SAPELO ISLAND, Ga. -- An island community feels its way of life is under attack.
On Sapelo Island in Georgia, the Gullah Geechees feel they are being pushed out.
"These places are precious to us and we don't want to lose it," said Cornelia Bailey, one of 45 full-time residents on Georgia's Sapelo Island, a barrier island nestled just above St. Simons.
The people are part of the Hog Hammock Gullah-Geechee community. They are descendants of slaves who worked on the island's plantation. The Geechees still live on the island that generations of family inhabited.
"It's a lot of passed down history and culture and so," Bailey said.
The Geechees live off the land. The island's natural resources are plentiful for the hunters and gathers: fish, oysters, clams, wild animals, and many plants.
The Hog Hammock community has two churches, one restaurant and a small store.
Some of the Geechee descendants live and work on the mainland now. Children take the ferry to school every morning, and many who live on the island keep a car on the mainland at the dock.
Bailey said those who live off the island still stay close to their family.
"They come over here and gather their life everlasting tea," Bailey explained. "They come over here and gather oysters and clams and go fishing because they're right down the road, they're right in Savannah or Brunswick or Jacksonville."
Bailey said although she and other Sapelo Island residents pay county taxes, they don't receive the same benefits as those on the mainland. For instance, she said although they pay for garbage pickup, there is none; they still haul their trash to the island's dumpsters.
"We're paying taxes. We don't get garbage services, we don't get road services, we don't get sewage services, we don't get road services," Bailey said. "We don't get any of the services that if most places if they lived there, they're responsible for some of those services and we don't get any of those services."
She and many of the residents experienced a hike in taxes over the past year.
"If your taxes have gone from $200 last year to over $2,000 to $3,000 this year, that's a big jump," Bailey said.
So much that many feel their way of life is being threatened.
"We're going to preserve and keep Hog Hammock at all costs," Bailey said.
Much of the island way has already been lost. There were originally five communities. There is now just one. Only 45 full time residents remain.
But "outsiders", as Bailey called them, are discovering the island. Some have purchased land and built homes.
Bailey is afraid if the Geechees can't afford the new taxes, they'll be forced out, creating more land available for purchase.
The Geechees are fighting for their culture. To live naturally, making tea from wild persimmon and jump ropes from cat briar vines. To keep it the way it's been for decades.
"We don't want to go someplace where there's such restriction on things that we can't do it or we can't enjoy the things we enjoy here," Bailey said. "That traditionally, we have enjoyed since my people have enjoyed, since even when they were slaves they were able to fish and hunt and gather and so that's the way it was supposed to be."
First Coast News tried to contact the county to find out why the taxes were increased on Sapelo Island. We have not heard back and will continue to attempt to contact those officials.
First Coast News