Pee Dee Tribe of South Carolina

Published on October 18, 2012 by Amy

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Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina
Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina

When you read the History of this tribe as I have written it, you will find that our history is not the same as the other histories. Our history states what we know to be true and documented. Our families kept an oral history thru the telling of stories and today we still hear those stories, but over time, things have been lost or changed around.

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The Pee Dee Indian people did not show up a lot in the history of South Carolina, but there is enough information in the South Carolina archives for us to know they were here long before the coming of the European settlers to the new world.

The Mississippian culture, a Native American culture that migrated from the west and known for a more centralized government and the building of large mound structures, reached the Pee Dee Indian people as early as 1000 A.D. The Pee Dee adopted some of their culture while closely guarding their own culture.

Juan Pardo’s second expedition to South Carolina in the late 1560′s recorded the existence of a tribe called Vehidi ( Ve-ee-dee) in their language. The name Pee Dee probably was the way it sounded to the European explorers and settlers. Today the tribe is known as the Pee Dee. Although many of them died from the onslaught of small pox brought to them by the Spanish, they still established relationships with the Spanish explorers.

The Pee Dee also welcomed the English Colonist’ when they started arriving in Charleston in about 1670. In the 1740′s the English listed the Pee Dee as one of the 22 nations forming the Catawba Nation, but later indentified them as Creek, Essau, and Cherokee Indians. The Pee Dee Indians have always maintained their tribal indentity as Pee Dee Indians.

In 1711 South Carolina’s English Colonist’s enlisted the The Pee Dee’s to fight in the Tuscarora War. North Carolina’s English settlers had asked for help to put down the uprising of the Tuscarora Indians. There were 500 Indian allies, but what tribes other than the Pee Dee is unknown. In 1711 there were still a number of small tribes in South Carolina, such as the Waccamaw, Santee, Catawba, Wateree, and the Edisto. The Pee Dee fought alongside the South Carolina Colonist in the Yemassee War of 1715-1716. The defeated Yemassee returned to Spanish Florida.

When the settlers began appearing in what is now Marlboro, Marion and Dillon Counties of South Carolina around 1730′s , they were able to live with the Pee Dee Indians with very little trouble.

The archaeologist and historians say the The Pee Dee became Extinct by 1808 and was washed out of existence. This is not true, because there is records that show descendants of the Pee Dee Indians fighting on the side of the South. The US Military records from the early 1900′s until the present time bears prove that the Pee Dee Indian is not extinct. The race listed for those personnel may not be Indian, but the surname and the area of South Carolina they came from will link them to the census records of South Carolina, which will have the race listed as Mulatto, Croatan, and some times as Indian. The fact that these people lived or live in the same local as our Pee Dee ancestors did only serves to prove that the Pee Dee Indians are not extinct.

The oral stories passed down by the Elders of the Pee Dee Indians tells a very different version of what happened to the Pee Dee people than what has been written about them. Between 1730 and 1800 all of the smaller tribes such as the Pee Dee were almost destroyed by disease, attacks by both larger tribes and the white farmers that wanted their small farming areas near the rivers. The Pee Dee Indians had no defense of the law because South Carolina had already changed their status of being Indian to Mulatto, Croatan, Free person of color. The few Pee Dee Indians and other small tribes were forced to become part of the white man’s world.

From the early 1800′s until the Civil War of 1861-1865 the descendants of the Original Pee Dee Indians had become small family clans that lived on the rivers and also some were sharecroppers for the white farmers that were the descendants of the settlers that were helped by the Pee Dee Indians to defeat the Red Coats and a host of other Indian tribes all the way down to Florida. The Pee Dee Indians fought in the Civil War and there are many tribal members that trace there Indian Heritage back to those Soldiers.

From the late 1790′s thru the Indian removal acts of the 1830′s the Pee Dee Indians and other small Bands and Clans were partially assimilated into the white mans way of life, they abandoned the round type of dwelling and built log cabins on the land that was available to them. By the start of the Civil War in 1861 the Pee Dees that had escaped the removal of Indians to the West had become sharecroppers and Farm workers and lived in small family clans along the Pee Dee Rivers.

After the Civil War the Pee Dee Indians were not recognized as Indians by the census takers. The trend of not identifying Indians as Indians continued as before the war. No real logical reason can be identified as to why South Carolina did not identify and accept Indians as Indians. The Pee Dee Indians believe it was done due to the fact that after the removal of the “Cherokee Indians ” Known as the Trail of Tears, South Carolina assumed that there were no Indians left in South Carolina and to make this a true fact any person that did not have white skin was considered to be of mixed blood, which could be Black and White or Black and Indian. To solve the problem any one with dark skin was a Mulatto, Croatan, or Black.

The Indians of both South Carolina and North Carolina were taken and made slaves the same as the Black people captured and brought to America for slaves. The Females from both races were forced to have sexual relations with the white owners and the overseers that had total control of these women. The result from this practice produced off springs that were both Black, White and Indian. The skin color of these children was very different, some were fair skin. some almost Black and some between Black and Brown skin. One can understand how and why the true Indians were not identified as being Indian because of the mixing of blood lines. This fact does not excuse the mistake made by the census takers when they assumed the person was not Indian and listed the race as Mulatto, and Croatan. Another trend became the norm in identifying Indians when they would not accept Mulatto or Croatan as their race, The term “Others” became the new word that was used and is still in use today to identify Indians unless one refuses to accept it being listing as their race.

The Pee Dee Indians were farmers, hunters, fishermen and gatherers when the European settlers arrived to this land. They raised corn, beans, squash, gathered berries, nuts, and wild fruits. They hunted deer, small game, and were fishermen on the Pee Dee River. There is a legend known as ” The Fish Head” which is still told by the Elders to the young fishermen.

The Pee Dee Indians traded their traditional Indian dress for overalls and straw hats after the Civil War and to the view of one passing a field they just saw a farmer following a mule, but really it was a descendant of the once proud Pee Dee Indians that had lived on this land for thousands of years.

The Pee Dee Indians after the Civil War lived as very close family clans and did not intermarry with the Blacks on a large scale, but there were marriages between Indians and Blacks. The Pee Dee Indians also married into the white race. A child that was born to an Indian woman was considered to be Indian by the family even if it was of mixed blood. This practice is still honored by the tribe today.

The Pee Dee Indians tried to lived as Indians and stay seperated from both the White people and Black people. This is stated in the chartering of a Methodist Church in 1878 at the Hamet of Clio, South Carolina. In 1878 John Adams a Southern Methodist Minister established a church at the small hamet of Clio, South Carolina. The charter for this church states that it was formed to serve a poor neglected class of people that would not worship with the white or the black people. The name Pee Dee Indian is not used in the charter, but one would have to understand that these people were the descendants of the Pee Dee Indians that had always lived in this area. Archaeologists have dug artifacts such as urns, spear heads and many other items that prove the Pee Dee Indians lived in the area. The Pee Dee Indians lived along the Pee Dee River from the area around Town Creek, N.C. to the mouth of the river at Winyah Bay.

The Pee Dee Indians did not become extinct as some writers of Indian History have stated in their writings; It is very evident with the chartering of the Mount Olivet Church at Clio, SC in 1878 that the Pee Dee Indians was not extinct. Today that Church is known as the Mount Elam Baptist Church. The first church was called the “Locklear Church” because most members were from the Locklear Clan.
The Indian families had maintained their Indian blood line by marrying into the other Indian families prior to the establishing of the Church at Clio, South Carolina in 1878. From this Church came the establishing of other churches as the families moved futher away due to the travel distance to the church; also there were some families that converted to the Baptist faith and built Baptist Churches.

There was no schools for the Indians in Marlboro County ( which also included what is now Dillon County ) The Church at Clio, SC started a school for the Indians, later the Berea Methodist church also had an Indian school. Berea Church was and is located in the Red Bluff community of Marlboro County. These schools were never recognized by South Carolina as Indian schools. When Dillon County was established in 1910 there were two Indian schools known as Indian schools, the Sardis Church school at Latta, SC and the Leland Grove Baptist Church school. Leland Grove was listed as an Indian school by South Carolina and closed in 1970. This School was under the supervision of Mr. James K. Brayboy an Indian who was the Teacher of the year for South Carolina in 1969.

The Pee Dee Indians along with other Indians in South Carolina did not have the opportunity to attend school on a full time basis because they had to work on the farms, or other work that the family had to do. When the Indian boys and Girls did try to go to the white schools they were called names by the white kids. the teachers also did not really want to teach the Indian kids, Today you will find a lot of Indian people in South Carolina that were born in the late 30′s and 40′s who do not know how to read or write because of the way we were treated by the white kids, and by teachers who did not care. Things have changed over the last 50 years, but still today our Indian kids in Marlboro and Dillon County are not being recognized as Indians by some school teachers that tell them they are not Indian. We have always been Indians!

The Pee Dee Indians have never accepted themselves as any race except Indian even when they were not allowed to place Indian on Birth certificates, school enrollment forms, and any other forms that ask for race. This is not a problem anymore because we are recognized as Indians by the State of South Carolina. If we look white, or a little darker than one thinks we should look. The Pee Dee Indian today is not identified by the color of the skin or by how much Indian blood one has, but by the Indian Ancestry Genealogy that proves the Native Heritage.

When the Pee Dee Indian Tribe was chartered on November 29, 1976, Ninty Eight ( 98 ) years had passed since the Church at Clio, S.C. was established to serve the Pee Dee Indians, and it took another twenty nine years for the Tribe to receive State Recognition by the State of South Carolina on January 27, 2006. The question now is, how long and will the Tribe ever receive Federal Recognition?

The Pee Dee Indian tribe has over 2000 tribal members on the roll, this is not all of the Pee Dee Indians. There is an estimated guess of about 5,000 total number of Pee Dee Indians that live in the three counties of Marlboro, Marion and Dillon. Tribal members of the tribe also live in other states.

There is no available information about how the Pee Dee Indians dressed or about the Ceremonies that was practiced by the tribe except what has been passed down from our Great-Grandfathers and Great-Grandmothers who heard it from there mothers and fathers that lived during the time when the tribe was still identified as a tribe. The tribe today has adopted a lot of the Western culture of the plains Indians, such as the Pow Wow which is now celebrated thru out the South East. The oral history from our ancestors does not include anything about a gathering known as the Pow Wow. The Pee Dee Indians did have special ceremonies such as the Fire Circle ceremony where the Great Creator was honored and given thanks for things he had provided for the tribe. When the corn crop was ready for harvest there would be a ceremony to give thanks and the women of the tribe would prepare food from the gardens they had tended and make sweet dishes from the Blue Berries they picked from the forest. The men of the tribe would provide deer, fish and other small game for the feast. There were games, stick ball, foot races, archery, knife and tomahawk throwing. There was drums and dancing, but this was not known as a Pow Wow. Events such as this were known as Family Clan Gatherings, the Pow Wow was introduced to the Indians of South Carolina from the Western Tribes.

All Indian tribes had special markings, such as colors and how their clothes and crafts were made to identify the tribe. Those that were used to identify the Pee Dee Indian has been lost in time. The colors of the tribe today are Red, Blue and Yellow, where and why those colors are used is unknown. Today at Pow Wows one will see many different bright colors being used by the Dancers on their Regali. The Pee Dee Indians also use bright colors on Regali and Chokers they make.

The Chief of the tribe may be seen wearing a Head Dress in the style of the Western plains Indians, or a Head Dress made from Turkey feathers and rabbit fur, Only the Chief and sub-Chiefs are allowed to wear a head dress. Head Bands with one to three feathers are worn by both male and females.

Like the rivers that inherited their name, the Pee Dee Indians possess a story that runs deep in the history of South Carolina. The Pee Dee Indian tribe of indigenous people has maintained their identity and struggled to live on the land of their ancestors for more than 10,000 years. Their name has been given to both the Great Pee Dee River and the Little Pee Dee River. Many business’s and sports team along with other enterprises have adopted the name of the Pee Dee Indians. The Pee Dee Indians consider it a honor, not an insult for their name to be used.

The Chief of the Pee Dee Indian tribe has always been a position of honor. The Chief has the responsibility of seeing to the needs of the tribe with the assistance of the tribal council and the Elders Council. All positions are elected by members of the tribe for a four year term with no term limits. The roll of the Chief and Tribal Council include planning for social, education, medical, housing and economical development of the tribe.

The future of the Pee Dee Indian tribe is bright, and many years from now our descendants can say that their ancestors never became extinct because we are still here.

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