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Wateree Tribe

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Wateree Indians (perhaps from Catawba wateran, ‘to float on the water.’ Gatschet). One of the early tribes of the Carolinas, probably Siouan. As described by Juan de la Vandera in his account of the expedition of Juan de Pardo in 1567, they then lived at a great distance from the coast, near the Cherokee frontier. In 1670 Lederer, whose statement is doubtful, places them apparently in North Carolina, on the extreme upper Yadkin, far to the north west of their later habitat, with the Shoccore and Eno on the north east and the Cheraw on the west. In 1700 they lived on Wateree River, below the present Camden, South Carolina. On a map of 1715 their village is placed on the west bank of Wateree river, perhaps in Fairfield County. Moll’s map of 1730 locates their village on the east bank of the river. When Lawson met them, in 1700, they were a much larger body than the Congaree, and spoke an entirely different language, which was unintelligible to the latter people. The Yamasee War broke the power of the Wateree, and according to Adair (1743) they became confederates of the Catawba, though still retaining their own village and language. Vandera says they were ruled by two female chiefs, who held dignified court, with a retinue of young men and women. He also describes them as being rather the slaves than the subjects of their chiefs, which agrees with what Lawson says of the Santee. Lederer, who speaks from hearsay only, mentions the killing of women of a hostile tribe, by a chief, in order that their spirits might serve his dying son in the other world. Lawson says that their houses were as poor as their industry; that the men were tall and well-built, friendly, but great pilferers, and very lazy, even for Indians.

For Further Study

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


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