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University of Charleston Archives (UCA): Indigenous Tribes of Colonial Charleston

Native American History in the South Carolina Lowcountry

This page is dedicated to resources about the indigenous tribes of the North American southeast, particularly those in the South Carolina colony in and around present-day Charleston County.  Almost from first contact with European explorers, the native tribes of the South Carolina coast began going extinct. The resources gathered here offer a look at the often forgotten original settlers, the role they played in the new colony's history, and their relations with European settlers. There are books, posters, maps, databases, articles, videos, and more for in depth research into Charleston's indigenous peoples.

Prior to European colonization, South Carolina's coast was home to numerous native tribes. From the Georgia state line through the southern half of Charleston County was the Muskogean Nation, made up of the tribes of the Ashepoo, Bohicket, Cofitachiqui, Combahee, Coosa, Cusabo, Cusso, Edisto, Escamacu, Etiwan, Kiawah, Kusso-Natchez, Edisto, Stono, Wando, Wimbee, and Yamassee. The northern half of Charleston to the North Carolina border, consisted of the Siouan tribes of Chicora, Pee Dee, Sampit, Santee, Sewee, Waccamaw, and Winyah.

According to South Carolina's Information Highway (SCIWAY), the Coastal Indians met Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez Ayllón near Pawleys Island in 1520. Upon this first contact, 140 Indians were taken as slaves. Though small remnants of some tribal descendants remain, the vast majority of the tribes were either killed or exiled on the Trail of Tears. The only reminders of their existence are the names of rivers - like the Santee, Wando, and Waccamaw - and surrounding areas, such as Awendaw, Wampee, and Pee Dee, inherited from those who came first. 

The Yamassee War

Native Americans in the Carolinas



Sewee Indian Shell Ring

Image available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Located in the Awendaw community just north of Charleston along Hwy 17. Following the one-mile Sewee Shell Mound Interpretive Trail takes visitors past a 600 year old clam shell ring and a pre-historic oyster shell mound. The trail begins as a nature trail that leads to a 120-foot boardwalk that overlooks the shell mounds and offers five interpretive stops along with views of the salt marsh, tidal creek and Intracoastal Waterway.

Charleston Museum: Lowcountry History Hall

Image via The Charleston Museum

The Lowcountry History Hall's permanent exhibit includes materials related to the Native Americans who first inhabited the area. It also spans the European colonists and enslaved African Americans whose lasting impact on the area is still felt today.

The museum also has two historic sites - the Revolutionary War home of Thomas Heyward, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, built in 1772 and Charleston's Huguenot House, built by Joseph Manigault in 1803.   The Charleston Museum is open Monday-Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Sunday: 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Entry is $12. An additional ticket is needed to visit historical homes.

Santee Indian Mound

Image is public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use.

Visit the 30-foot tall Santee Indian Mound in the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour north of Charleston. The Santee tribe was 3,000 strong around 1650, when early Spanish explorers came to the area. By 1715, the tribe had diminished to 500 people. The millennia old hill was used by the Santee for cermonial rites and burials.


The Village Museum

Historian Bud Hill with students from the Cape Romain Environmental Educational Charter School at The Village Museum. Image by Christine Anderson, 2017.

The Village Museum in McClellanville, S.C., is a short ride north of Charleston, just off of Hwy 17. It offers an overarching view of the area's local history, beginning with the Sewee Indians. Open Thursday-Saturday with $5 admission.

Spanish Mount Shell Midden

This picture is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).

The Spanish Mount Shell Midden Site dates back an estimated 4,000 years. Researchers are unsure if the 12-foot high circle of shells was simply a rubbish pile or if it carried ceremonial significance. The site is reached by the 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail on Edisto Island.

Shell Midden at Hobcaw Barony

This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID gsc 5a31128r.

Baruch Plantation lies just North of Georgetown along Hwy 17. It is home to thousands of years of southern history.  On the grounds are Native American shell rings, the remains of rice plantations, and a freedmen's village. Please note this site can only be visited on a Hobcaw tour. The tour stops at the North Inlet salt marsh, the grounds of Bellefield Plantation, Friendfield Village, and the main floor of Hobcaw House.

Deerskin Map of South Carolina 1721

Database Search

Educational Films

Native Americans and Slavery

After the Revolution

Informative Videos


Collection Citations


Fitts, Keri and Welch, Robin. (n.d.). The Native Americans of South Carolina. South Carolina Information Highway (SCIWAY). Retrieved February 25, 2020, from Editors. (2009). King Philip’s War. History. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved February 27, 2020, from

Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. (n.d.). History and Culture. 

Mather, Increase, (1676). A Brief History of the Warr with the Indians in New-England. Zea E-Books in American Studies. 9.

Milling, Chapman J. (1969). Red Carolinians. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Swanton, John R. (1984). The Indian Tribes of North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press 


Resource Reviews


As Long as the Waters Flow:

Gregory, G. (1998). As Long As the Waters Flow: Native Americans in the South and the East. Library Journal, 18, 94.

Black Slaves, Indian Masters:

Myers, L. (2016). Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South. Journal of African American History, 101(4), 556–557.

Lumbee Indians:

Cohen, D. S. (2013). Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation. Journal of American Folklore, 499, 95.

Yarbrough, F. A. (2011). Malinda Maynor Lowery. Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation. The American Indian Quarterly, 2, 270.

Shared Traditions:

Salmond, John. (1999). Charles Joyner, Shared Traditions: Southern History and Folk Culture. Australasian Journal of American Studies, 18(2), 89.

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. (2001). Shared Traditions: Southern History and Folk Culture Charles Joyner. The Florida Historical Quarterly, 79(4), 608.

The History of the Native Americans:

Browne, Eric. (2006). The History of the American Indians James Adair and Kathryn E. H. Braund. The Journal of Southern History, 72(2), 452.

Hawkins, Richard. (2006). The History of the American Indians [by James Adair] Kathryn E. Holland Braund James Adair. Journal of American Studies, 40(1), 166.

The Land Called Chicora:

Murdoch, Richard K. (1957). The Land Called Chicora: The Carolinas under Spanish Rule with French Intrusions, 1520–1670. By Paul Quattlebaum. Journal of American History, Volume 44, Issue 1, Pages 114–116,

Tibesar, A. (1957). Book Review: The Land Called Chicora. The Americas, 14(2), 214.

Verner W. Crane. (1957). The Land Called Chicora: The Carolinas under Spanish Rule with French Intrusions, 1520-1670 Paul Quattlebaum. The William and Mary Quarterly, 14(4), 627.

The Yamasee War:

O’Donnell, J. H., III. (2009). Ramsey, William L.: The Yamasee War: A study of culture, economy, and conflict in the Colonial South. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 9, 1777.

Stern, Jessica R. (2009). The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South (review). 39(4), 594–595.




Bergstein, Brian. (13 January 2012). Research Archive JSTOR Moves Toward Open Access. MIT Technology Review. Accessed February 27, 2020 from

Luey, Beth. (2005). JSTOR: A History (review). Technology and Culture. 46. 693-695. 

Native American Indian Thought and Culture:

Danowitz, E., & Videon, C. (2010). Native American resources: Sites for online research. College & Research Libraries News, 71(8), 430-435. doi:


Journals and Articles

A Cherokee Origin for the 'Catawba' Deerskin Map:

Calcaterra, A. (2018). Literary Indians: aesthetics and encounter in American literature to 1920. University of North Carolina Press.

Finn, M. P. & Thunen, D. (2014) Recent literature in cartography and geographic information science, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 41:2, 179-192, DOI: 10.1080/15230406.2013.878099

American Indian Magazine:

Michael P. Taylor. (2016). Not Primitive Enough to Be Considered Modern: Ethnographers, Editors, and the Indigenous Poets of the American Indian Magazine. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 28(1), 45-72. doi: 10.5250/studamerindilite.28.1.0045

American Indian Quarterly:

Metoyer-Duran, Cheryl. (1993). The American Indian Culture and Research Journal and The American Indian Quarterly:  A Citation Analysis. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 17(4), 25-54.

Displacing Captives:

Johnson, A. A. (2018). Enslaved Native Americans and the Making of South Carolina, 1659–1739. [Doctoral dissertation, Rice University]. Rice Digital Scholarship Archive.

Royal South Carolina Gazette:

Pribanic-Smith, Erika J.  (2010). Sowing the Seeds of Disunion: South Carolina’s Partisan Newspapers and the Nullification Crisis, 1828-1833. (Order No. 3422976). [Doctoral Dissertation, University of Alabama]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. 

Something Cloudy in Their Looks:

Lee, W.E. (2004). Fortify, Fight, or Flee: Tuscarora and Cherokee Defensive Warfare and Military Culture Adaptation. The Journal of Military History 68(3), 713-770. doi:10.1353/jmh.2004.0124.



Charleston History Museum:

Holtcamp, Amy. (n.d.). Visit the Charleston Museum. Discover South Carolina. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from

Hobcaw Barony:

South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. (n.d.) Hobcaw Barony.  Discover South Carolina. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from

Santee Indian Mound

Estes, Roberta. (29 August 2012). Santee Indian Mound in Summerton, S.C. Native Heritage Project. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from

Sewee Indian Ring:

McAden, Marie. (n.d.). Walk the Sewee Shell LoopDiscover South Carolina. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from

Spanish Shell Mound:

South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. (n.d.). Spanish Mount. South Carolina Trails. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from

Village Museum

McAden, Marie. (n.d.). 5 Fun Things to Do in McClellanville. Discover South Carolina. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from



Yamasee War:

Anderson, D. G. (2018). The Future of South Carolina Archaeology II: A View from 2018. South Carolina Antiquities, 50, 1-15.

Hancock, Emilie. (17 October 2018). Between the Stacks: Celebrate International Archeology Day at the Library. Moultrie News. Retrieved February 29, 2020 from

Woodland Period:

Ferguson, N. N., & Scott, D. (2016). Where the battle rages: war and conflict in Post-Medieval Archaeology. Post-Medieval Archaeology50(1), 134-147.



Our Treatment of the Cherokees:

Dale T. Knobel. (2012). “Native Soil”: Nativists, Colonizationists, and the Rhetoric of Nationality. 27(4), 314–337.



Contrary Warriors

Prins, H. (1988), A film by Helena SolbergLadd.: Contrary Warriors—A Film of the Crow Tribe. American Anthropologist, 90: 774-778. doi:10.1525/aa.1988.90.3.02a01070

King Philip's War:

Zhadanov, S. I., Dulik, M. C., Markley, M., Jennings, G. W., Gaieski, J. B., Elias, G., Schurr, T. G., & Genographic Project Consortium. (n.d.). Genetic Heritage and Native Identity of the Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 142(4), 579–589.

Waccamaw Indian People:

Perdue, T. (2007). American Indian Survival in South Carolina. The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 108(3), 215-234. Retrieved March 2, 2020, from