Preserving Cultural Traditions and Practices of Native American Communities in South Carolina

For over 13,000 years, Native Americans have been the first inhabitants of what is now South Carolina. Despite the drastic decrease in their population following contact with Europeans, many tribes still reside in the state. Native Americans have used countless places in South Carolina during their long presence, such as villages, small settlements, shell rings, mounds, soapstone quarries, clay pits, and resource extraction sites. These places are now part of the archaeological record and are associated with the many Native American cultures past and present in the state. Today, Native Americans are considered a “minority group” in the United States.

However, many tribes have special governmental status and recognition as a distinct government on U. S. soil. They continue to fight for recognition and rights as separate nations, recognizing their government and cultural heritage in the United States long before the arrival of Europeans.

Examples of Native American cultural burning can be seen all over the American landscape. In the Appalachian forests of the eastern United States, oak and chestnut trees were selectively burned to promote vigorous regrowth of desired nut crops. The iconic upland grasslands of the Midwest were likely also burned by indigenous people to create pasture for herd animals. The PDIT (Pee Dee Indian Tribe) is a small American Indian tribe located along the Pee Dee River, in the Pee Dee region of northeastern South Carolina. It is proud to be a member of the National Congress of American Indians and also a member of the South Carolina Commission on Native American Affairs. In addition, it is an active member of numerous regional national indigenous American advocacy organizations (% 26%) rights groups. The arrival of Europeans had a continuous and devastating impact on Native American cultures.

In 1716, it was recorded that a Pee Dee named Tom West approached the colonial government of South Carolina on behalf of the Cheraw to reconcile peace with the colony. John Barnwell, a member of the South Carolina Assembly, led about 30 whites and about 500 friendly Indians, mostly from Yamassee, to fight the Tuscarora in North Carolina. In 1741, William Bull, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina granted commissions drawn up on parchment to several chiefs of the Catawba nation, including Captain Twenty of the Pee Dee. A cultural period is a period of time that is defined by having similar characteristics or conditions; in South Carolina, it is commonly defined as including the Paleoindian, Archaic, Forested, and Missisipian periods. The names of North Carolina recognize a group descended from Saponi, Tutelo and Occaneechi tribes as Indians from Person County. The political and cultural importance of Pee Dee people to this area is why Europeans named the Pee Dee River (26%) and region after them. In 1942, a school began accepting children from indigenous communities in other counties in eastern North Carolina.

Mary Epps wrote land for a school for Indians in Person County, North Carolina and southern Virginia. Tribal government offices are located on land granted to them in Marlboro County, South Carolina. Yeardly agrees to buy land from Roanoke Indians but dies before their settlement is established.

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