American Indian claim staked out
Condensed by Native Village
Marvin Graham and his sister, Gail
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
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
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
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
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
The signs have certainly gotten
attention, which was Graham's
believes support will come when
Native American and
slave history has been ignored
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
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage
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
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
Even if the area is surveyed, after
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