement. I was the only woman. I felt I should leave. But an old man offered me a seat. So I listened to their talk of colonialism, the land, pride in our Melanesian culture and heritage, of the need for action. I was to travel to Montpellier with a friend, but he and that Kanak graduate were arrested after a brawl between Kanaks and Caldoche (French settlers). I did not want to go alone, but that same week a taxi driver and a French doctor both told me that Kanaks must be trained to run their own country. So I went. Student life was in turmoil after May 1968: every Marxist group communist, Trotskyist, gauchiste was handing out leaflets; there were protests, debates, strikes. It was a time of anti-colonialism, though French people knew nothing of my islands.”
Government of New Caledonia Parti de Libération Kanak (PALIKA) Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement (NFIP)
Oceania | New Caledonia