Of the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States, the Catawba Indian Nation is the only one located in the state of South Carolina. The modern day tribal lands are located in York County, South Carolina. There are currently over 2800 enrolled members of the Nation. The tribe has a long history and a rich culture that lives on today.
Path to Recognition
During the Franklin Roosevelt administration the federal government tried to improve conditions for tribes. Under the Indian Reorganization Act, the tribe created a constitution in 1944 to help them govern themselves. Government policy toward tribes changed in the 1950’s and many tribes were asked to terminate their federal status. In 1959 the Catawba tribe was terminated in the eyes of the federal government. After some time the tribe determined that they preferred to be seen as a community and decided to fight another battle…that to regain federal recognition.
In 1973, the Catawbas filed their petition with Congress for federal recognition. They also updated and adopted their constitution in 1975. The Catawbas had a strong argument in this fight. The Treaty at Nations Ford with South Carolina was illegal because it was not ratified by the federal government. The federal government should have protected the rights of the tribe. It took 20 years, but on November 20, 1993, the land claim settlement with the state of South Carolina and the federal government finally came to an end. The Catawbas agreed to give up claims on land taken from them by the state of South Carolina. In return, the Catawba Indian Nation received federal recognition and $50 million for economic development, education, social services, and land purchases.
Tribal Government Operations
The Catawbas have many thriving programs provided for tribal members and the surrounding community. The administrative offices are located on the Reservation. This building houses the Executive Committee of the tribe as well as staff working in departments such as Accounting, Economic Development, Real Estate, Social Services, and Transportation. The administrative office has over 40 employees. The tribe also has a successful housing program, several child care facilities, a seniors program, computer lab, and transit services. There is a clinic on the reservation that is run through Indian Health Services. The tribe has helped support many tribal members in their pursuit of an education through the Scholarship and Job Placement & Training programs. The Catawba Cultural Center provides a link to the rich culture of the Nation.
The tribe participates in several York County boards and committees including Economic Development, RFATS, and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. Tribal leaders are always looking for opportunities to contribute to the community through economic development, helping forward the goals of the county, and sharing the culture with others. The Catawbas have proven again and again that they will continue to thrive against all odds.