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South Carolina Indians & Native Americans – History


SC SC Indians, Native Americans SC Indian & Native American History


Paleoindian Period
20,000-8,000 BC

  • Nomadic people, believed to be North America's first inhabitants, crossed from Asia to North America via a land bridge in the Bering Strait formed during the Pleistocene Ice Age.
  • Small bands of people spread out across North America and hunted large game such as mammoths, mastadons, saber-toothed tigers, and bison.
  • By the end of this period, present-day South Carolina was populated by Paleoindians.


  • Archaic Period
    8,000-1,000 BC

  • Pleistocene Ice Age ended and the climate warmed.
  • Large game such as mastodons and saber-toothed tigers died out rapidly, possibly due to intensive hunting.
  • Indians began fishing, gathering plants, and hunting smaller game.
  • Groups moved less often and began using a greater variety of tools made of stone, wood, and bone.
  • Pottery was developed in some areas, making food storage easier.
  • Overall population increased due to better adaptation.


  • Woodland Period
    1,000 BC-900 AD

  • Pottery became widespread.
  • Some groups developed a yearly migration cycle, moving each season to make the best use of their food resources.
  • Semipermanent villages were formed.
  • Plant collection evolved into agriculture.
  • Ceremonial burial of the dead was common.
  • Large earthen mounds were built for ceremonial purposes.


  • Mississippian Period
    900 AD-1500 AD

  • The mound building culture flourished and large, permanent towns developed.
  • Corn, beans, and squash became the primary source of food, though hunting and fishing remained important.
  • Crops were planted and harvested communally, providing food for entire villages and large towns.
  • Craftsmen made elaborate tools, jewelry, and ceremonial objects.
  • Extensive trade networks developed.


  • Historic Period

    1520
  • Coastal Indians met Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez Ayllón near Pawley's Island. 140 Indians were taken as slaves, including one man whom the Spanish called Francisco Chicora. Chicora was taken to Spain, taught Spanish, and exhibited at the Royal Court.


  • 1523
  • Ayllón returned to form a Spanish settlement with Francisco Chicora as his guide. Chicora escaped shortly after they arrived. The settlement lasted only 3 years.


  • 1540
  • Hernando de Soto passed through South Carolina, and visited the "town" of Cofitachiqui.


  • 1562-1565
  • French Captain Jean Ribault formed a short-lived colony near Port Royal in Beaufort County. They were assisted by the Cusabo tribes.


  • 1666
  • Captain Robert Sandford, an Englishman, explored the South Carolina coast. He was accompanied by Dr. Henry Woodward who stayed behind to live among the Cusabo tribes for four years, to establish relations and learn their language.


  • 1670
  • The English colony of Charles Towne was established.


  • 1674
  • Henry Woodward expanded Indian trade beyond the coastal tribes by signing a treaty with the Westo.
  • Slavery of Indians was officially sanctioned by the colony around this time.


  • 1711-1712
  • Several South Carolina Indians fought with the British against the Tuscarora of North Carolina in the Tuscarora War.


  • 1715-1716
  • Poor treatment of Indians by English traders resulted in an Indian uprising lead by the Yemassee that became known as the Yemassee War. Approximately 100 settlers were killed. Indian losses were far greater.


  • 1750
  • By mid-1700, virtually all of the smaller Indian tribes throughout South Carolina disappeared, probably merging with larger groups, such as the Catawba and Cherokee of South Carolina or the Creeks of Georgia.


  • 1830
  • The Indian Removal Act was passed by the United States government.
  • The same year, John Ross, a Cherokee, argued against the Indian Removal Act in the Supreme Court and won. President Andrew Jackson ignored the court's decision.


  • 1838
  • 16,000 Cherokee were forced to leave their eastern homeland and travel on foot to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. On the march, known as Trail of Tears, at least 2,000 died.


  • 1993
  • The Catawba Tribe received federal recognition.


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