Occaneechi Homeland Preservation Project: Bringing the Past and Future Together
In August 2002, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation embarked on an ambitious project; to begin buying back a portion of its ancestral lands in the “Little Texas” Community of NE Alamance County, North Carolina. This was called the Occaneechi Homeland Preservation Project. For the first time in over 250 years, the Occaneechi own land again as a Tribe, to be used for economic development for the tribal community, as well as for tribal administrative offices. On this small tract of rural land, the Occaneechi have begun a legacy for their children. These plans began to take shape in February 2004, when the tribe purchased 25 acres of rolling farmland on Daily Store Rd. on the headwaters of Stagg Creek. The tribe has worked with the Landscape Architecture Department at North Carolina A & T University and the Rural Initiative Project, Inc. of Winston-Salem to create a master plan for the site, which will include
- A permanent ceremonial ground (completed Spring 2005)
- Tribal Orchards with heirloom apples, chestnuts paw-paws and muscadine grapes (ongoing)
- Reconstructed 1701 Occaneechi Village and 1880’s era farm (in construction)
- Educational nature trails (in planning)
- Tribal museum (in planning)
- Administrative office space, community meeting area, classroom space (in planning)
This complex will serve as an educational tool, not just for the Tribal members, but for the public as a whole. Each Fall since 2005, the Occaneechi tribe has hosted over 600 area elementary and middle school students on the tribal center property, teaching them about traditional dance, lifeways, outdoor cooking, storytelling, flint-knapping, hunting and fishing, and Southeastern regalia. As the complex develops, this type of cultural/educational activity will be done on a regular basis, employing Tribal members as guides and cultural interpreters.
Anyone interested in the lifestyle of the Siouan Tribes of the North Carolina and Virginia Piedmont will find the planned complex an invaluable resource, and the tribe is networking with the Alamance County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as it continues to develop the project. As a tourist attraction, it will, in conjunction with the Tribe’s Pow-wows, festivals, and historical programs, draw thousands of visitors into the Alamance county area, while helping preserve the quiet rural way of life in the community.
The facility will also increase the Tribe’s self-sufficiency by bringing income into the tribal community, and providing employment for tribal members, employment that is much needed with the decline of the tobacco and textile industries in the region. It will make the tribe more independent by giving it a place of its own to hold tribal meetings, classes, and ceremonies without having to use the facilities of others. The Tribal Council will meet here, as will the Occaneechi Youth Council. Adult Literacy Classes for Tribal members, Neighborhood Watch, and other programs that would benefit both Tribal members as well as the community at large would be held here. The Tribe’s Emergency Food Cupboard would benefit from expanded space.
Help Us Fulfill a Dream
The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation is one of the smallest tribes in the southeast, and are composed mainly of families engaged either in agriculture, or manufacturing. Tribal members have volunteered hundreds of hours of work on past projects, and are working hard to make this project a reality.
Alamance County is in the midst of an economic slump, with several of the oldest and largest employers in the area going out of business within the past year. This proposed Tribal Center would be economically good, not just for the Occaneechi, but for the surrounding area as well, by promoting heritage tourism and ultimately employing 10–15 tribal members in various positions at the Center either in the office, the museum, or as interpreters for the reconstructed Village and Log Homestead.
How You Can Help
In order to help raise money for this project, the Occaneechi have different fundraisers and opportunities for you to donate; note that your donation is for the Homeland Preservation fund. Any donation, whether it be $5 or $500 is greatly appreciated. Please be alert to our fundraising campaigns.
If you want to make a tax-deductible donation to the Homeland Preservation Project, please contact the Tribal office at 336-421-1317, or mail to:
Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation
P.O. Box 356
Mebane, NC 27302
The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.
All donations are tax-deductible.