Dominica is home to a wide range of people. Although it was historically occupied by several native tribes, the Arawaks (Tainos) and Carib (Kalinago) tribes occupied it at the time European settlers reached the island. "Massacre" is a name of a river dedicated to the murders of the Native villagers by French and British settlers, because the river ran red with blood for days. Both the French and British tried to claim the island and imported slaves from Africa for labour. The remaining Caribs now live on a 3,700-acre (15 km2) territory on the east coast of the island. They elect their own chief. This mix of cultures has produced the current culture.
Music and dance are important facets of Dominica's culture. The annual independence celebrations display a variety of traditional song and dance. Since 1997, there have also been weeks of Creole festivals, such as "Creole in the Park" and the "World Creole Music Festival".
Dominica gained prominence on the international music stage when in 1973, Gordon Henderson founded the group Exile One and an original musical genre, which he coined "Cadence-lypso". This paved the way for modern Creole music. Other musical genres include "Jing ping" and "Cadence". Jing ping features the accordion and is native to the island. Dominica's music is a melange of Haitian, Afro-Cuban, African and European traditions. Popular artists over the years include Chubby and the Midnight Groovers, Bells Combo, the Gaylords, WCK, and Triple Kay.
The 11th annual World Creole Music Festival was held in 2007, part of the island's celebration of independence from Great Britain on 3 November. A year-long reunion celebration began in January 2008, marking 30 years of independence.
Dominica is often seen as a society that is migrating from collectivism to that of individualism. The economy is a developing one that previously depended on agriculture. Signs of collectivism are evident in the small towns and villages which are spread across the island.
The famed novelist Jean Rhys was born and raised in Dominica. The island is obliquely depicted in her best-known book, Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys's friend, the political activist and writer Phyllis Shand Allfrey, set her 1954 novel, The Orchid House (ISBN 0-8135-2332-X), in Dominica.
Much of the Walt Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (the second in the series, starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, and released on 7 July 2006), was shot on location on Dominica (though in the film it was known as "Pelegosto," a fictional island), along with some shooting for the 3rd film in the series, At World's End(released on 2 May 2007).
Dominica's cuisine is similar to that of other Caribbean islands, particularly Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. Like other Commonwealth Caribbean islands, Dominicans have developed a distinct twist to their cuisine. Breakfast is an important daily meal, typically including saltfish, dried and salted codfish, and "bakes", fried dough. Saltfish and bakes are combined for a fast food snack that can be eaten throughout the day; vendors on Dominica's streets sell these snacks to passersby, together with fried chicken, fish and fruit and yogurt "smoothies". Other breakfast meals include cornmeal porridge, which is made with fine cornmeal or polenta, milk and condensed milk and sugar to sweeten. Traditional British-influenced dishes, such as eggs, bacon and toast, are also popular, as are fried fish and plantains.
Common vegetables include plantains, tanias (a root vegetable), yams, potatoes, rice and peas. Meat and poultry typically eaten include chicken (which is very popular), beef, and fish. These are often prepared in stews with onions, carrots, garlic, ginger and herbs like thyme. The vegetables and meat are browned to create a rich dark sauce. Popular meals include rice and peas, brown stew chicken, stew beef, fried and stewed fish, and many different types of hearty fish broths and soups. These are filled with dumplings, carrots and ground provisions.