Ancient Native American canoe brought to surface from beneath Lake Waccamaw

Ancient Native American canoe brought to surface from beneath Lake Waccamaw
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 5:47 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAKE WACCAMAW, N.C. (WECT) - A piece of Native American history buried beneath Lake Waccamaw for hundreds of years was brought to the surface Wednesday. A team of archaeologists, neighbors, and members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe worked to bring a nearly 1,000-year-old canoe out of the lake.

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 discovery, however, was unexpected. Eli Hill, Jackson Holcomb, and Creek Hyatt are three teenagers who discovered the canoe while swimming in the lake during the summer of 2021.

“I stepped on it and I thought it was a log,” said Hill. “I tried to pick it up and it never came up. So, we kept digging at it and it just kept going. And then the next day, we came back and we started digging some more and it just kept going.”

Hill’s family reached out to the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology about the canoe. A team then worked to move it closer to the family’s pier. The canoe sat there for nearly two years until it was finally brought to the surface Wednesday.

State Archaeologist John Mintz says the lengthy removal process was worth it in the end.

“This canoe is about 1,000 years old, and it’s a southeastern Indian canoe, and it’s originated from this area,” said Mintz. “So, we wanted the local Indian group to be part of it and share with the agency of it.”

The canoe will be taken to a lab in Greeneville to be preserved, studied, and possibly share its secrets.

“We’re looking forward to examining it, running some tests on it, really finding out and going back to our elders and getting the history of it to where we can teach the truth to our people and know that we’ve got concrete evidence to stand on,” said Jacobs.

The teenagers who made the discovery jumped in the water to assist with the recovery effort Wednesday. That is when Hill recognized the importance of the find.

“I realized how much it actually meant to people,” said Hill. “I realize that it means more to them than it does to me. So, I just thought it was a really cool experience for all of them just to be a part of that.”

Dozens of members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe watched as the canoe was brought out of the lake. A feeling of gratitude was felt by many in attendance.

“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.”

The canoe will be on display during an open house at the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Laboratory in Greenville on April 22. For more information, click here.