The Pee Dee Indian Tribe and Dogwood Alliance have partnered to bring a beacon of hope to South Carolina.
Together, we set forth on a pilot project that will advance a regenerative economy; based on ecological restoration, community protection, equitable partnerships, justice, and a full and fair participatory process. Our shared vision is a solution that can be replicated as a model for other communities impacted by climate change and flooding. We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with the Pee Dee Indian Tribe to fulfill our shared vision.
A few years ago, the Pee Dee tribe was gifted a 15-acre tract of land with wetland forests in the Pee Dee watershed. Though developing it would bring income to the tribe, they had no interest in exploiting the land for profit. Instead, they wanted to build a cultural center, plant an organic garden that can provide the tribe with fresh food, and create a place where everyone is welcome to learn about their culture and experience the beauty of Southern wetland forests. “We aren’t interested in trying to make money from the land,” Chief Parr noted. “It’s greed that has gotten us into this mess to begin with.”
“We are trying to do what we do as Indians; we are trying to save the land; our land and our woods are very important to us.”
-Chief Parr, Pee Dee Indian Tribe
On April 10th, this vision came one step closer to reality. The Pee Dee Indian Tribe held a ribbon-cutting event to announce the opening of the Pee Dee Indian Tribe Educational Center, honoring the integration of culture and nature. The grand opening and ribbon cutting is just the beginning. Phase 2 will include the first steps to build a replica of a living village with two wigwams, a boardwalk, and a platform for camping. Phase 3 will feature the completion of the living village replica with wigwams, a sweat house, a garden, and a ceremony yard that will allow people to interact directly with the wetland forests on the property. This will allow visitors to experience firsthand the culture of the Pee Dee Indian Tribe.
We are planting the seeds for new possibilities and developing new engines of economic development tied to land conservation.
The education center will be a place where people can learn about the culture, history, and language of the Pee Dee Indian Tribe— while simultaneously appreciating the value of preserving wetland forests. This project will draw people to the land – where they can camp, hike, kayak, and experience the beauty, magic, and wonder of wetlands.
The leadership of Chief Parr and the council on this project has been an inspiration to all of us.
We are going back to listening and working with nature and not against it. We must move away from destruction, contamination, and the mentality of a quick return on investments that only benefit a few.
The Pee Dee Indian Tribe is supporting rural communities impacted by industrial logging.
Industrial logging intensifies the impacts of climate change, making those communities more vulnerable to heat and flooding due to the constant deforestation (clearcutting) in the surrounding areas. Wetland forest protection and restoration are essential for building climate resiliency and developing new engines of economic development tied to land conservation.
“Our destruction of nature has reached a point that we are out of balance with nature. We have forgotten that humans depend on nature to survive.”
-Danna Smith, Dogwood Alliance
Southern wetland forests are among the most biodiverse forests in the world. They’re home to a wide array of unique plants and animals– such as the Venus flytrap, American black bear, and the Skipper butterfly. According to the World Wildlife Fund, these forests rank among the top ten in North America for reptiles, birds, and tree species diversity and “are some of the most biologically important habitats in North America.”
When we partner with groups like the Pee Dee Indian Tribe, we not only protect these beautiful places, but we remind ourselves of the importance of our relationship to nature.
Investing in protecting and restoring these wetlands gives us hope that we can thrive by exploring new models of regenerative economies and support communities in being more resilient from floods and hurricanes.