Abstract

This small Native American tribe is fighting back to restore a creek that has been an important aspect of their community for as long as most living tribal members can recall. I met with one member, Carol Brewington, and learned some of what life was like growing up in the Coharie tribe during her childhood. In our interview, she speaks of her love for beading and crafting, a skill the Coharie display proudly in their tribal center gallery. She also recounted her childhood and explained the importance the Coharie Creek held to her while during her childhood. To the Coharie people, the creek used to be a source of food, recreation, and reflection. Now, following the deterioration of the creek, the Coharie are sharing their stories in hopes that people will take note and take action to help restore the creek to its former state.

Highlights

On Growing Up Coharie

“I think that I was blessed, fortunate, and rich. Without money. Now you understand what I’m saying?”… “Blessed, fortunate, and rich. Without money. There were five girls, all within 5 years. No brothers. And my dad was the type of person that if he had candy enough for one child, and not enough for all five, nobody got any. We understood that. But he always worked towards cutting it up enough that everybody’d have some”… “As a child, I heard balance in my home.”

“Our staple grocery, for my father to bring home, was, and mom always knew how to make sure it stretched a long ways, was flour, lard, syrup, sugar, and that was about it. It was the staple. We got biscuits three times a day. Mama cooked three times a day.”

“Daddy was a sharecropper. We moved every year. So we had new neighbors in some part of the county every year. So we learned a skill early to learn how to get along with whoever was where, because we already knew who we were. We didn’t try to convince somebody of who we were or were not. We stood our own, and if you liked us, you liked, if you didn’t you didn’t.”

On Being Coharie

“…living in this community and being a part of it, with the school the base, and the church”… “I just feel this smallness is some of our strength, and we all get upset with each other, I’m not telling you it runs smooth all the time, but there is always a right back around to a balance. And… hey, if you can’t fix it, don’t tear it up.”

“…our structure did come from our church base, and then it came from our school base here, in this building, now it’s a community system base. And the structure is county-wide; two counties, and then we have a major tribe, but the counties function with it, and we function with the counties”… “we’re strong because our balance in being able to share what we have, and what we don’t have.”

On the River 

“…I was proud to go with my dad fishing. He went fishing at night, at times, they called it the Daniel Hole, there was a certain area you went to called the Daniel Hole. He took me one time but one time was it… And we went catfish fishing one night, where you put the pole in and let it sit. And if one gets caught, it kind of gets a lot of fuss back there. And I was behind him, and he thought I fell in. So I was done going catfishing with my dad…”

“At that time we were all baptized in the creek, but it was on up further the woods. On 24. I think it connects to the Coharie River, but it’s part of the waterway. Um, back in those days, we were all baptized there. And that was an area, 40s, 50s, on up through the 60s and 70s before we got a baptism in the church that we all go to now.”

 

On the Future

“I do notice, after we had the first flood, the water coming out of the banks. It was not about your animals, it was about ‘we just got flooded.’ And things started changing in the river at that time. And you could tell that by riding down [route] 421 where the bridges are. It’s simple to see, water, clarity of the water changed, the filling in of things changed. I wouldn’t accuse all the damage on the beaver, but that probably had something to do with it.”

“… that’s another thing I like about the river. I have that idea, ‘Well, if it’s worth having, it will stay right there, and if it’s not, water’s going to take it right away.’ Hahaha. It will wash it right away You know, and as the Coharie, being here in this area, we have been fortunate enough, for these years, of structure, that we’ve held it pretty good.”