On Tuesday morning, state employees and archeologists were on-site to desilt Magazine Spring at the Historic Halifax Site.
The work was accomplished by the Division of State Historic Sites, Craft Services, overseen by archaeologists from the Office of State Archaeology.
Stewart Braunagel with Craft Services said the last time he knew of the silt being removed was in 1990. He explained the staff will dig and remove about two feet of the silt to get the spring flowing.
“The water is supposed to flow out of the spring right here and come out of that grate and flow down,” he said. “Right now, it is all stopped up.”
Assistant state archaeologists David Cranford and his colleague Mary Beth Fitts, participated in the desliting project.
Cranford said they found a lot of broken glass, and more or less “modern trash.”
“We found a few older pieces, maybe the oldest thing we found was a tin can from the ‘50s or ‘60s,” he said. “We found a 1999 penny, but we were able to get the whole spring exposed. We didn’t really find a bottom in the way we expected to find, but we exposed the main elements and all the walls around.”
Carl Burke, Historic Halifax Site manager, said Magazine Spring is a sacred site, specifically to the Haliwa-Saponi Indians.
“It was a natural source long before the town of Halifax existed,” he said.
To honor the sacred site, some members of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe were present, offering prayers and comments, with Arnold Richardson playing the flute.
Chief Brucie Ogletree Richardson of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe said, “I am so happy we are here today. We know there are many people — their belief has been they are gone, they are forgotten — well we didn’t go anywhere, we are still here today.”
The goal is to keep moving, she added. As a tribe, the members and the elders have been working for a long time to get state recognition.
“And I want to tell you today, our tribal council that is in place, we have taken some steps toward federal recognition that to my knowledge have never been taken before,” she said.
One effort has been the establishment of an ad hoc Magazine Spring Committee. It has to do with the importance of Magazine Spring and what it means to the tribal people.
“These are our ancestors, so the bottom line is we cannot forget what is over here at Halifax,” she said. “As a result, one of the things we did, we started working with the state and county on how can we get some help to get some kind of recognition for the importance of this Magazine Spring.”
Along with photos of other elders, Chief Ogletree shared a 1961 photo at the spring of Haliwa-Saponi Chief W.R. Richardson and Chief Bill Rickard of the Tuscarora Nation of New York.
“Please remember, that was 30 years apart,” she said. “Now, here we are today, 2021, 30 years later, 60 years from the time that this photo was made, with some of our elders trying to bring some attention to the importance of Magazine Spring.”
As a continued part of that effort working with Historic Halifax and the state, a new sign will be constructed about the spring, displaying the Haliwa-Saponi tribal seal. A date is in the works for the unveiling of the sign.
“Hopefully, it will be placed somewhere close to this vicinity or out closer to the highway or the street, so people will know we are no longer a forgotten tribe, or the tribes who were here are no longer forgotten,” Ogletree said.
Another Haliwa-Saponi Indian, Masager “Tom” Richardson, 92, said he is loving life here.
“God has been so good to this body, but I got to tell you God has been so good to this soul.”
Gregory Richardson, N.C. Department of Administration Commission of Indian Affairs executive director said, this is so important, not only for Halifax County and the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, “it’s important for our state and nation to know we still have remnants of our rich history right here in our community, right in the Haliwa-Saponi back yard.”
Senora Lynch said, “Our people are fighting for federal recognition — we deserve it, we have fought for it for many years: my elders, my grandfather and so many others — to reestablish ourselves as Indian people. I am standing here in honor of my mother my grandmother, my great- grandmother, and so many others. I thank God for the non-natives who are here because we need your help too. When you say our name, say it proudly. We don’t have to deny history anymore. Our people wrote Indian on our documents, but it was wiped out. We need to rewrite this history. “
Chief Ogletree said, “We cannot forget the work of our elders — we are determined. We are going to continue moving forward, we did not go anywhere, we don’t plan to go anywhere, our goal is to continue to let others know, yes Haliwa-Saponi, the Indians of North Carolina — we are still here.”
The before and after 3-D models of Magazine Spring are provided by the Office of State Archaeology:
• Before is available at bit.ly/magazinespring-
• After is available at bit.ly/magazinespringafter.
In addition, Burke encouraged folks to watch “Singing on the Land,” a video available on N.C. Historic Sites website, featuring Arnold Richardson on the American Indian flute and Netye Lynch on the hand drum, performing at Magazine Spring.