LAKE WACCAMAW, N.C. -- A 1,000-year-old Waccamaw Indian dug-out canoe was pulled from Lake Waccamaw near Wilmington Wednesday after three teens discovered it while spending a fun day outside.
The chief of the Waccamaw Siouan tribe, Michael Jacobs, said it's rare to find pieces of history like this one. The canoe is a symbol of nearly 1,000 years of Native American culture in southeastern North Carolina.
"That canoe at 28 feet long would have carried many a brave. We feel like in our heart, it's a history that we're still exploring and understanding because this is the first time we've had access," Chief Jacobs said in an interview with local new station WECT.
Eli Hill is one of three teenagers who stumbled upon it while swimming in the lake during the summer of 2021.
"We were throwing mussels at each other and I stepped on it and I thought it was a log. I tried to pick it open and never came up. So, we kept digging at it and it just kept going. And then the next day, we came back and we started digging some more and it just kept going," Hill said.
State archaeologist John Mintz said Hill's discovery led to a lengthy removal process, but it was worth it in the end.
"This canoe is about 1000 years old, and it's a Southeastern Indian canoe, and it's originated from this area. So, we wanted the local Indian group to be part of it and share with the agency of it," Mintz said.
The canoe will be taken to a lab in Greenville to be preserved, studied and will hopefully share its secrets.
"We're looking forward to examining it, running some tests on it, really finding out and going back to our elders and getting the history of it to where we can teach the truth to our people and know that we've got concrete evidence to stand on," Chief Jacobs said.
While Hill and his friends recognize the weight of their discovery, he said he also realizes the importance the canoe is to native people.
"I realize that it means more to them than it does to me. So, I just thought it was a really cool experience for all of them just to be a part of that," he said.