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Indigenous Land Relationships

 Audio documentaries created by

Quinn Smith, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation,

through Duke Gardens’ Equity Through Stories Program.


Indigenous Land Relationships: North Carolina

A young Occaneechi dancer at a powwow near Hillsborough, NC. Credit: 48 Layers Photography


Indigenous people are as present today as ever before, and we carry with us the knowledge that our ancestors have known for millennia and fought to hold on to amid genocide. This documentary explores Indigenous land relationships throughout North Carolina featuring Vickie Jefferies (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation), Stands Among Elk (Meherrin Nation), and John Blackfeather (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation).

Vickie Jefferies will speak about respectful harvesting practices and medicinal uses for plants from her own perspective as an Indigenous herbalist. Vickie will also talk about her prominent pine needle basketwork. Stands Among Elk wil relate powerful, magical, and whimsical stories about the Meherrin’s relationships with the natural world. These stories include “how the birds got their song” and “how the Creator taught all the medicines.” John Blackfeather will talk about navigating life as an Indigenous person in 1940s Hillsborough, NC. This was when John formed his strong relationship with the natural world. John insists that we must listen to nature because it speaks to us. 

Listen here:


Indigenous Land Relationships: Righting our Relations

Pine trees during winter at the Blomquist Gardens' Piedmont Prairie. Credit: Brian Wells. 


There is a lot of incorrect information about Indigneous people due to incomplete schooling and poor representations in the media. In Righting our Relations, Roo (Catawba Nation) rejects this misinformation and provides an accurate depiction of Indigneous people and their land relationships. 

In the process of correcting our narratives about Indigneous people, Roo elaborates on a variety of topics pertaining to Indigenous land relationships. Roo talks about Indigneous agricultural practices in the modern era, the importance of traditional fire practices, and much more. To conclude, Roo proposes a path toward a more equitable future by describing how we can live in better relation with the land and with Indigenous people. 

Listen here:


The Meherrin Creation Story

The Meherrin Nation, Kawets’a:ka, The People of the Water

One of Meherrin Nation's powwows. Credit: Ivan Richardson.


In The Meherrin Creation Story, Stands Among Elk (Meherrin Nation) tells the fascinating tale of how the world was created according to the Meherrin people. This breathtaking story provides the explanation for many religious traditions and natural phenomena.

The Meherrin Creation Story follows the saga of a celestial being who fell from the Above World named Grandmother Mature Flowers. With the help of some creatures who already lived in the Below World, Grandmother Mature Flowers and her grandson, Sapling, begin to create everything we know today. However, Sapling’s evil twin brother, Flint, tries to undo their hard work by causing chaos at every opportunity. In order to proceed with creation, Sapling must vanquish Flint and restore peace among “Turtle Island.” 

This story is full of sound effects for a truly immersive experience!

Listen here:


Quinn Smith, Jr.

photo of Quinn Smith, Jr. in Duke Gardens

Quinn is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, majoring in public policy and history with a documentary studies certificate. As a documentarian, Quinn strives to challenge our misconceptions of Indigenous people by documenting a long-silenced, shared humanity.

What drew Quinn to the Equity through Stories Program was the ability to uplift Indigenous truths and to forge reciprocal relationships with Indigenous people throughout the Carolinas. Quinn does this by interviewing Indigenous people about their land relationships and by weaving their voices into audio documentaries to be exhibited at the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. He also initiates seed-sharing, harvest-sharing, and other mutually beneficial ventures between Indigenous peoples and Blomquist Gardens. Quinn hopes that his work will help to re-educate Duke Garden’s 500,000+ annual visitors about Indigenous people and provide a healing space for Indigenous people.

Visit Quinn's website here.