Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Historical Archaeology of Catawba Itinerancy

During the late eighteenth century, Catawba Indians in South Carolina experienced dramatic population loss, a shifting colonial economy, and a rapid influx of European settlers into their territory. Although Catawbas had long been clients and allies of the colonial government, with the end of the deerskin trade and their role in colonial-era warfare they were forced to seek new survival strategies. Sometime in the 1760s, Catawbas began leasing reservation land to Anglo settlers and working as itinerant potters and slave catchers. Traveling seasonally from their backcountry home to the seaboard, Catawbas marketed their goods and services in towns and on plantations across South Carolina for over seventy years. This study provides anthropological perspectives on Catawba itinerancy, examining the socio-economics of itinerancy and the Catawba's relationships with their host society, especially their use of patron-client relationships to maintain their land base. Archaeological perspectives include evidence of the impact of itinerancy on Catawba economy, architecture, and material culture, particularly material remains related to identity construction. While European observers tended to view itinerant Catawbas on their home base in terms of negative stereotypes such as indolence and poverty, when traveling, Catawbas were viewed in terms of romantic savagery. Archeological and documentary evidence indicate that itinerancy was a viable economic and political strategy through which Catawbas enjoyed considerable access to consumer goods and to elite planters, whose continued support was critical to maintaining their land base.