When you think about what the Earth would have looked like 1,000 years ago, I’m sure it’s very hard to picture what you might see. Imagine trying to think about what North Carolina looked like during this same time before being named a state and overrun by settlers is probably hard to picture.
There was life here before colonization, wars and every other moment in American history you were taught in school. Indigenous communities made up the land before there was North Carolina. Today, many of these communities are still learning and discovering their history dating back hundreds to thousands of years. A piece of that history was recently discovered in southeastern North Carolina.
A team of archaeologists and community members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe discovered a 1,000-year-old canoe buried beneath Lake Waccamaw. The group was able to safely remove this piece of history from the lake. This discovery was by surprise after three teenagers who were swimming in the lake in the summer of 2021 came upon a log. The teenagers tried to remove what they thought was a log but kept discovering more and more log after digging. The North Carolina Office of State Archaeology was called in and determined it was no log but an ancient canoe.
The process was lengthy but finally, the team of community members and archaeologists were able to remove the canoe. Members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe watched as the canoe was brought out of the lake with many of them in attendance sharing a moment of connection with a piece of their history.
Waccamaw Siouan Chief Michael Jacobs says the canoe is a rare chance to learn more about Native American culture in southeastern North Carolina.
“That canoe at 28 feet long would have carried many a brave,” said Jacobs. “We feel like in our heart, it’s a history that we’re still exploring and understanding because this is the first time we’ve had access.”
The canoe will be transferred to Greenville, North Carolina to be preserved and researched. The canoe will be on display at the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation for a limited time. For many people in the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe, this discovery will help tell the true story of their tribe.
“Our history is still unfolding,” said Jacobs. “When the colonists made contact with our tribe, there’s a lot of the things that we hailed as historical and meaningful to us that we’re still putting together.”