Open main menu

The Coharie ("Schohari"), which means "Driftwood[1]" in Tuscarora, are a Native American tribe who descend from the Tuscarora nation. This Iroquoian-speaking tribe mostly left the state in the early 18th century, under pressure from English colonists and Native American enemies. They had been located in the interior. By 1722 they announced that the tribe had relocated to New York, where they colocated with Iroquois cousins, and became the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois League.

Total population
2,632 enrolled members
Regions with significant populations
North Carolina - Sampson and Harnett counties
English, Carolina Iroquoian (historical)
Protestant Christianity, Tribal religion (historical)
Related ethnic groups
Tuscarora, Neusiok, Coree

There were remnants of Tuscarora in North Carolina. They gradually intermarried with other peoples, but organized self-government again in the 20th century. They are located chiefly on the Little Coharie River, in Sampson and Harnett counties in North Carolina. The Coharie are one of seven state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina.



The Coharie population of Harnett and Sampson counties has steadily increased from 755 in 1970 to almost 2,700 estimated in 2007. As of 2011, there are 2,791 enrolled Coharie members.[2]

According to the 2000 census, the Coharie population in Sampson County is 1029, and 752 in Harnett County, for a total of 1,781. The Coharie Tribe consists of 2,632 enrolled members, with approximately 20% residing outside the tribal communities in Harnett and Sampson counties. The Coharie community consists of four settlements: Holly Grove, New Bethel, Shiloh, and Antioch.


The state of North Carolina recognized the Coharie Tribe in 1971. Clinton, North Carolina is the tribal seat. In 1975, the tribe chartered the Coharie Intra-Tribal Council to serve as a private non-profit organization established to promote the health, education, social, and economic well-being of the Native people of Sampson and Harnett counties.

The Coharie Intra-Tribal Council is housed in the old Eastern Carolina Indian School building, a school that served the Native Americans of Sampson, Harnett, Cumberland, Columbus, Person, and Hoke counties from 1942 until 1966. At that time, the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act had ended legal racial segregation of public schools.

The Coharie Indian Tribe elected their first tribal chief in 1910. Tribal affairs are led by a tribal chief and seven tribal council members. The Coharie political leadership oversees the four communities of Coharie Indians from three geographical locations in Sampson County and one region in Harnett County. Many members are affiliated with churches in their communities:

The Coharie Tribal Center is located: 7531 North US 421 Hwy. Clinton, North Carolina 28328

Tribal Government StructureEdit

When European explorers arrived in what is now North Carolina, American Indians already had long-established ways of organizing and governing their communities. Colonization forced most tribes to give up their lands and abandon their ways of life. Since the 1800s, many tribes have reunited and recovered their heritage. They have fought — and are still fighting — for respect, recognition, and the right to govern themselves.

The Coharie Tribe has a tribal governing body. The governing bodies consist of two boards. The Coharie People Board is a governing body elected by the tribal community. This board oversees the tribal functions and the tribal office building. Tribal functions include the annual powwow in September and the annual Coharie Princess Pageant in July. The board consists of nine people. This board has a chairman, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, and members. From this board, three members are voted and agreed upon to go to the Coharie Intra-tribal Council board. This board oversees and governs all the finances, (e.g. grants), petitions for federal recognition, tribal enrollment, staffing, and other executive duties. This board consists of an elected chairman, vice chair, secretary, and members. The tribe also has an elected tribal chief whose duties are mainly of traditional stature (e.g. naming ceremonies, blessing of powwow arena, representing the tribe at other tribal and statewide functions).[3]

Relationships to other North Carolina TribesEdit

The Coharie have intermarried predominantly with the Lumbee and Tuscarora Indians of Robeson County, as well as with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.


Seventeenth centuryEdit

Historians generally contend that the Coharie are descendants of the Algonquian-speaking Neusiok and Coree, as well as the Iroquoian Tuscarora, and the Siouan Waccamaw, who occupied what is now the central portion of North Carolina. In the early seventeenth century, the Coree lived along the Big Coharie and the Little Coharie Rivers in present-day Sampson County.[citation needed]

Eighteenth centuryEdit

Between 1730 and 1745, intertribal conflicts as well as competition over land and resources between Native peoples and English colonials caused numerous wars. The trade in deerskins and Indians found some tribes capturing members of traditional enemy tribes to sell as slaves to the colonists. In addition, Eurasian infectious diseases such as measles and smallpox, to which the Natives had no natural immunity, decimated many communities. The epidemics disrupted their societies.

Nineteenth centuryEdit

Throughout the 1800s, the Coharie Indians built their community in Sampson County. The Coharie Indians held the right under state law to own and use firearms, and vote in local elections. But, the 1830s brought events that reduced their civil rights. The federal Indian removal policy of the 1830s forced tribes from the east to move west of the Mississippi River. More significantly, following Nat Turner's slave rebellion of 1831, the state passed legislation on 1835 reducing the rights of non White people. They lost their right to vote and bear arms. The Convention of 1868 removed the ban.[4]

In 1859, the Coharie Indians established their own subscription school. In 1910, the Coharie Indians established an Indian school in Dismal Township. In 1911, the Coharie Indians established New Bethel Indian School. In 1943, the state of North Carolina established and built East Carolina Indian School, the first primary through high school Indian school, in Herring Township in Sampson County.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ North Carolina Rivers: Facts, Legends, and Lore, By John Hairr p. 59
  2. ^
  3. ^ JaNella Williams et. all, "Learn NC: About the Coharie", date accessed April 1, 2015,
  4. ^ Weeks. "Lost Colony of Roanoke" as cited in Grady, Don Avasco. "The Coharie Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina: A Collection of Oral Folk History" (Phd. diss, UNC Chapel Hill,1981)


  • Brownwell, Margo S. "Note: Who Is An Indian? Searching For An Answer To the Question at the Core of Federal Indian Law", University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 34 (Fall-Winter 2001-2002): 275-320.
  • Lederer, John. The Discoveries of John Lederer. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1958.
  • McPherson, O.M. Indians of North Carolina: A Report on the Condition and Tribal Rights of the Indians of Robeson and Adjoining Counties of North Carolina. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1915.
  • "Pamphlet", N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs, 1990.
  • Ross, Thomas E. American Indians in North Carolina, Southern Pines, NC: Karo Hollow/Carolinas Press, 1998, pp. 149–162
  • Smith, Martin T. Archeology of Aboriginal Culture Change in the Interior Southeast: Depopulation During the Early Historic Period, Gainesville, FLA: University of Florida Press, 1987.