Preserving the Swamp's Historical, Cultural & Ecological Landscapes
The Great Dismal Swamp is one of the most unique and valuable ecological landscapes on the U.S. East Coast. Sitting along the border of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, this critical cultural and ecological landscape contains some of the last remains of a massive, swampy forest which once spanned more than 1,000,000 acres - and that is under threat of destruction due to climate change, the expansion of nearby cities, and the proposed construction of an unnecessary and costly new oil and gas infrastructure project (the Atlantic Coast Pipeline). The natural landscape of the Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) isn’t the only thing under threat – the Swamp is also home to an incredibly rich number of cultural and historical sites, including the ancestral lands of the Nansemond Indian Nation and the Meherrin Tribe; the largest known collection of archaeological artifacts from the maroon colonies – generational communities of people who escaped a slaving society by living hidden in the swamp; one of the only known water-based stops on the Underground Railroad to Freedom; and a thriving descendant community of Early Colonial Free People of Color whose families survived an increasingly dangerous, enslaving society by retreating toward the Swamp.
In 2019, in an effort to protect the landscape and elevate the rich cultural history of the people of this region, increase protections around the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (GDSNWR), and elevate the communities to which the Swamp is tied, we created the Great Dismal Swamp Stakeholder Collaborative, a stakeholders’ group designed to empower communities with cultural and historical links to the area: the Nansemond Indian Nation; the descendants of Africans & African Americans who were once enslaved in the Swamp; the descendants of Maroons who lived historically in the Swamp; the descendants of Free People of Color who lived adjacent to the Swamp; and the descendants of early colonial settlers who came to live at the Swamp.