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The Waccamaw Indians: History in the Making

On Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday, Nov. 4, South Carolina's Waccamaw Indian People will celebrate their history and heritage at their annual Pauwau on Waccamaw Land in Aynor, SC.

It will be a great opportunity for those who care about our original Americans to experience their traditions and culture and to learn about the challenges that continue to confront our Waccamaw brothers.

The tribe's website includes the above video of Chief Harold "Buster" Hatcher as he discusses the traditions and history of his people. Here is an excerpt:

The Waccamaw Indian People of Conway, South Carolina, are the descendants of a group of people who lived and farmed in the area of South Carolina now known as Dog Bluff. Although the inhabitants of the Dimery settlement conducted business and existed as a separate community throughout the years, it wasn’t until 1992 that a formal organization was formed to protect the history and traditions of our people.

The tribe was chartered as a non-profit organization in October of 1992, with the initial organizational meeting held on October 17, 1992. At this meeting, the original founders relinquished all control to the tribal council.

The word “Chicora” was added in January 1993 by a majority vote of the governing council. This addition was intended to define the area of our people and to establish the boundaries of the Waccamaw. In January of 2002, the tribal community voted to eliminate the term “Chicora” from its name in order to avoid confusion with another group in the area using the word to denote their people.

The ancient Waccamaw were river dwellers who lived along the Waccamaw River covering an area that reached from North Carolina’s Lake Waccamaw to Winyah Bay near Georgetown, South Carolina. If the conclusions of Dr. John R. Swanton are correct, the Waccamaw People may have been one of the first mainland groups of Natives visited by the Europeans.

The Spanish, under Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quexos (c1521), took several ships loaded with Indian people and carried them off into slavery. One of those enslaved was a man who became known as “Francisco de Chicora.” Francisco identified more than twenty tribes who lived in this area. The greatest importance, however, seems to attach to “Chicora” and “Duhare,” the northern most provinces on Francisco’s list. Considering Dr. Swanton’s findings, it appears that these nations were the Waccamaw and the Cape Fear respectively.

The Waccamaw were adept at the domestication of animals, including deer. They manufactured cheese from does’ milk. Additionally, they kept a variety of chickens, ducks, geese, and other domestic fowl. There were gardens to tend, both private and communal.

Everyone worked in the community garden, including the chiefs, who were seen planting and gathering the crops along with their tribe. Among their crops were corn, pumpkins, kidney beans, lima beans, squash, melons, gourds and tobacco.European contact nearly wiped out the Waccamaw.

Because we had no defense for the diseases they brought, our people died by the hundreds. When the Europeans needed labor, our people were forced into slavery. The king ordered all owners to free their Indian slaves (c1752). The loss of their slaves, however, would have devastated the plantations, and so the owners simply tried to turn us Black. After the Emancipation Proclamation, thousands of Indians walked off the cotton fields along with the Blacks.

As I have written here before, the Waccamaws today continue to struggle for recognition and for the equality that everyone deserves. Officially recognized by the State of South Carolina, they are in a long struggle to obtain federal recognition so they can have access to more than 600 remains of their ancestors, now stored in museum crates, so they can be given proper burial.

The Pauwau

The annual Pauwau is a great way to learn more about these Native Americans, people who live quietly among us, who have history and traditions, cares and needs, just like the rest of us. It will take place at 591 Bluewater Road, Aynor, SC. Here are some highlights:

There will be:

  • Survival skills demonstrations (Fire starting with the bow drill, ancient clothing, ancient cooking techniques, ancient weapons demonstrations, displays of traps and snares).

  • Storytelling by one of the best Cherokee traditionalists in the business.

  • Dancing in full regalia including most any traditional Native Cultural dance in the country.

  • Over 30 displays of Native Arts and Crafts to peruse and purchase. Most are handmade!

Prices: Adult $7.00 (15 years to 59 years), Child, and Senior $4.00 (7 years to 14 years and over 60 years) 6 years and under no charge! The Pauwau is open to the public and will happen come rain or shine. Parking is Free!

See you there!

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