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Indigenous Relationships with this Land

What is now Durham was originally the territory of several Native nations, including Tutelo (TOO-tee-lo) and Saponi (suh-POE-nee) -speaking peoples. Many of their communities were displaced or killed through war, disease, and colonial expansion. Today, the Triangle is surrounded by contemporary Native nations, the descendants of Tutelo, Saponi, and other Indigenous peoples who survived early colonization. These nations include the Haliwa-Saponi (HALL-i-wa suh-POE-nee), Sappony (suh-POE-nee), and Occaneechi (oh-kuh-NEE-chee) Band of Saponi. North Carolina’s Research Triangle is also home to a thriving urban Native American community who represent Native nations from across the United States. Together, these Indigenous nations and communities contribute to North Carolina’s ranking as the state with the largest Native American population east of Oklahoma.

Land Acknowledgement generously provided to Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment by Drs. Ryan Emanuel and Malinda Lowery of the Lumbee tribe, to use until Duke University completes the process of working with tribe members statewide to come to agreement on a Duke-wide land acknowledgement. Learn more on this webpage.


Connect with and support Indigenous Nations & organizations

Occaneechi Band of Saponi

The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation—OBSN for short—is a small Indian community located primarily in the old settlement of Little Texas, Pleasant Grove Township, Alamance County, North Carolina. The OBSN community is a lineal descendant of the Saponi and related Indians who occupied the Piedmont of North Carolina and Virginia in pre-contact times, and specifically of those Saponi and related Indians who formally became tributary to Virginia under the Treaties of Middle Plantation in 1677 and 1680, and, who under the subsequent treaty of 1713 with the Colony of Virginia agreed to join together as a single community.


The Haliwa-Saponi are Native American Peoples of the North East Piedmont region of the State of North Carolina. The name Haliwa is derived from the two counties of Halifax and Warren, which are the ancestral homelands of the Saponi People dating back to the early 18th Century. The Tribe consists of just over 4,060 Citizens that live all over the United States and across the globe.  Most of the members live in the very tight-knit communities on the border of Halifax & Warren Counties with Hollister, NC serving as the Tribal Center. 


The Sappony are one of North Carolina's eight state-recognized American Indian tribes. Our traditional homelands are in the High Plains Settlement along the North Carolina - Virginia boundary line and we have inhabited the rolling hills of Person County, NC and Halifax County, VA since the early 1700's. We settled this area before state lines were drawn, and in fact, helped draw the boundary line in 1728 when Sappony Ned Bearskin led William Byrd’s surveying party through the region.

Triangle Native American Society

Triangle Native American Society (TNAS) was founded in 1984 to provide assistance and support for Native Americans in the Triangle and surrounding area, and was incorporated as a non-profit tax-exempt organization in 1985. Since its inception, TNAS has endeavored to promote and protect the Native American identity in the Triangle area by increasing the public’s awareness of the cultural and economic contributions made by Native Americans and enhancing the public recognition of the needs of Native Americans.

7 Directions of Service

7 Directions of Service was founded by Indigenous activists Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Crazy Bear Keck on Crystal's ancestral Occaneechi-Saponi lands, the rural Piedmont region of North Carolina. 7 Directions of Service focuses on protecting traditional pre-US treaty areas (NC/VA/SC), educating Indigenous community members, tribes, surrounding communities, and youth on current environmental issues, developing the next generation of leaders in the environmental movement, promoting activism within our tribes and Indigenous communities, and empowering Indigenous community members to effect change.

Native American/Indigenous Student Alliance at Duke

We serve as a resource for all Native American/Indigenous students on campus through educational, career, cultural, and social support. Further, we work to advance the awareness of Native American/Indigenous cultures across campus, throughout the state of North Carolina, and beyond.


Indigenous Land Relationships in the Carolinas

Indigenous Land Relationships in the Carolinas: An Interactive Audio Tour

This tour features short audio recordings of Indigenous people telling their own stories connected to their relationship with the land. It was created by Quinn Smith (Chickasaw Nation, Chocktaw, Duke University's Trinity College Class of 2023) through Duke Gardens' Equity Through Stories Program.

Indigenous Land Relationships: long-form audio documentaries

These long-form audio documentaries feature Indigenous people telling their own stories connected to their relationship with the land. They was created by Quinn Smith (Chickasaw Nation, Chocktaw, Duke University's Trinity College Class of 2023) through Duke Gardens' Equity Through Stories Program.


Rooted in Relationality

Rooted in Relationality series

Rooted in Relationality is an introductory series of zines to connect people with plants and their medicine. It is made by Tigerlily Kaynor as part of Duke Gardens' Equity Through Stories Program.