header image

Building C of C’s Relationships with SC’s Native American Communities

Posted by: Julia Eichelberger | May 17, 2022 | No Comment |
Jenna Chalhoub presenting research

Jenna at the C of C Research Exposition. April 7, 2022. 

Jenna Chalhoub ’22 completed her minor in Southern Studies with a capstone project on Native Americans living in the South since the era of Removal. Jenna’s project not only explores academic sources, but also seeks to learn from Native Americans what their experiences may have been like and what histories and perspectives they would like to share with non-Native people.  She’s also created this Voicethread based on a presentation she did for the College of Charleston Research Expo in April.
We congratulate Jenna for this excellent and ground-breaking work! A week after graduation, she found time to answer a few of our questions about her research.
Q: Tell us how you got so interested in doing this project for your capstone.
A:When assigned the task to formulate a project summarizing my experience in Southern Studies, I realized there was a huge gap in the historic narrative in need of discussion: the Native American perspective. For the project, I aspired to discover what life was like for Native people living in the South from 1830, the year the Indian Removal Act passed, to the present year of 2022. Due to the complexity of this project, it made sense to start local and learn about Tribes with roots much older than Charleston.
With limited published sources, I began to research the history of the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of South Carolina and the Wassamassaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians. Indigenous People were not provided the opportunity for recognition by the state of South Carolina until 2004, so written sources on these Tribes histories are limited. To grasp a broader Southern perspective, I sought to read narratives written about one of the largest Tribes in the Southeast: the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina. Although reading is informative, making connections with Tribe members and supporting their publicly held events is the most effective and meaningful way to learn about their histories and culture.
Artwork representing the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of SCArtwork representing the Wassamasaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians
Q: Is this a topic that was taught in your coursework? 

A: No, not necessarily. Most people are unaware of Native American Tribes living in the South because public school systems have historically not included their perspectives in the narrative. Based on my experience in school, efforts are made to tell the history of how Native people and European settlers interacted during colonization. However, the stories are offered from narrow perspectives and neglect to include the rich and diverse history of Native Tribes before the United States existed, as well as their experiences and contributions to the tale of American history. During the fall semester of 2021, I enrolled in a Native American history class (HIST 215) where I discovered that many Native Tribes remained in the South after the Removal era (1830s) and still live today. One of my first thoughts when I learned about the Edisto’s and the Wassamasaw Tribe was: “Why am I just now learning about these Native communities after I have lived in Charleston for four years?”

Q.  How can C of C professors and students learn more about these communities and their histories?

A. Once I began my research I discovered that sources of information on this topic have been quite limited, and that the first step to truly learn these People’s stories was to make connections with them. As a College of Charleston community, we should continue learning about, listening to, and developing relationships with local and regional Tribes in order to provide a more complete and inclusive history for a place we all call home. My project supervisor, Dr. Julia Eichelberger, and I have worked together to build a bibliography of sources we gathered, so other students and faculty can use them in future research. This is intended to be a continuous growing source that anyone interested in the topic can help us build on. We are also working with Jared Seay to create a Libguide on Native Americans in the South that will be made available. [If you’d like to help us develop this bibliography, please go here to see the work in progress and offer your feedback and ideas.] We hope that these sources will not only help educate the community, but also lead to the development of more classes on the topic. In the meantime, check out this link to learn more about the Native American timeline in South Carolina history.  

Sarah Creel ’22, far right, stands behind Rev. Leondra Stoney ’02 at C of C’s 2021 ‘Land and Labor Acknowledgement.’ Photo by Mike Ledford.

Q: This fall, the College had its first major public event that included a ‘Land and Labor Acknowledgement’. Some C of C faculty researching this topic also attended a webinar about land acknowledgements. One point made in that webinar was the importance of building relationships with present-day Native Americans and learning how one’s institution could learn from and support them. How did you try to build these relationships in the research you did?
A: Every Tribe has different traditions and histories to learn about, and building relationships takes time and patience. After I gathered sources, I connected with Sarah Creel ’22, Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe member, to learn about her family’s traditions, as well as their experiences as Native people living in the South this past century. While these conversations provided a richer knowledge than any book could offer, it only made me want to learn more.
The Edistos held their 45th Annual Powwow this past April (see flyer below) where I had the opportunity to experience an event that showcased some of their traditions such as dance, food, and crafts. These events are open to the public, and are some of the best opportunities to learn about different Tribes and their traditions. Try to attend next year! 

The Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe Pow Wow Flyer, April 2022.

Q: What do you hope C of C students and faculty will do to build stronger relationships with Native Americans in our state?
A: Aside from using these sources to learn about the histories, C of C students and faculty should incorporate the Native American perspective in the classroom. To access quick, current information about the recognized Tribes in our state, go to South Carolina’s Recognized Native American Indians Entities through the Commission for Minority Affairs website. Here each Tribe in South Carolina has a point of contact listed, their website, or social media handles for the public to access. Following their social media accounts is an excellent way to hear about events they host to educate the public about their culture, as well as opportunities to support them. My hope is that students and staff will reach out to these communities, attend their events, and participate when appropriate. 
under: Uncategorized

Leave a response -

Your response:


Skip to toolbar