July 14, 2012

Catawba Indian Nation


The Catawba Nation is the only federally recognized tribe in the state of South Carolina. 

 Official Tribal Name: Catawba Indian Nation

Address:  996 Avenue of the Nations, Rock Hill, South Carolina 29730
Phone: (803) 366-4792
Fax: (803) 327-4853
Email: info@catawabaindian.net

Official Website: http://catawbaindian.net/ 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

yeh is-WAH h’reh, meaning “people of the river.”

Common Name:


Meaning of Common Name:

The colonists who came to trade began calling all the tribes along the Catawba River Valley by the name Catawba.

Alternate names:

Catawba Tribe of South Carolina

Alternate spellings / Mispellings:

Name in other languages:

Region: Southeastern Region 

State(s) Today: South Carolina

Traditional Territory:

The Catawba Indians have lived on their ancestral lands along the banks of the Catawba River dating back at least 6000 years. Before contact with the Europeans it is believed that the tribe inhabited most of the Piedmont area of South Carolina, North Carolina and parts of Virginia. First contact with the Catawbas was recorded in 1540 when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto marched his troops through the Piedmont while headed west looking for gold.

Confederacy: Catawba


The Treaty at Nations Ford with South Carolina was illegal because it was not ratified by the federal government.

Reservation: Catawba Reservation
Land Area:  
Tribal Headquarters:  Rock Hill, South Carolina
Time Zone:  

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today: There are currently over 2800 enrolled members.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

The Catawba Nation uses three base tribal membership rolls. The dates of these rolls are 1943, 1961, and 2000. Anyone wishing to be added to the official membership roll has to prove lineal descent from someone listed on these rolls. 

Genealogy Resources:


Under the Indian Reorganization Act, the tribe created a constitution in 1944. In 1959 the Catawba tribe was terminated by the US Government. They regained federal recognition on on November 20, 1993.

Name of Governing Body:  Executive Committee
Number of Council members:   5
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 1975
Number of Executive Officers:  3 – Chief, Assistant Chief, Secretary-Treasurer


Elections are held every four years. 

Language Classification:

Language Dialects:

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Catawba warriors were known as the fiercest in the land. The tribe claimed at least eleven other tribes as enemies. They were especially in conflicts with the Cherokee.

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Every spring the Catawba Pow Wow is held in conjunction with the Rock Hill Come See Me Festival. The 2013 Pow Wow will be held at Winthrop Coliseum April 12-14, 2013.

Yap Ye Iswa (Day of the Catawba) is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. 

The Catawba Cultural Center provides an overview of the rich culture and history of the Catawba Indian Nation. There are exhibits that can be seen at no charge, and special presentations with dancers and storytellers can be arranged for groups of 35 or more for a nominal charge. Off site speakers or a 45 minute presentation of drumming, dancing, and history can also be arranged.

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:

The Catawba people are known for their clay pottery, which is a skill that has been passed down generation to generation for over 6,000 years. They were making pottery long before Southwest pottery became popular. There are at least 50 Catawba potters in each generation.





Early Catawbas lived in villages which were surrounded by a wooden palisade or wall. There was a large council house in the village as well as a sweat lodge, homes, and an open plaza for meetings, games, and dances. The homes were rounded on top and made of bark. The dwellings were small with extended families living in a single structure. 


The Catawbas were farmers. They planted crops like corn and squash along the banks of the river. They also fished and hunted. 

Economy Today:

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs


Famous Catawbas Chiefs and Leaders:

King Hagler – Chief from 1750 to 1763.  

Catastrophic Events:

In 1759, smallpox swept through the Catawba villages for the fourth time in a century, bringing the population of the tribe to less than 1,000 by 1760.

Tribe History:

The following video discusses the history of Catawba culture and how it changed through history after the coming of the Europeans.

In the News:

Further Reading:

The Catawba Indian Nation of the Carolinas
Catawba Indian Pottery: The Survival of a Folk Tradition
Empire Of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America
In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians
Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills  

US Tribes C to D
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