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Biographical Description

The ancestral lands of the Catawba Indians before European contact encompassed the region along the Catawba River Valley, stretching across the North Carolina border into South Carolina. By the 1750s, the Catawba Nation had been significantly weakened by war, disease, and drought. Allied with the British during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Catawba stabilized politically and economically, but significant damage had been done to their influence in colonial affairs. 

Situated as they were along a border contested by North Carolina and South Carolina officials, the Catawba often found themselves stuck in the middle of the two colony's disagreements during Governor Arthur Dobbs's administration. While South Carolina Governor James Glen wanted the Catawba's land to remain within South Carolina with a 30-mile radius buffer zone where no colonization would be allowed, Dobbs demanded that the Catawba reside in North Carolina but only wanted to give them a six mile zone, privileging the demands of white colonists over those from native voices.

Smallpox struck the Catawba Nation in 1760, again dwindling their numbers, with one report estimating that only 100 adult men remained in the Catawba towns after the epidemic. In 1763, Catawba representatives met with other American Indian and British colonial leaders in Augusta, where they signed a treaty. In addition to establishing peace, the treaty also formally settled the disputed portion of the NC-SC boundary, granting the Catawba a fifteen-square-mile reservation in the vicinity of present-day Rock Hill. 

Today, the Catawba Indian Nation is one of 574 federally recognized tribes with enrolled members exceeding 3,300.

For more information and links to resources, please see our editorial statement on American Indian terminology.