St. John is the smallest and most protected of the United States Virgin Islands, with over two-thirds of the island proclaimed as National Park. St. John, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and its people were bought from Denmark in 1917 for twenty-five million dollars, yet the areas complex history starts way prior to the United States acquisition.
Up until the arrival of Columbus in 1492 hundreds of thousands of indigenous people lived throughout the Caribbean. St. John was home to Taino Indians who cultivated, hunted, and created their own communities on these shores but with no immunity to foreign diseases and intense physical labor these people were quickly pushed to the edge of extinction.
Petroglyphs at Reef Bay
Sir Francis Drake Channel
As time went on colonization into the Caribbean exploded as did the demand for sugar and other goods to be sent to Europe, fuelling the slave trade from West Africa into the Caribbean plantations and then further on to North American plantations. St. John is known for the successful slave rebellion of 1733 but freedom was not achieved until 1848 following increased pressure from another uprising on St. Croix led by General Buddhoe. This complex history is still visible today with many of the stone plantations and sugar-mills intact.