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Santee Tribe

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Santee Indians. A tribe, probably Siouan, formerly residing on middle Santee River, South Carolina, where Lawson in 1700 found their plantations extending for many miles. One of their villages was called Hickerau. While friendly to the white people, they were at war with the coast tribes. According to Rivers1 , they had two villages with 43 warriors in 1715, and were then settled 70 miles north of Charleston. Bartram (Tray., 54, 1791) tells us that in 1715 they sided with the Yamasee against the British, and that they were attacked and reduced by the Creeks, who were allies of the British. It appears from South Carolina colonial documents that the Santee and Congaree were cut off by the “Itwans and Cossabos,” coast tribes in the English interest,’ and the prisoners sold as slaves in the West Indies in 1716. Those that escaped were probably incorporated with the Catawba. Lawson states that their chief was an absolute ruler with power of life and death over his tribe, an instance of despotism very rare among Indians. Their distinguished dead were buried on the tops of mounds, built low or high according to the rank of the deceased, with ridge roofs supported by poles over the graves to shelter them from the weather. On these poles were hung rattles, feathers, and other offerings from the relatives of the deceased. The corpse of an ordinary person was carefully dressed, wrapped in bark, and exposed on a platform for several days, during which time one of his nearest kinsmen, with face blackened in token of grief, stood guard near the spot and, chanted a mournful eulogy of the dead. The ground around the platform was kept carefully swept, and all the dead man’s belongings gun, bow, and feather robes-were placed near by. As soon as the flesh had softened it was stripped from the bones and burned, and the bones themselves were cleaned, the skull being wrapped separately in a cloth woven of opossum hair.

The bones were then put into a box, from which they were taken out annually to be again cleaned and oiled. In this way some families had in their possession the bones of their ancestors for several generations. Places where warriors had been killed were sometimes distinguished by piles of stones or sticks, to which every passing Indian added another.

After the manner of the Cherokee and other Southern tribes the Santee kept corn in storehouses raised on posts and plastered with clay. They made beautiful feather robes and wove cloth and sashes of hair.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Santee as both an ethnological study, and as a people.

Footnotes

  1. Rivers, Hist. S. C., 94, 1874 


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