Protect the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Protection Overlay for St. Helena Island

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Historic St. Helena Island ( in Beaufort County, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation is the largest Sea Island with contiguous Gullah/Geechee culture throughout the island.  Not only has the self-determination and self-sufficiency of the native Gullah/Geechees of St. Helena been the reason that this rich unique cultural community has not only thrived since the 1500s, but it has survived the onslaught of destructionment via gated areas, resorts and golf courses surrounding the island up and down the southeastern coast.  One the major reasons that St. Helena Island has remained a unique rural culturally rich Sea Island is because the community fought for the “Cultural Protection Overlay District (CPO)” for this island.  Beaufort County has upheld the CPO as a zoning law that protects the Gullah/Geechee culture of St. Helena Island since this district came into existence in the 1990s to prevent:

  • Restricted / Gates Areas
  • Resorts
  • Golf Courses

The purpose of the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay District zone which covers the entire island and the outer lying minor islands including adjacent Pine Island is “to provide for the long term protection of the culturally significant resources found on St. Helena Island.  The CPO acknowledges St. Helena‘s historic cultural landscape and its importance as a center of Beaufort County’s most notable concentration of Gullah/Geechee culture.”

At the beginning of December 2022 a company that seeks to bring destruction to Pine Island and St. Helena Island requested to have Pine Island removed from the Cultural Protection Overlay District in order to allow them to build a gated resort and golf course that would not only cut off the historic waterway access for the native Gullah/Geechees of St. Helena Island, but would also remove the forested area of this barrier island which has protected larger St. Helena Island for generations.  The 498 acres of Pine Island has kept its name because this island is primarily maritime forest that has been hunted and the exterior of the island has been used for subsistence and recreational fishing.  Just like St. Helena Island, Pine Island has also been a place of subsistence due to the farmland and fishing areas that have served as places of harvest for decades.  All of this will be lost if the building of 66 homes, 10 docks, a museum (to exploit the artifacts that are being uncovered) and an 18 hole golf course are allowed on this ecologically sensitive island that is already dealing with sea level rise impacts. 

You cannot access Pine Island without driving through historic St. Helena Island.  Take a journey to St. Helena Island via the award winning story map and see why this unique place does not need to be disturbed by being opened up to destructionment via a resort, golf course or gated area.  This tactic has been used to displace native Gullah/Geechees from other Sea Islands and the southeastern coast numerous times.  St. Helena Islanders are standing up to stay on their island once again!  We binya!  We ain da gwine nowhey!

We are calling on you to stand with the Gullah/Geechees of St. Helena Island to protect our cultural heritage and the sustainability of our island!  Tell Beaufort County to keep the St. Helena Island Cultural Protection Overlay District in tact as it is!  DO NOT provided any text changes to the CPO!  DO NOT allow any map amendments to the CPO District!  DO NOT allow any building on Pine Island!  Stop the destructionment of historic St. Helena and Pine Islands in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and continue to protect the human and environmental rights of native Gullah/Geechees!

Sign the petition:

The Beaufort County Planning Commission will meet to discuss this matter on Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 6 pm before sending this on to Beaufort County Council.  The meeting will be held in Beaufort County Council Chambers at the County Administrative Building, 100 Ribaut Rd, Beaufort, SC.   Please sign and share this petition and attend and speak out to let Beaufort County know that you support the St. Helena Island Gullah/Geechee Famlee and you want to the St. Helena Cultural Protection Overlay District zoning to remain as it is!

Tenki Tenki fa standin wid de Gullah/Geechee!


  1. Betty Jenkins

    I want to save our culture

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