But after the area was hit with back-to-back hurricanes in the 1990s, the Coharie River became clogged with downed trees, debris and beaver dams. As a result, the waters spread over the river banks, causing a loss of productive farmlands, forests and other natural assets. For years, the Coharies and the surrounding community were unable to access the river that was such an important part of their culture. So Coharie leaders decided to take back the river, launching an initiative that is engaging both tribal elders and young adults to restore it.
Our Resourceful Communities program partnered with the University of North Carolina’s American Indian Center, a public service center that supports tribal nations, to connect Coharie leaders with a state agency partner that provided funding for the stream restoration project. We provided a grant that equipped young tribal members with environmental job skills, and helped remove beaver dams and debris, reopening the river for fishing, traditional ceremonies, kayaking and more. The Coharies, young and old, logged over 5,000 miles cleaning up the river, making it possible for the next generation of Tribal leaders to experience what Phillip Bell of the Coharie Tribe has described as “the spirits awakening on the river” and bringing the community together.
Why This Project Matters
Partnerships with groups like the Coharie tribal community represent what our Resourceful Communities program is all about— unleashing the power of grassroots groups to preserve their rural landscapes, move people out of poverty and celebrate communities’ unique cultures. River restoration efforts will continue in the coming year, to address devastation from record-setting floods in the wake of the recent Hurricane Matthew that severely impacted the Coharie and other Tribal communities in eastern North Carolina.
“We appreciate the support that The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program and the American Indian Center have provided to our efforts. The Great Coharie River Initiative has excited and aroused the passion of the Coharie tribe. Our elders and youth understand more every day the healing medicine that our river holds and we now have reclaimed a part of us that was lost.”
- Greg Jacobs, Coharie Tribal Administrator
A People and Their River
The story of the Coharie Tribe and their connection to the Great Coharie River