Updated: Mar 18
I was deeply honored to receive a letter and membership card from Waccamaw Indian People Chief Harold "Buster" Hatcher welcoming me into the Waccamaw family as "Hunka," "relative by choice," or "Blood Brother."
It was especially heartwarming because videographer David Hinshaw, my late friend and colleague, with whom I worked to create a documentary video, "Americans Before America," for the tribe, also was included as a "Hunka" on the same day, recognized for his hard work and dedication in creating the video,
Sadly, David passed away recently. He was a wonderful man, kind, caring, immensely talented, and determined to do whatever he could to help the Waccamaw Indian People as they sought federal recognition as an official Indian tribe, which was the point of the documentary.
Chief Hatcher, in welcoming me into the Waccamaw family, gave me a new Indian name -- Chunta Sha, or "One with Red (Indian) Heart."
"I am...moved by your dedication to stand up for what you believe," Chief Hatcher wrote in his letter to me. "Today, we (Waccamaw) are moved toward a better future greatly because of our association with you and your work on our behalf.
"Only certain people, as decided by the Waccamaw Tribal Executive Branch, are offered, and/or allowed to share in the Waccamaw Hunka spirit," he wrote. "Your approval for the Hunka Card is a testament of our respect for you."
The documentary was supported, in part, by a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission and a Go Fund Me campaign that included contributions from numerous Lean to the Left readers. It was my honor to write and narrate the script, brought to life by Hinshaw, a long-time award winning videographer.
The video traces the history of the Waccamaws from 1689 when the first Waccamaw is noted in history. European explorers later came ashore and enslaved many natives, taking over their land. Now, descendants of those indigent people continue to fight for recognition by the American government.
"It's as if they are invisible, like they don't even exist," the film's narrator says.
Although the Waccamaw Indian People were recognized in 2005 by the State of South Carolina as an official Indian tribe, the U.S. Government will not accept the same documentation to provide federal recognition. That's because the Bureau of Indian Affairs requires that the Waccamaws show unbroken lineage from the earliest known Waccamaw Indian until today. It is a burden that is impossible to meet, as the video explains.
"We call it documentary genocide," says Chief Hatcher.
I first began writing about the Waccamaw's effort to gain federal recognition in July 2018 with this blog. Subsequently, several additional articles were written on this site (see below) in support of Chief Hatcher's determined campaign to achieve recognition, which is still to be achieved.
The federal government's refusal to understand how this genealogy requirement puts the Waccamaw in an impossible position frustrates Hatcher, who has been seeking recognition for his tribe for many years. One key reason he is so determined is that some 600 sets of remains, presumed to be Waccamaw, are being housed in boxes in South Carolina museums and the feds refuse to turn them over to the tribe for proper burial.
Another important factor is that without federal recognition, Hatcher says the Waccamaws cannot legally use an eagle's feather in its burial ceremony, a sacred tradition for the Waccamaw people.
"I was shot in Vietnam," said Hatcher. "I received the Purple Heart and many other awards, but still I cannot get this recognition for my people."
The very fact that the tribe must seek this recognition angers Hatcher. "I don't think there should be any official recognition of a person required before you can have rights like everyone else," he said. "But I've got to play their game so I and my people can have the same rights of every other American."
I am grateful to Chief Hatcher and the Waccamaw for welcoming me into their family, and intend to continue supporting their effort for recognition until it is achieved.
Here are links to our previous articles about the Waccamaws' campaign for federal recognition: