Sappony Heritage Youth Camp: Saving the Sappony Tribe’s Culture and Community
by Shelia Wilson
Before the establishment of the Sappony Heritage Youth Camp, many families from this American Indian community had what could be called mini-heritage camps every summer. People in the community started talking about the many children who were missing out on this great experience. Once the Sappony Heritage Youth Camp was formally established, more people got involved so that today it includes most of the youth in our community. The camp is operated totally by volunteers who have Sappony connections. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparent, aunts and uncles, and even people without children, work together to make the camp run smoothly. The elders in the community are right there sharing stories with the youth and the adult volunteers. Indeed, the main activity of the camp is to build bonds between the elder volunteers and the youth who attend the camp. Forging these bonds between generations, and within generations, is how the camp will save the Sappony culture and community. When you know where “home” is you can go anywhere in the world.
The Sappony Tribal Center is the focus of the camp’s cultural activities. These include quilting, sharing stories about the farming heritage of the people, and maintaining the tribal fire-pit, made by campers and adult volunteer from foundation rocks from all seven family home places. During the evenings the campers attend Vacation Bible School at Calvary Baptist Church, the American Indian community church, which is a tradition in itself. The Sappony community at large sees the Sappony Heritage Camp as something so much more than a typical camp, and the camp committee works all year long to bring the best of Sappony culture, community, and heritage to the campers.
Shelia Wilson is a folklife specialist and member of the Sappony tribe.
Wilson, Shelia. “Sappony Heritage Youth Camp.” North Carolina Folklore Journal 56.2 (Fall-Winter 2009): 28-29.