Native Village
Youth and Education news
October 2010 Volume 1

American Indian claim staked out in Brunswick
Condensed by Native Village

North Carolina: Marvin Graham and his sister, Gail Graham. are descendents of Cape Fear Indians. They still carry on ancient traditions, including buring fish heads in the ground for fertilizer and traveling the old Indian trails. Both have pledged to protect their ancestral lands slated for development. 

The problem is: none of this land is theirs, according to today's laws.

Graham, 55, says his roots are traced back to the 1600s when Native Americans and black slave intermarried on the west bank of the Cape Fear River. The history and knowledge haven been passed down by family members for hundreds of years.

And that gives his family the rights to the land, he said.

In fact, his family still buries fish heads in the ground to make fertilizer. And they travel the old Indian trails.

Now he wants this land returned to its ancestral owners or at least preserved from development. But his way of getting the word out is causing a stir among the people with the legal deeds.

"We're going to stand here and fight just like our forefathers did," Graham said. "We're fierce fighters. We ain't going down."

He's gone before Brunswick County officials several times. He and Gail also spoke in opposition to South Cape development, slated for 400 acres near Mallory Creek. Officials ordered an archaeological survey before approving the development.

Graham is now posting hand-painted signs reading "Cape Fear Indians Land Trust," on properties along N.C. 133. But property owners aren't amused.

"They're vandalizing private property," said Nelson McRae. "They can say what they want, but it's illegal technically. They're going to get in a lot of trouble."

"They do not have permission to tamper with our property,"  said another property owner, David Sprunt.

The signs have certainly gotten attention, which was Graham's intention.
He believes support will come when people realize that:

Native American and slave history has been ignored
Their stories and deeds have been changed
The government has never repaired the damages done when they took Native lands.

But his practices have led to strained relations with other black history groups. "He's kind of an outlier," said Eulis Willis from Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission

What's not in dispute is that the area is historically important.  Nathan Henry is an archaeologist with the N.C. Office of State Archaeology. He describes the land as a prime location for an archaeological site.
Pottery, spear points, piles of oyster shells or canoes from the American Indians might be found. Or, there could be remnants of outbuildings, glass, pottery or tools from the colonial era.

Historian Jim McKee agreed. "There's all kinds of stuff, and you never know what you're going to find," he said. "Every day people are finding pieces."

Even if the area is surveyed, after the information is collected and artifacts removed, developers may still continue their work.

"People think we're going to take their land, but there's no way we could do that," Graham said. "North Carolina is pretty serious about property owners' rights

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