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The Catawba are an American Indian tribe of the southeastern United States. A once powerful people who assimilated numerous neighboring tribes, the Catawba were weakened by warfare and disease. In 1851 a remnant band reached the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, where they were later granted citizenship. By 1950 an unknown number were counted among the Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee populations of Oklahoma.

A Siouan-speaking people who subsisted by hunting and farming, the Catawba were found in present South Carolina by Spaniards in 1540. They were a warlike culture whose principal enemies were the Iroquois, Shawnee, and Cherokee. The Catawba tolerated South Carolina's colonists, whom they supported during the American Revolution.

In 1763 the British crown granted the Catawba title to 144,000 acres in present Lancaster and York counties in South Carolina. Reduced to about one thousand members, the Catawba leased the tract to settlers who eventually sought to purchase the land. The Catawba sold their reservation to the state of South Carolina in 1840. Homeless, many settled among the Cherokee of North Carolina. Others returned to their old reserve, where 630 acres were obtained for them in 1841.

Congressional funding made it possible to remove the Catawba from the Carolinas in 1848. Although the government made no organized attempt to relocate the tribe, in December 1851 William Morrison, a North Carolina Catawba, led nineteen of his people (six others died en route) to the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, where they were permitted to settle. Fourteen survivors were adopted into the Choctaw tribe in 1853.

Indian Territory was home to 132 Catawba in 1896. Most resided in the Choctaw Nation between present Spiro and Stigler. Others lived at or near Checotah in the Creek Nation and Texana in the Cherokee Nation. At present the Catawba Indian Nation is federally recognized and headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Douglas Summers Brown, The Catawba Indians: The People of the River (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1966). Grant Foreman, The Last Trek of the Indians: An Account of the Removal of the Indians from North of the Ohio River (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946). Frederick W. Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Vol. 1 (1907; reprint, New York: Pageant Books, 1960). James H. Merrell, The Catawbas (New York: Chelsea House, 1989). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Pres, 1951).

Jon D. May

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