'We're still here': Coharie Tribe of Sampson County celebrates rich culture, tradition and pride

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Meet the Coharie Tribe of Sampson County, North Carolina
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A look at the rich past and present history of the Coharie Tribe in Sampson County, NC.

For the Coharie Tribe of Sampson County, much of their story starts on the banks of the Coharie River.

"In a time where all of the world didn't welcome you as a Native American citizen, the river always welcomed us," said Tribal Administrator Greg Jacobs. "I still hear the sounds of my ancestors as they tried to quiet their children when the enemy was near."

They moved here after the Indian Removal Act, a law authorizing the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans. ABC11 was invited down to the riverside to connect with their ancestors.

"A beautiful group of people who have been beautiful since the beginning of time. That's been here since the beginning of time and we're still here," he said.

Jacobs calls the river a spiritual place that knew his ancestors long before him. It is a food source, healing property and place where tradition continues.

"It's very important that we pass down any tradition that we have," said Alpha Bryant, who is an elder within the tribe.

She's now 80 years old, but learned to hand stitch as a girl. For Coharie women quilting is personal. Their culture is the thread woven through the fabric that keeps generations connected.

"Lot of mothers will take and make quilts for the grandbaby that's coming along. This is from mee-maw, grandma..whatever we're called. They can remember us when we're gone," she said.

Bryant says tribal quilts are made and gifted to families at the powwow.

"A pow wow is the celebration of all tribes," said Magic Gomez, who is described by his elders as an up and coming leader. "We want to tell our stories through this dance and then singing comes from the heart. When we sing, we want to give that good medicine so they give the best story."

According to Gomez, the drum is the heartbeat of the powwow and the regalia worn holds great significance. It's pride that's taught to children.

"We literally made stuff out of everything to survive from day to day," said Gomez.

He referred to a relic from the past that is on display in the Coharie Tribal Center. It's a 600-year old burned out canoe that was found in South River. It is believed to be crafted by indigenous people living in Sampson County, which is now homeland to the Coharie.

"When we come to this river, you say the name Coharie River, we're home," said Jacobs. "We are home."

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