Possibly the world's largest collection of Catawba pottery is housed in the 15,000-square-foot facility. Tending and teaching about it and its makers are an archivist, artist, folklorist, linguist and archaeologist, all faculty members of the University of South Carolina, Lancaster.
Their mission, "to promote the documentation, preservation, appreciation and study of Native American cultures and heritages."
|Chris Judge and a few of the Center's 1,300 Catawba pots.|
|Double-spouted pot, center right.|
Although there are 13 recognized tribes in South Carolina, the Catawba, or "People of the river," is the only one federally recognized.
As usual, we found ourselves wishing we lived closer so we could take advantage of this wonderful facility with its monthly lunch and learn sessions and the periodic sales of contemporary Catawba pottery (Dec. 6, 2014).
Next it was time to visit the source, the Catawba Indian Reservation in York County. We were met at the Cultural Center by Beckee Garris, who had been born on the reservation and now works for tribal historic preservation and the facility.
|Beckee Garris and a traditional bark house at the Catawba Cultural Center.|
Also on the reservation is a high-stakes bingo hall. Of the 3,000 Catawba in the area, 1,200 to 1,800 live on the reservation; 99 percent work off of it.
Theirs is the typically grossly unfair story of government mismanagement and ignored treaties. The government "bought" their land for $50 an acre, but the tribe may buy it back at fair market value, anywhere from $12,000 to $500,000 an acre.
The tribe's last sacred clay hole, which tribal story tellers say has been used for more than 400 years, is on non-native-held land. Fortunately, the owner allows them to dig several times a year. Scientists tell them Catawba pots have been coming from it for 5,000 years.
When Winona Haire, a dentist and tribe member, arrived we heard of the tribe's plans for the future, primarily to construct a living Catawba village. It has taken almost 4 years to finish the palisade - "It's not like going to Lowe's," said Haire - and a heritage garden has been started.
|Catawba heritage garden|
|Native red okra|
One thing the tribe doesn't teach outsiders is its pottery skills. That would be like giving away their heritage, according to Haire.
"We've got a lot of things in the hopper, it just takes time," she said.
Kind of like the Good Girls' task of trying to see it all.