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South Carolina – Indians, Native Americans – Catawba

South Carolina SC Native Americans SC Indian Tribes SC Catawba Indians

Name, Language

  • Alternate spellings: Catawba (kə-tô'bə) - also called Issa, Esaw
  • Possible meanings: River People
  • Language family: Siouan

Current Status

Contact Information

SC Location, Territory

  • Traditional: Along the banks of the Catawba River in North and South Carolina - York and Lancaster counties

  • Today: The tribe occupies a 640-acre reservation near Rock Hill, South Carolina - York county
Related SC Names Population Estimates
  • 1600s: 5,000
  • 1775: 400
  • 1990s: 1,400
  • In 1566, the first contact was made with Europeans.

  • In 1650, the Catawba and the Iswa united.

  • The British began to colonize the area that is now South Carolina in the 1670s. The Catawba allied themselves with the new settlers for protection against their traditional enemies – the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee.

  • From 1689-1763, the Catawba fought with the British in the French and Indian Wars.

  • During the 1700s, the Catawba absorbed many smaller tribes, which had been devasted by European diseases and war.

  • In 1711, they fought with the British against the Tuscarora of North Carolina.

  • Joined with other native tribes and fought against the colonists during the Yemassee War in 1715.

  • In 1763, a 15-square-mile South Carolina reservation was established for the Catawba.

  • Fought with the colonists against the British and Cherokee in the Revolutionary War in 1776.

  • South Carolina, in 1840, promised the Catawba cash and a new reservation in exchange for the land they occupied. The land was sold but the state did not keep its promises. The Catawba moved briefly to North Carolina. Some joined the Cherokee.

  • The Catawba returned to South Carolina and purchased 600-plus acres from the state in 1850.

  • In 1973, the Catawba reorganized and formed a non-profit corporation.

  • The Catawba were awarded renewed federal recognition in 1993. At this time, they were paid $50 million NOT to reclaim 144,000 acres of their land in York County.

  • Homes – Round, bark-covered dwellings with a fireplace in the center and opening in the roof to release smoke. Extended families lived in a single dwelling.
  • Villages – Surrounded by a wooden palisade or wall. Consisted of a large, square council house, a "sweat lodge" or sauna, individual homes, and an open plaza for meetings, games, and dances.
  • Farming – Corn, beans, and squash
  • Fishing – Variety of freshwater fish
  • Hunting – Deer, other game
  • Men – Loin cloths made of deerskin. When they went to war, they painted a black circle around one eye and a white circle around the other.
  • Women – Knee-length skirts of deerskin
  • During winter and when traveling, men and women wore pants, leggings, and capes made of various animal hides.
  • Men and women wore jewelry made of shells, beads, and copper ... on special occasions they painted their skin.
Beliefs and Practices
  • The Catawba worshiped a deity known as "He-Who-Never-Dies."
  • The tribe usually had one or more priests or healers who conducted religious rituals and provided herbal medicines.
  • The Catawba believed that the soul of a person who had been killed demanded retribution in order to rest in peace. If a member of the tribe was killed, men would go out to avenge the death, and if successful, bring back a scalp as evidence of revenge.
Web Resources Print Resources
  • Brown, Douglas. Catawba Indians: The People of the River. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1966.
  • Bruch, Susan M. "Catawba." Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998, pp. 373-77.
  • Leitch, Barbara. A Concise Dictionary of Indian Tribes of North America. Alognac, MI: Reference Publications, 1979, pp. 79-81.
  • Merrell, James H. The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
  • Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Instition Press, 1984, pp. 79-81.

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