Towns across Sampson County recognized November as Native American Heritage Month, an effort to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and contributions of a people whose population in North Carolina is the largest of any state in the eastern United States.
Betty Lou Griffin, chairperson of the Richard Clinton chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), has made a concerted effort in recent years to get all municipalities and the Sampson Board of Commissioners to adopt resolutions proclaiming the month as such.
She said the initiative again received 100 percent participation locally, allowing a national effort by the President and governors to likewise receive support here.
“To my knowledge, we are the only Daughters of the American Revolution chapter that gets this done countywide,” said Griffin, who chairs the DAR chapter’s American Indian Standing Committee. “It is important since North Carolina has the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River.”
The Coharie Indian Tribe is located primarily in Harnett and Sampson, descending from the aboriginal tribe of the Neusiok Indians. The Coharie has been recognized by the state of North Carolina since 1971, but ancestry to this area dates back hundreds of years.
In an effort to honor the Coharie and others, Griffin requested all Sampson municipalities proclaim November as National Native American Heritage Month.
“Indians in America helped shape our nation through the hardships of survival, religious ceremonies, socially, as well as politically by their contributions,” said Griffin.
The City Council, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners and others obliged. Griffin offered her praise to all of Sampson’s mayors and its commissioners earlier this month. She said their actions “show unity for the entirety of Sampson County municipalities.”
Native American Awareness Week began in 1976 and recognition was expanded by Congress and approved by President George Bush in August 1990, designating the month of November as National Native American Heritage Month.
The City of Clinton and County of Sampson each detailed the significance of Native Americans to this country, as well as to Sampson, in resolutions recently adopted.
“The history and culture of our great nation have been significantly influenced by American Indians and indigenous peoples; the contributions of American Indians have enhanced the freedom, prosperity and greatness of America today; and their customs and traditions are respected and celebrated as part of a rich legacy throughout the United States,” the city’s proclamation read.
The county noted the Coharie’s contributions to this county.
“The history of our own county includes the vibrant culture and traditions of the Coharie Indians of Sampson and Harnett, who have been recognized as an official tribe by the North Carolina state legislature since 1971.”
Griffin said she is happy for the local support and hopes to see it become a yearly tradition.
“One hundred percent participation shows our county’s American Indian population that we honor and appreciate them and their ancestral contributions,” she stated. “So important were these that many historians voice that the survival of colonists depended upon them. Without their assistance, our history could have evolved differently.”
“Let us continue this action annually,” she implored.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.