Native connections: Riverkeeper attends first Secotan Alliance conference

Education, Environmental, Sound Rivers

Posted on June 6th, 2024

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman (middle) with Gray Parsons, president of Secotan Alliance, and Erica Lewis, Secotan Alliance board member and treasurer.

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman headed to Manteo this week to attend Secotan Alliance’s “The Spirit of Wingina … and beyond.”

The event brought together members of eastern North Carolina’s native tribes, professors and environmental groups to learn more about the history and culture of coastal tribes and bridge the gap between the native community and environmental organizations.

“This was a really productive way for environmental organizations to make connections with the native community, who are very connected to the Earth and environment and are a marginalized group often more impacted by environmental issues,” Katey said.

Dr. Arwin Smallwood, Dean of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at North Carolina Central University, was one of the presenters.

Wingina was the leader of the Secotan tribe who, in the 1500s, sought to create an alliance with other tribes to overthrow English oppression.

“One meaningful way that Wingina’s spirit was honored during this event was that the president and founder of the Secotan Alliance, Gray Parsons, Marilyn Morrision, who is the chief of the Chowanoke Tribe, and Duvonya Chavis, a member of the Meherrin Tribe, all signed a document stating that these coastal tribes are now in alliance with each other —  just like Wingina had wished before his death,” Katey said.

Katey said she is looking forward to finding ways to engage with this group and other native communities throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds.

Author and historical scholar Dr. Michael Leroy Oberg was a key speaker at the event.

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