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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

The Coharie ("Schohari"), which means "Drift Wood" In Tuscarora, are a Native American Tribe who descend from the Carolina Iroquoian Tuscarora nation. They derived their name from the remaining Tuscarora families in the region who developed the communities of Coharie, named after Tuscarora Chief Coharie (Cohary) who was killed alongside Chief Hancock during the Tuscarora war. They are located chiefly on the Little Coharie River, in Sampson and Harnett counties in North Carolina. The Coharie are one of eight 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. Since 1960 individuals may self-identify ethnicity on the census. The age distribution within the Coharie tribal nation in the TDSA is predominantly adults between the ages of 21 and 65.

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

Relationships to other North Carolina Tribes[edit]

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 century[edit]

Historians generally contend that the Coharie are descendants of the Iroquoian-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 century[edit]

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.

Families of Coree, Waccamaw, and Neusiok Indians began to seek refuge from colonial incursions in the coastal areas of northern and northeastern North Carolina. They moved to the frontier, what is now Harnett and Sampson counties. There they established a small base. Survivors intermarried and created a new community.[citation needed].

Nineteenth century[edit]

Throughout the 1800s, the Coharie built their community in Sampson County. As free people of color, the Coharie 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 free people of color. They lost their right to vote and bear arms. The rebellion has so frightened slaveholders that they sought to control gatherings of free blacks, their voting, and right to bear arms.

In 1859, the Coharie established their own subscription school. In 1911, the Coharie asked the state to provide Indian schools in Sampson County. In that same year, the Coharie established New Bethel Indian School in New Bethel Township. In 1912, the Coharie established a school in Herring Township; after the first year, the state stopped supporting the school. Under segregation, it already supported one for colored children (a group to which it classified all non-white children, a group to which it assigned the self-identified Coharie.)

Following the precedent set by the Croatan (now Lumbee) of Robeson County, the Coharie established a semi-independent school system, for which North Carolina retained some oversight. While the state legislature rescinded its permission for the system in 1913, it reinstated the separate Coharie school system four years later. The tribe had lobbied the state legislature with assistance from its attorney. In 1917, the East Carolina Indian School was built in Herring Township.

See Also[edit]



  • 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.