A Brief History of the Catawbas and
the Purpose of this Website

Welcome to our website. We are descendents of a tribe of Native Americans known as Catawbas or Iswa who inhabited the southeastern United States in what are now the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Our ancestors hunted, fished,  and farmed in the once fertile soils of those regions.   In the later half of the 19th Century, the population of the Catwba people was a scant few dozen. Reduced in numbers by European introduced diseases such as small pox, raveged in numbers by the Civil War, and swindled out of tribal lands, hunting and fishing rights, the Catawbas struggled to survive.  Around 1891 the living conditions were so severe on and near the Catawba Nation that several members migrated west for survival:    Nancy Harris left with her daughter Lillie and grandchildren Alfred and Daisy.

In mid-1880s, missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka LDS Church, Mormons) arrived on the remnants of this once great Indian Nation and converted many to Mormonism. Faced with abject poverty, racism, and religious intolerance, approximately half of the tribal members migrated en masse to southern Colorado as members of the LDS Church. Some refer to this as the exile period. Founding numerous LDS townships in the high mountains of Colorado (Manasas, Fox Creek, La Jara, and Sanford), the Catawba Indians thrived in comparison to the living standards that were left behind. The Catawba Indian families stayed in close contact with each other and with the Nation in South Carolina. These people are often referred to as the Five Families. There are two other family groups that left South Carolina and also retained close ties to the Catawba Nation. The Ballard and Harris Families relocated primarily to Oklahoma and Texas. Please visit the Catawba Family Family Photo Collection page to see the photographs available of various members of these exiled Catawba families.

Pinkney H. Head,  his wife Martha Jane Patterson Head and children found the climate far too cold and moved to a warmer community in Farmington, New Mexico.  However there remained continual travels between the Colorado, New Mexico, and South Carolina Catawba communities.   On warm summer nights the children of these original migrants recall hearing their parents and grandparents sitting under the stars softly speaking to one another in the Catawba language.

During the Great Depression the educational, services were either closed in southern Colorado or fees were charged for public education.  Such expenses were a luxury that these Catawba people could not afford while eeking out a living as loggers, farmers, and other forms manual labor efforts. Several of the high school age children of these people were able to obtain Certificates of Indian Blood from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, thus enabling them to complete a high school education at B.I.A. Boarding Schools. 

Many of the Catawbas, both men and women, have served honorably in all branches of the US military.  In fact, the Catawba military assistance to the United States pre-dates the American Revolution and continues to the present day.

In 1924 the United States Congress declared all American Indians citizens of the United States of America and of the state in which they resided.   In 1943 the Catawba Indians were recognized as a federal tribe prior to that period they were only a state recognized tribe. The Catawbas were denied state citizenship by South Carolina in spite of the federal government granting such citizenship to all Indians in 1924.  In 1944 the state of South Carolina granted quasi-state citizenship to the Catawba Indians. It would be almost two decades later before South Carolina would grant full state citizenship to the Catwaba poeple, thus allowing them the right to vote and enter into civil contracts.  Then in 1961 the Catawba Nation, under pressure from the BIA and without legal counsel, voted to terminate their federal tribal status. In 1993, the Catawba Indians of South Carolina Lands Settlement Act of 1993 was passed by the US Congress thus re-establishing federal status.  It also compelled the Catawba Nation to develop a new tribal roll. The passage of the Act was based in part on the historic writings of known Catawba leaders (known as headmen):  Pinkney H. Head,   Elbert Garcia/Garce,  and Ben. E. Rich Garcia.   Tribal Recognition Documents

Decendants of Pinkney H. Head and Elbert Garcia/Garce in the Spring of 2000 were denied tribal enrollment by the Catawba Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs under claims that they have not produced "sufficient evidence" of their being Catawba Indians. Ben E. Rich Garcia and his children were on the Catawba Rolls of 1943 and 1961.  Ben (deceased) was the brother of Elbert Garcia and a nephew to Pinkney H. Head.

Unlike other Indian tribes the Catawba Indians have never had a blood quantum requirement for tribal enrollment.  Nor have other requirements been mandated for tribal enrollment other than to descend from known Catawbas. This site will present the case for tribal enrollment for these descendants from known Catawba Indians.

Primary Purpose of Site

The purpose of this site is two fold:  

1)  To present the historic evidence of the Catawbas from a micro-history;  and

2)  To expose for public viewing the problems of Native American peoples in having their heritage and identities recognized by the federal government.

Native American people are the only minorities (other than Eastern European Hassidic Jews) that must show documentation as to their racial, ethnic, or cultural identity.  This review is subject to the arbitrary judgement of the employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who has told the web developer that the B.I.A. has been too busy to bother with Catawba issues as they are pre-occupied with other tribes and must contain 548 tribes.  

Summary of Current Federal and Tribal Events Impacting these Known Catawbas

On March 13, 2000 the Catawba Executive Committee Members of the Catawba Nation denied tribal enrollment to the individuals identified herein. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, on or about May 5, 2000, supported this position in spite of prior recognition of many of the petitioners as recognized federal Indians.

There are on-going concerns that the procedures used by the Executive Committee Members lacked appropriate administrative review, lacked appropriate notification procedures, and failed to maintain an objective reviewing standard. This is based upon the lack of information provided to those requesting membership as persons "...who should be included upon the Catawba Tribal rolls of 1943 and/or 1961 but were not...".  Additionally, this position is further supported by a report issued by a BIA employee in 1995 (document to be posted to website).  This BIA employee determined that the enrollment review process could ". . . hardly be called an enrollment procedure. . ." as it lacked any fundamental qualities of control, review procedures, documentation, etc.

We believe the actions of the BIA between November 22, 1994 to the present time were and are inappropriate and violate the applicants U.S. Constitutionally protected rights of due process and right to notice in the reviewing and administration process.

Please visit our Native American Reading List page for excellent literary references for information about the history and culture of the Catawba people.