CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah Geechee nation, was presented with South Carolina’s highest civilian honor – the Order of the Palmetto.

A native of St. Helena Island, Queen Quet is the first person from her island to receive the prestigious honor, according to a news release Wednesday.

It was presented to her in recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary achievement, service and contributions on a national and statewide scale.

“Queen Quet has received approximately 300 awards and honors over the years and sees this one as not only for her but for the entire Gullah/Geechee Nation, especially for her ancestors that built South Carolina through their knowledge and skills,” the release stated.

Gov. McMaster spoke about the outstanding work she has done on a global level to ensure the preservation of the Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah language and Geechee dialect.

“Chieftess Queen Quet has been all over the world promoting and presenting to people the Gullah/Geechee culture,” said Gov. McMaster. “Her road began in the 1980s when she discovered a passion for teaching others about Gullah/Geechee culture. She founded the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition to advocate for the people. Later, she testified for the United Nations.”

Gov. McMaster said South Carolina has played a prominent role in the history of the United States, “and the Gullah Geechee aspect of it is not only fascinating and probably the most beautiful dialect.”

Quet is an author, historian, preservationist, and environmental justice advocate. “Disya award sweet as a Gullah/Geechee Palmetto rose,” she said of the honor.

She said it was a blessing to accept the recognition. “This is major, as a lot of the youths would say, to have an opportunity to receive the highest order of this state—that my ancestors literally built this state, literally had to take the ballasts off the same ships that they were brought in – from Sullivan’s Island to downtown Charleston – and make those cobblestone streets. I can just feel the ancestors with me today shouting and just giving thanks with me for this opportunity.”

A celebration for this honor will take place Friday evening at Cannon Street Theater in Charleston, where she will launch “Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Awareness Month 2021” during the Moja Art Experience reception.

To learn more about this event and others happening this weekend, please click here.