Some New Contacts

November 9, 2020 Off By Mira Pickus

Lots of new developments this week!

To begin with I spoke with Ms. Courtney Smith from the Orange County Historical Museum (OCHM) who has helped curate the OCHM’s new exhibit, “Journeys of the Occaneechi.” She not only put me in touch a few tribal members — Mr. Lawrence Dunmore, a tribal storyteller and historian, and Ms. Vickie Jeffries — but she also was able to fill in some gaps in my research. For instance, I was able to to establish a good bit of the Occaneechi’s history from the late 1600s to the 1780s and then I knew about their more recent path to tribal recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But between the 1780s and 1980s — I couldn’t find much. Ms. Smith was able to explain that this was because at this point the Occaneechi began to assimilate. They became tobacco farmers in Alamance county, and for a period of time lost their sense of identity. Indeed she told me the name “Occaneechi” even disappeared from newspapers and written records. So the story of the Occaneechi becomes even more complex. It’s a story about losing, discovering, and then reclaiming one’s identity. I’m so excited to speak with Mr. Dunmore, Ms. Jeffries, and hopefully Mr. John Blackfeather Jeffries (another tribal member who was instrumental in the making of this exhibit and in the rebuilding of Occaneechi town) as well about their stories. I will be reaching out to them in the next week and hopefully setting up a time to meet and talk!

Additionally, this week I also spoke with Mr. Tim Magnuson from the Trading Path Association. He has put me in touch with a few local experts on the Couch land (much of which is now Duke Forest) who have ties to some of the Couch descendants. So this coming week, I will also be exploring the Couch land a little bit more. I’m planning to meet with Mr. Magnuson and his contacts (David Southern and Mark Chilton) soon to investigate if I could also speak with some of the Couch descendants.

Lastly, this week I also attended another event at the OCHM about herbalism hosted by Vickie Jeffries. She has spent time studying herbalism and told us about the medicinal uses of well known herbs like rosemary to perhaps lesser known ones like osha root. It was fascinating!

My plan going forward is to follow up with Mr. Lawrence Dunmore, Ms. Vickie Jeffries, Mr. John Blackfeather Jeffries, as well as Mr. Tim Magnuson and his contacts to start setting some initial meetings — and perhaps secure some interviewees!

More coming soon!