Living on Native Land

Before the land of the Guilford Woods belonged to the college, it was home to the Saura and Keyauwee Native American groups. Early on the Keyauwee group was independently established in the surrounding areas, but their village was vulnerable to attack and around 1715 they joined the Saura nation. In the 1750s the white European settlers came to North Carolina and took over. This land served as a home place for these indigenous people, where they were able to cultivate deep connection to the natural world and a sense of belonging. These tribes remain the rightful heirs of this land, and this should be acknowledged as the landscape that could be sacred land to some, now serves as leisure space for members of the Guilford College community, which took over in 1837. This important distinction allows for the history of the land to be viewed in a more critical, or closer sense.  

The shift from the land being home to the indigenous people, to it being a temporary space for the students of the college—who only call it home for the duration of their studies—creates an interesting dynamic in terms of land use. When land is considered to be your home you treat it with care, and you cultivate a deep connection with it. This land that is a temporary place for students, who only live there for a few years, creates a different type of connection. This is a connection that is not as deep as the indigenous connection to the land, where the land is their home for generations and it becomes deeply ingrained in their culture. It is a connection that is based around lived experience with the land, rather than cultural heritage. 

In this sense the key difference is that the woods have become more of a temporary space with the shift from being native land to being owned and operated by the college. I say temporary because those who are creating experiences on this land are only doing so for the duration of the time that they are studying at Guilford College. In this way the purpose of the land has changed from being a space that was called home for generations, to a space that is called home for a few years at a time. This land that’s purpose has changed so much since being taken from the indigenous people who once lived on it, should be acknowledged as land that does not rightfully belong to those who now have the luxury of complete access to it. It is important to recognize that most of the people who now use the land that makes up the woods, would not be here at all if it weren’t for colonization. 

This recognition of the change in who has had claim to the land is very important when considering the history of the landscape itself, and the impact that the human activity has had on the land. When acknowledging that we are living on native land, we are able to have a better understanding of the way our actions have affected land use. 

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