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Waccamaw Legacy

Contemporary Indians Fight for Survival

Written by Patricia Lerch

Publication Year: 2004

An insightful and informative look into the Waccamaw Siouan's quest for identity and survival.

Waccamaw Legacy: Contemporary Indians Fight for Survival sheds light on North Carolina Indians by tracing the story of the now state-recognized Waccamaw Siouan tribe from its beginnings in the Southeastern United States, through their first contacts with Europeans, and into the 21st century, detailing the struggles these Indians have endured over time. We see how the Waccamaw took hold of popular theories about Indian tribes like the Croatan of the Lost Colony and the Cherokee as they struggled to preserve their heritage and to establish their identity.

Patricia Lerch was hired by the Waccamaw in 1981 to perform the research needed to file for recognition under the Bureau of Indian Affairs Federal Acknowledgement Program of 1978. The Waccamaw began to organize powwows in 1970 to represent publicly their Indian heritage and survival and to spread awareness of their fight for cultural preservation and independence. Lerch found herself understanding that the powwows, in addition to affirming identity, revealed important truths about the history of the Waccamaw and the ways they communicate and coexist.

Waccamaw Legacy outlines Lerch’s experience as she played a vital role in the Waccamaw Siouan's continuing fight for recognition and acceptance in contemporary society and culture.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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Figures and Table

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

When someone asks an Indian a question like “What tribe do you belong to?” the answer makes a statement about the past and a relationship with other people. The answer also centers on self-identity and group affiliation. For the answer to be acceptable, both parties must share a common understanding of the past and present (Barth 1998; Clifton 1989). Our sense of self and identity, then, is always relational...

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1. The Eastern Siouans: “We Was Always Indians”

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pp. 1-16

Forty years ago the old woman quoted in the epigraph above was in her thirties and her father, mother, and cousins and kin backed an effort to become a federally recognized tribe of the United States. On February 6, 1950, a Californian named Norris Poulson described the Waccamaw as “a lost tribe of Indians” with a tragic story. The congressmen listening to him asked, Who were the Siouan Indians...

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2. Society along the Borderlands

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pp. 17-30

The eighteenth century brought enormous changes to the Siouan peoples and their neighbors. The Yamassee War of 1715 transformed many independent societies into “Settlement Indians,” living dependent within the boundaries of or along the edges of colonial settlements (Wood 1989:48). The colonial economy grew increasingly dependent on enslaved African labor, forever altering the ratio between whites, African slaves, and Indians. Resettlement and realignment...

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3. “From the Time of the Indians until 1920”

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pp. 31-47

In Wilmington, North Carolina, the story of the Siouans and other coastal tribes was retold in the great Pageant of the Lower Cape Fear. Indian history was condensed into a single episode, entitled “Springtime Gathering of the Indians, 1663.” The date of 1663 defines European contact and settlement as the salient moment of Indian history. As the pageant unfolds, time marches on, new people settle the Cape Fear region, and the Indians disappear into the past. Still, the pageant...

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4. Tribal Names as Survival Strategies: Croatan and Cherokee

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pp. 48-63

It has long been noted that North American Indians have refused to disappear from American life. The modern Waccamaw Siouan Indians are no exception; they adopted political strategies in a conscious attempt to gain recognition and rights as American Indians. Anthropologist Nancy Lurie (1971:418) calls such political activity an emerging “articulatory movement” among American Indians. The word articulate means to “join with or to give expression to a cultural identity as a minority” and is the opposite of assimilate or “to be absorbed into the...

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5. The Wide Awake Indians

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pp. 64-77

The ancestors of the modern Waccamaw Siouan called themselves Cherokee between 1928 and 1940; thereafter, they started to publicly refer to themselves as the “Wide Awake Indians,” a name they had long used for their council (1910) and their school (1934). Outside the community, they sought recognition as the Cherokee. The story of the Cherokee tribal name covers the Indians living in the North...

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6. “I Was an Indian, I Was Outstanding”

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pp. 78-94

For more than two decades, the ancestors of the Waccamaw Siouan hammered away at their goals, forging articulatory relationships with the non- Indian society. In the process, we glimpse the values central to their concept of Indianness. Indians define their members; distinctions are made between Indians and colored people. Indians do not align themselves publicly with colored people. Indians act nonlocally in pursuit of their aims, forging contractual relations with non-Indians based...

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7. The Waccamaw Bill and the Era of Termination

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pp. 95-116

On Wednesday, April 26, 1950, the Waccamaw Bill received congressional review before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, Committee on Public Lands. The text of the hearing preserves the “voices” of the principal parties. The committee chairman, Toby Morris, noted that Congressman Norris Poulson of California and “our colleague, Justice Bosone, of Utah” (U.S. House of Representatives 1950:1) sponsored the Waccamaw Bill (known...

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8. The Powwow Paradox

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pp. 117-142

The Wide Awake Indian Council (WAIC) of the Waccamaw Tribe of the Siouan Nation returned from Washington, D.C., disappointed by the defeat of the Waccamaw Bill. Ahead lay the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s during which national social and political trends would bring major changes to their lives. The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education forever reorganized the way Indians were educated. Within ten years, the local Indian schools...

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9. Waccamaw Siouan Indians

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pp. 143-146

Since 1950, the Waccamaw Siouan Indians have enjoyed a much wider recognition of their Indian identity. The Pan-Indian activism of the 1970s and the introduction of the powwow as an annual event gave them a sense of place in the American Indian world. Their presence within the state and the country is routinely noted in the federal census. They are a small part of the 80,000 or so people who identified themselves as Indian in North Carolina on the 2000 federal census. They are...


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pp. 147-163


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pp. 165-168

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384678
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351243

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 646406665
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Waccamaw Legacy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Waccamaw Indians -- Tribal citizenship.
  • Waccamaw Indians -- Ethnic identity.
  • Indian termination policy -- Southern States.
  • Waccamaw Indians -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Federally recognized Indian tribes -- Southern States.
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