Abstract

Darla has lived out her eighty-plus years as a member of the Coharie tribe in Sampson County.  Her memories of life in eastern North Carolina are mostly happy, filled with stories of her beloved family and their tradition of living off the land.  Though consistently embraced by the tight-knit Coharie community, Darla did frequently experience the tougher aspects of growing up as an American Indian, recounting stories of harsh treatment and discrimination.  Though times were tough, Darla is glad to say that they’ve improved—the younger generation won’t have to endure the struggle that her generation once faced.

Highlights

On Growing Up Coharie

“At home we were farmers.  We raised practically everything we ate—our meat, our pork, our chickens, our eggs, everything, practically.  And hunting, a lot of us hunted.  And fishing, down on the river, the Coharie River.  So, it was enjoyable.  We lived off the land and it seemed fine, that’s what we’d do.  Yeah, dad would go down to the river and come back with a string of fish and clean them, that was enjoyable.  And he was a hunter.  So once in a while he’d take us down to the river with us and it was like going to the Myrtle Beach.  But being in the water, you know, we just enjoyed it.”

“When we were in school, sometimes like, we’d have parties and that’s where we’d go.  We’d pick a big pretty place on the river and we’d go spread out there and just have a good time, and swim, we just had fun.  But now, I guess people are going to the lakes, or beaches, you know, more for that, you know, just having parties.”

“I used to do a lot of quilting and that’s one thing that we did—quilt, make quilts.  I did a lot of things like that, you know?  Make things… back in that time I bet we just made everything, raised what we ate.  Mostly, and made our clothes and made our quilts, and just… it was good, we learned a lot.”

On Discrimination

“But we have been through a lot… rejection.  But the younger people, I hope they haven’t experienced as much as we did, we just… you’d go somewhere, the drug store or somewhere and just sit on a stool and you’d be waiting for it… ‘Hey ma’am, you have to get off that.’  Well, I guess you’ve heard all of this, I don’t need to bring it up…”

“Even in the hospital, even when my first baby was born, it didn’t go in the nursery, it stayed in the room with me.  It didn’t get the nursery, you know.  But there was one man that used to work in Newport News, Virginia and he—he lives up there—but he got married and his wife was here, and they had… when their kids were born, they did that.  That was the last that they put in the room in Clinton Hospital.  He went right on and got a lawyer and got that straightened out.  There weren’t no more kids in the room, you know, they put them in the nursery now.”

“Yes… maybe people that did that, that’s what they knew, so they’d been that way.  But thank God, things have changed.  The Indian people are respected in that area, so that’s good.  It’s best for the younger people, you know, they don’t have to go through all this.  But I feel like it was just… the people that did it, that’s just what they knew.  We all had a lot to learn, so that’s good.”

On the River

“There’s just something about it, we just enjoy it.  I guess it’s just our, our nature.”

“I haven’t been on [the river] in a long time.  But it’s something that we just, I don’t know, it’s something…a part of us.  It’s something that’s just a part of us.”