Engaging citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation in the protection of endangered species
On the Sea Islands of the eastern United States exists a direct link to the continent of Africa. In these disparate outposts—off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, and northeastern Florida, the Gullah/Geechee culture began during the enslavement of African people in America. Due their geographical isolation, residents did not have significant contact with people of other races, and so were able to maintain their many elements of African culture, language, and traditions.
Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine’s role as the Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation has increasingly taken on the additional responsibility of environmental stewardship for her people. She has spoken before the United Nations, the US State Department, a number of legislative bodies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, acted as an Expert Commissioner in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and was a participant in the White House Conference on Conservation.
The initiative Queen Quet launched through her TogetherGreen fellowship was the Gullah/Geechee Saving Environment Actions (S.E.A.) and Marine Ecology (M.E.) Project which was an interactive educational project restore and manage part of the Sea Island habitat with a specific focus on the oyster beds. Through the project Gullah/Geechees from Charleston, SC to Yulee, FL were educated on the habitat of the Sea Islands that range from North Carolina to Florida. Each participant learned why oysters are a keystone of that environment and how each oyster assists in the purification of water as well as how oyster beds keep the ecology of the local region in balance. The Gullah/Geechee SEA & ME Project was able to engage hundreds of people from ages 3 to 99 in projects concerning Gullah/Geechee traditional fishing methods and behaviors in the environment that have the least amount of negative impact on the local waterways. Approximately 400 bags of oyster shells were collected by participants in the project and these were replanted around the Hunting Island Nature Center, which is a natural wildlife preserve and South Carolina state park site.
Queen Quet has now been asked to provide trainings at a number of national conferences including the inaugural “National Adaptation Forum” and several conferences of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the focus on integrating traditional cultural knowledge in discussions on climate change impacts and environmental habitat restoration and habitat maintenance plans