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.


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.

28 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

      • Rhoda Melendez says:

        I am a Catrett descendant and would love to know how you acquired Mary Emma’s name. Thanks —

      • Stefanie Hare says:

        Would love any information you have on Mary Emma. She is my 3rd Great Grandmother. My Grandmothers name is Hazel Catrett.

  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.

    • Reba Despres Jowers says:

      Mary Emma Waccamaw Souix Tribe is my 4th great grandmother. I would love to talk and exchange notes. I just found this out by the way.

    • Seem as if we are gathering a family , just been reviewing the interest in the Wives of John Thomas
      and the offspring
      I have Now Given the 1st his Sioux the name found or given by Curt Catrett Mary Emma and amended the dates
      as he said she died in her 50 ’s 1790-1844 to be corrected !!.

      as Amy Alliston and Reba Despres Jowers Despres is a Jersey Channel Islands Name So there may be more links can you get back to me I need to make a list of contacts to this branch of the family , some one to photo the grave stones for future refrence

    • Earl D Carr says:

      My mother, Lula Irene Moore Carr was born in Opp, Covington Co. AL in 1915,

      • Earl says:

        My gr-grandfatherx3 was Rev. Wm Luther Moore, himself a Waccawm Sioun and started the first Indian school at Pembroke, N.C, paying himself $10 a month. It now known as University of North Carolina.

  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.

  5. Please Go to http://www.decarteret.org.uk
    the Official Web page for the de Carteret Family

  6. Mary Russ says:

    My parents both are listed as Indian and both sets of their parents are Indian all the way back to 1700 where Antony Freeman was put down as molatto I had a DNA done it’s not showing INDIAN?

  7. Betty Hinote says:

    John Thomas Catrett is my grandfather several generations removed. My grandmother was Eula Catrett. I think her father or maybe her grandfather was John Martin Catrett, son of John Thomas Catrett. I have a book written by Wayne Nelson. He put a picture of John Thomas Catrett’s Indian wife in the book. The book is “Road to Glory” and is about William Spivey who was connected to the Catrett’s and Nelson’s of Pike, Crenshaw, Covington, and Coffee County, Alabama.
    . He had a lot of info. Was going to write four books and bring it on through to the more recent generation, but he passed away. He was waiting publication of the second book when he passed away. Going to see if I can find a copy of it. His wife moved away after his death, so don’t know what she did with all his info.

    • Stefanie Hare says:

      Betty, can you take a picture of the book for me. I would absolutely love to try and get a copy of that. My gma is Hazel Catrett. We come from their son Joseph Henry’s line. Would love to gather any info you may have on the family line.

    • Reba Jowers says:

      I would love to find that book. Been trying to find info on my Waccamaw grandmother for years now.

    • Reba Jowers says:

      Betty could you take a photo of John Thomas and wife and email it to me? Been looking for a photo of her or anything on her for years. My email is: itsmereba@aol.com. Thanks in advance. I an going to look for that book.

      • Betty says:

        They did have copies of the book at the Elba, Alabama court house. If they don’t have it there, go to barnes and noble book store and see if they can order you a copy.

      • I am from this line my Mother is Connie Catrett her father is Arthur Lee catrett son of Willis Valentine Catrett. I have The Road to Glory book.

  8. Melva Catrett Faulkner says:

    I am a direct decendent of Maty Emma Waccamaw Sioux. My grandfather was Roby Emery Catrett.

  9. Dave Catrett says:

    There are tons of John Thomas Catretts. 3 served at the Battle of Chicamauga. The park rangers at the Chicamauga battlefield are familiar and can show you the exact location where one of them died. Since there are so many, it can get a little confusing figuring out which is which. Census records are a good source of information as well as the archives at alabama.gov. and Ancestry.com. As anyone with the last name Catrett can tell you, people tend to come up with some creative spellings (and pronunciations) of our name so be on the lookout for other spellings. Ex. If you sign Catrett in cursive, the 2 Ts are often mistaken for Ls. In addition, an R is often placed in front of the 1st T. I’ve found a few records where the John Thomas in question who married “Waccamaw woman” was the son of John Thomas Catrett II but is not called the 3rd. The numbering of John Thomas’s hasn’t been so much of a counter but simply a way of differentiating those at a given time. Ex. I had an uncle John Thomas Catrett Jr. He was know as Junior to the family and John to everyone else. His son is known as John Thomas to the family (not sure what everyone else calls him). I believe that I’ve posted a picture of John Thomas and Emma some time ago on Ancestry.com. Dykes Catrett did extensive research into our family history and had a huge plastic bin full of pictures and documentation that he intended to share with everyone. The day of his funeral one of his nephews made off took off with it all and it hasn’t been seen since.

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