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Responsibility

Perhaps, after the Catawbas have become extinct, some one might ask who was responsible. Let us not wait until then to place the responsibility where it belongs. If it is South Carolina’s duty to cherish and guard with a fostering care the last vestige of her aboriginal inhabitants; if she owes anything to her earliest benefactors; if she owes anything to a disinterested people who have fought her battles a people who were courted when they were strong, but are now scorned because they are weak; if she owes anything to a people whose territory she has absorbed without due compensation; if it is her duty to uplift degraded humanity within her borders: then South Carolina is responsible; and if she does not soon do something for the Catawbas, her escutcheon will bear a stain which time cannot erase.

It is time for the people of South Carolina to compel their representatives in the State and General Government to do something for these much-wronged and down-trodden people.

On account of our neglect of duty toward the Indians this century has justly been termed a “Century of Dishonor.” Since its beginning the appeals made in behalf of the Catawbas have all fallen on stony ground; at its close will humanitarians still turn a deaf ear to their claims for more merciful treatment?

Fifty years ago, William Crafts, the celebrated statesman, prepared the following petition to the Legislature of South Carolina for Peter Harris, a Catawba Indian. May this cry, coming as it does from the grave, awake in the American heart some sense of justice:

“I am one of the lingering survivors of an almost extinguished race. Our graves will soon be our only habitations. I am one of the few stalks which still remain in the field after the tempest of the Revolution is passed. I fought the British for your sake. The British have disappeared nor have I gained by their defeat. I pursued the deer for subsistence; the deer are disappearing.

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