Native Americans were here before any of our ancestors, and they remain among us. The Native American population in South Carolina in 2020 was estimated to be 16,951; however, this number does not tell the whole story. Please view the last paragraph of this story for details.
This episode of Connections, A Native American Wedding, tells the story of Native Americans and how they are attempting to preserve their culture.
Connections Host, P.A. Bennett, discusses who they are as a people, shrouded in misconception and misunderstanding. TV Westerns have depicted Native Americans, as warrior savages. Gathered for a powwow, Native Americans living in South Carolina proudly claim their ancestry and speak of membership in particular tribal groups including the Catawba Indian Nation, the Edisto Natchez Cooso Nation, the Sumter Cheraw Indians, the Beaver Creek Indians, the Edisto Indian Tribe, and the Nottoway Tribe.
The powwow celebrations provide Native Americans the opportunity to see old friends, talk to other Native Americans, and find out what’s going on in their individual communities. Many American Indian tribes call the powwow a homecoming.
Chiefs speak openly about the poverty, disease, and lack of education that Native American populations struggle with throughout their lives, and this is passed down from one generation to the next. They speak about the advantages that federal recognition could bring to their communities and provide some of the history of state laws that have prohibited activities they were raised to do in the traditional ways. One chief's sister, who makes pottery the way her family always did, was barred from claiming her pottery as Native American because she did not belong to a federally recognized tribe.
This show highlights a traditional Native Indian wedding involving the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, with a famous ancestor named “Tonto”, featured on the TV series The Lone Ranger. This wedding is traditional, with dancing, Native American dress, and drums, celebrating the occasion. The wedding incorporated both Native American and Christian elements.
More on the Native American Population in South Carolina
Marcy Hayden, the Native American Coordinator with the SC Commission for Minority Affairs states that according to The American Community Survey, and the 2000 Census, South Carolina has over 13,800 individuals who identify themselves solely as Native American, and over 30,000 people who identify themselves as Native American and one other race. Approximately 45 thousand people have been documented on the Census. In South Carolina, the Native American population is underestimated and is closer to about 60 thousand. This is because other states have more tribes that are federally recognized and living on reservations. In South Carolina, Native Americans provide information based on a lineage chart showing their ancestors who were Native American. The Catawba Indian Nation is the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina. There are 5 state-recognized tribes, 6 state-recognized groups, 1 special interest organization that is state-recognized, and over 30 entities that are organized, work in their community, and hold cultural events. Ms. Hayden discusses SC laws that benefit some of these groups in various ways.
Here are some links to learn more about Native Americans: