By Dorinda G. Dallmeyer
Since the arrival of Paleo-Indians around 11,500 years ago, the Ogeechee watershed has been indispensable to its people. The late Jack Leigh knew the river was not just carving a path to the sea when he said, “Water shapes our lives, and we are shaped by water.”
In 1984, it was Leigh who introduced the Ogeechee River to a world beyond its watershed in his book “The Ogeechee: A River and Its People” (University of Georgia Press). The book combined Leigh’s evocative photographs of the river and its people alongside stories gathered during two years in which he traced the length of the river. These stories revealed to Leigh that, “The Ogeechee River is and always has been a sacred place, rooted in the hearts of its people.”
Since the 1980s, however, census figures reveal dramatic population shifts in the watershed. Some of Georgia’s fastest growing counties now span the Ogeechee tidewater, while many rural counties upstream are losing more people than they are gaining. How do the hearts of today’s people value the Ogeechee in the 21st century?
Thanks to a new project, recent arrivals and residents of long standing have another opportunity to speak about what the Ogeechee means to them. Building on Leigh’s legacy, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and Georgia Southern University are working together to identify, collect, and share these stories. The Ogeechee Storykeeper Project seeks to ensure that the river’s unique cultures, histories, and ecosystems are documented and archived in a way that honors previous generations and helps to cultivate a new sense of community throughout the watershed.
According to Riverkeeper Simona Perry, “By connecting people along the river’s length through the power of story, we aim to strengthen community ownership and stewardship of the entire Ogeechee watershed. Our project is a meaningful way for sharing knowledge and fostering understanding between present and future generations.”
For more information about the Ogeechee Storykeeper Project or to make a donation, contact Simona Perry at 866-942-6222, extension 1, or firstname.lastname@example.org.