When DeSoto (in 1540) and later Juan Pardo (in 1567) marched through what was known as the province of Cofitachequi (which covered the southern part of today’s North Carolina and most of South Carolina), the native population was estimated at well over 18,000. Most shared a common Catawba language, enabling this confederation of tribes to practice advanced political and social methods, cooperate and support each other, and meet their common enemy. The footprint of the Cofitachequi is the footprint of this book.
The contemporary Catawba, Midland, Santee, Natchez-Kusso, Varnertown, Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Lumbee Indians of North and South Carolina, have roots in pre-contact Cofitachequi. Names have changed through the years; tribes split and blended as the forces of nature, the influx of Europeans, and the imposition of federal government authority altered their lives. For a few of these tribes, the system has worked well—or is working well now. For others, the challenge continues to try to work with and within the federal government’s system for tribal recognition—a system governing Indians but not created by them. Through interviews and a generous photograph montage stretching over two decades, Gene Crediford reveals the commonality and diversity among these people of Indian identity; their heritage, culture, frustrations with the system, joys in success of the younger generation, and hope for the future of those who come after them. This book is the story of those who remain.