Waccamaw Legacy – “We was always Indians.”

There are a few books I consider foundation book for the library of anyone who is researching mixed families of color in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.  The book “Waccamaw Legacy, Contemporary Indians Fight for Survival” by Patricial Barker Lerch is assuredly one of them.  This book in on the Fundamental Research List.  I will be reviewing each of these resources, in turn.

Waccamaw Legacy provides an excellent tutorial of the history of this area, being the Lumber/PeeDee River Basin, in terms of politics and culture, and the clash of the two, without interjected anger or any personal agenda found in some books covering this region and people.  Patricia Lerch, a professor of anthropology, the author, was hired by the Waccamaw in 1981 to perform the research necessary to file for tribal recognition under the Bureau of Indian Affairs Federal Acknowledgment Program.  Unfortunately, this did not occur, but Patricia has recorded this information, and more, for us in this book. 

The information herein does not apply only to the Waccamaw.  The same social, political, cultural and legal environment applied to the other Native people and people of color in the Lumber and PeeDee River Basin in both North and South Carolina, although the legalities varied between the two states and how the laws were applied varied by county and political whim.

The Waccamaw differentiate themselves from the Lumbee.  The Waccamaw believe that their ancestors “have always lived here” as opposed to the Lumbee who migrated from other regions.  The old Waccamaw claimed the tribe is Siouian. 

Patricia spends a great deal of time acquainting us with the history of the people of the region where the Waccamaw are found.  The Waccamaw settlement is found in both Columbus and Bladen Counties of NC. 

The events surrounding the schools in North Carolina beginning in 1885 affected the Native families in Columbus County as much as it did the people who would become Lumbee in Robeson County.  The difference was that the state provided funding for separate Indian Schools in Robeson Co., but declined, several times, to do so for the Native families in Columbus County.  Several lawsuits were filed relative to his topic. This process and these lawsuits serve to document a great deal about the people involved.

Patricia walks us through this difficult time and into the later 1900s, where we put all of the pieces from earlier generations together to obtain a better understanding of both the internal and external forces at work that would, together, form the later history of the Waccamaw people.

This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who is beginning research on families of color.

Note:  The books I review I have purchased and I receive no compensation or “perks” of any type from the author or publisher.  These reviews are solely for educational purposes and to help researchers establish a reliable educational baseline.

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Fundamental Research List, North Carolina, Waccamaw. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Waccamaw Legacy – “We was always Indians.”

  1. stevie says:

    There is one of the largest tribes of Wacacmaw tribes about 15 miles n/w from me in Bolton NC.

  2. Just found out that a Relation of our family married a woman of the tribe we do not know her name
    Only she m John Thomas Catrett about 1807 they had 7 children she died in 1844
    They settled Central Pike in 86 acres in T10 R20E sec.25 where US 231 now runs
    She died about 1844 Nr manning Creek Pike Co AL
    He served in the 1812 war 2nd Reg NC was detached from 2’12,3rd brigades
    Under Lt Col Simon Bruton
    He died 6Oct 1885 Pike Co AL

    • Reba Despres Jowers says:

      Her name was Mary Emma Waccamaw Souix Tribe. She and John Thomas Cartrett/Catrett are my 4th great grand parents. Don’t know much about them yet. I just found this out after alot of searching. Oh I think they had 14 kids. She died in her 50’s. Would love to talk about them if you would like

      • Curt Catrett says:

        I am a descendant of one of John Thomas and Mary Emma’s and I have been researching the Sioux Indian side For a Project for my daughter I have had no luck finding any information about Mary Emma like what was her Indian name first let me say think you for giving her name because all I could find is that John Thomas was married to a Sioux Indian woman you have helped me get past a roadblock that i have been hitting for a long time would you have any information about what her Indian name was if you could or if you have any information on Mary Emma could you email it to me my email is curtcatrett68@hotmail.com thank you in advance

  3. Amy Alliston says:

    Thank you for doing this work and posting this history. I have the same history, so we are relations! And so my family that I have met and have photos of comes from Op, Alabama with this same Catrett connection that you mention above. I think you know even more of the older history. I would be interested to learn more of the history and of the current paths of these relations.

  4. “The Waccamaw differentiate themselves from the Lumbee. The Waccamaw believe that their ancestors “have always lived here” as opposed to the Lumbee who migrated from other regions. The old Waccamaw claimed the tribe is Siouian”

    This is precisely accurate. DNA evidence suggest the two tribes are not related with the Waccamaw being much older in the region. Both groups, however, did intermarry.

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