The 13th Roanoke Island American Indian Festival and Powwow

By on March 29, 2024

Chief Marilyn Morrison teaching tribal members the importance of honoring those who have passed at a Circle of Life ceremony held on Roanoke Island in 2022. (Photo credit: Joan Collins)

13th Roanoke Island American Indian Festival and Powwow

April 6-7, 2024, from 11am to 4pm each day

Manteo High School Athletic Field on Roanoke Island

By Joan L. Collins – Director, Outreach and Education, Pea Island Preservation Society

The Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc. (PIPSI), is pleased to support the 13th Roanoke Island American Indian Festival and Powwow to be held at the Manteo High School Athletic Field on Roanoke Island on April 6-7, 2024, from 11am to 4pm each day.   The Festival and Powwow is being presented by the Algonquin Indians of North Carolina , Inc., Roanoke Island-Hatteras Indians of Dare County, and the Mattamuskeet-Machapunga Indians of Hyde County, North Carolina.

Our organization’s goal is to make the story of Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island lifesavers broadly known.  Etheridge, who was once enslaved on Roanoke Island, became the nation’s first African American Keeper in the U.S. Life-Saving Service (USLSS) in January 1880 when he took command of the Pea Island lifesaving station, known as the only all-black lifesaving station in USLSS history.  It is important to remember that this historic assignment happened in a southern state in post civil war America.  The station, which was decommissioned in March 1947, remained active and primarily staffed with commanders and crews who were not white at key periods during the nation’s history, shortly after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era in the South, and before the Civil Rights Movement began.

 

 

The Outer Banks is mainly known for historic events such as the famed Wright Brothers’ first flight and the Lost Colony.  However, the lives of the indigenous, the enslaved, and those who were mulatto, and mixed Africans and/or native Americans, however, is not well known.  History has overlooked the lives of these people who were not fully of European ancestors and lived on Roanoke Island and other neighboring locations on the Outer Banks.  They were generally not discussed outside of their communities, as they were considered second class citizens.

Many of the non European residents were a mixture of African, European, and native American residents.  This included many members of the historic Pea Island lifesaving lifesaving station, a facility that included men like the Etheridge who was enslaved and others who were the descendants of enslaved people and people with known Native American ties.  Therefore, PIPSI is pleased to celebrate the upcoming festival and powwow.

Our new checkered black and white logo is intended to be a bold purposeful reminder of this history.  It has been created as a reminder of crews at USLSS and later early U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) lifesaving stations known as having “checkerboard crews”, crews with both black and white surfmen. Those who served lifesaving stations who were considered to be the black part of the checkerboard crews phrase, included men whose families were locally known as being colored, negro, mulatto, and those with known Native American ties who lived on Roanoke Island and neighboring locations.   Those associated with the black component of the phrase were not provided the same rights and opportunities as their white counterparts.  Being the nation’s only “all-black” USLSS crew is also most likely the reason Etheridge and his brave surfmen crew would never live to wear the prestigious USCG Gold Lifesaving Medal, an award posthumously issued to the crew in March 1996, some 100 years after their daring and heroic rescue of nine on board the shipwrecked schooner E.S. Newman on October 11, 1896, during a hurricane.

Cousins Joan Collins and Stephanie Bowser. Their fathers, Herbert M. Collins and William C. Bowser, both deceased, served at the historic Pea Island station. Collins and Bowser are tribal members of the Roanoke-Hatteras Indians of Dare County. (Photo credit: Joan Collins)

The festival and powwow also connect the historic Pea Island lifesaving station to the Algonquin speaking tribes of the North Carolina coast in a special way!  PIPSI’s President, Darrell Collins and Board members Joan Collins and Frank Hester, are cousins of Marilyn Berry Morrison, Chief of the Roanoke-Hatteras Indians and chair of the Algonquin Indians of North Carolina. Their descendants served at the Pea Island lifesaving station and numerous other USCG locations.  Board member Hester is also part of the remarkable record of 400 combined years of service the Berry family holds.  This record includes Joseph Hall Berry, the great grandfather of Chief Morrison, Darrell Collins, Joan Collins, and Hester – a record that includes twenty-one members of the Berry family who have served in the USLSS/USCG.  Their great grandfather, Berry served at the historic Pea Island station, initially as a “temporary surfman” under Keeper Etheridge before enlisting as a surfman in the USLSS, the predecessor to the USCG, in February 1902.  Surfman Berry served at the Pea Island station for 15 years before retiring from the USCG in December 1917.

Be sure to visit the PIPSI tent at the Festival and Powwow on Saturday, April 6th where we will share information about our organization and those who worked at the historic Pea Island lifesaving station with Native American ties.

 



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