Cliffs blesses new visitors center
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on June 5, 2011 1:50 AM
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Chief Cecil Hunt and Cultural Chief of the Tuscorora Elisha Locklear speak to guests and dignitaries at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park Visitors Center dedication on Friday.
The new visitors center and museum at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is ready for company. After all, it has been blessed by some experts.
Friday's dedication ceremony included the usual speeches that officially open new buildings, as well as a traditional Native American ceremony to banish the bad and to give thanks for the good.
Elisha Locklear, vice chairman and cultural chief of the Tuscarora Council, gave a prayer in his native tongue. He began with "Jwan," which means hello, and "hehhahskehneh," which means "are you well," speaking to those attending.
Then he prayed to the creator, "squareeeh," saying "nyeweh," or thank you. Locklear thanked the creator for the people at the ceremony, for his sisters, brothers, children, food and the wind that cooled everyone that day. He also thanked the creator for the new building
He ended with "oneh," which means it is finished.
At the end of the blessing, Locklear beat a drum with his hand and sang a short prayer. Other Native Americans attending were Sunshine, Dreamweaver, Catherine Brewington Ammons, the current Ms. Coharie from Sampson County, and Chief Hunt, all of whom danced and joined in the singing.
During the blessing, Locklear held a turtle shell that signifies the year of the turtle, 2011.
"This creature is very unusual, very special and very unique," he said. "The middle of its shell has 13 large blocks. On the outside around the rim are 28 small blocks.
"Beginning with the new moon in January, this year has 13 moons of 28 days. The lowly turtle is the time keeper of creation. When time comes to you and you can get it, grab it with all your strength and ride it until the horse falls."
Park superintendent Daniel Schewlakow noted during the ceremony that the new building will offer the park staff the chance to share more of their love for the Cliffs with the people in their community and is a testimony to the hard work and dedication required to see the project realized.
"We see it as an opportunity to improve our programs and reach more people with what the park has to offer," he said.
One of the speakers was park advisory committee member Barbara Byers. As she recalled the journey to get to this point, she also recalled her own personal life journey at the Cliffs.
After moving to Goldsboro with her family when she was in high school, Ms. Byers would frequently hike and swim at the Cliffs with her parents and siblings.
And it was at the Cliffs where she received a marriage proposal. After marrying and having her own children, she frequently took them to the park on picnics and hikes and to swim.
Working with the local 4-H program, Ms. Byers often takes the youths to the Cliffs for various programs. And 13 years ago, she partnered with the park rangers at the Cliffs to do an annual Earth Day for Wayne County's sixth-graders, which continues today.
Also, each year the Cliffs participates in Big Sweep, a statewide cleanup effort.
"I'm looking forward to where the journey is going from here with the new building," Ms. Byers said.
Also speaking was Lewis Ledford, director of North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. He noted that Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is 66 years old, but still going strong.
He said the Cliffs have seen a lot of history, even witnessing European settlements that came here as early as the 1600s.
The new building will contribute to the community in a number of ways, Ledford said. It will greet visitors to the park, give them a place to go and have some fun and also educate them with its exhibits and cultural hall.
Following the ceremony, the Native Americans held a special smudge ceremony to drive out spirits.
Locklear explained that one of the structural engineers for the new museum and visitor center died while it was being built.
"They weren't able to send him home to Ecuador for burial with his family," he said, "so they cremated him and placed his ashes beside the building."
While the building was being finished, several workers would see the man's ghost just hanging around the building, sometimes during the day, sometimes at night.
"This ceremony honored his grave, sort of like a funeral," Locklear said.
The museum and visitors center will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on the availability of park rangers.
For more information, call the park office at 778-6234.