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Catawba

How do you pronounce the word "Catawba"? What does it mean?

It's pronounced "cuh-TAW-buh," and it comes from the Catawba placename Katapu, which means "fork in a river."

Where do the Catawbas live?

The Catawbas are original residents of North and South Carolina. Most Catawba people still live in South Carolina today, although others were forced to move to Oklahoma along with the Cherokees in the 1800's.

What language do the Catawbas speak?

The Catawba people speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Catawba language. If you'd like to know an easy Catawba word, hawoh (pronounced hah-woh) means 'thank you.'

How do Catawba Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Catawba children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have beaded dolls, toys and games to play with. Lacrosse was a popular sport among teenage boys as it was among adult men.

Like many Native Americans, Catawba mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Catawba tribe?


Catawba men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Catawba women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, traditional medicine, and leadership. Most Catawba chiefs were men, but there were a few famous female Catawba chiefs.

What were Catawba homes like in the past?

The Catawba Indians lived in settled villages of houses and small farm plots. Catawba houses had wooden frames and bark walls. The Catawbas also built larger circular buildings for town meetings, and most villages had a sports field with benches for spectators.

What was Catawba clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Catawba men wore deerskin breechcloths. Catawba women wore wraparound skirts and mantle-type shirts that fastened at the left shoulder (leaving their right shoulder bare.) The Catawbas also wore moccasins on their feet. In colonial times, the Catawbas adapted European costume into their own style, including colorful wool shawls and ribbon skirts.

The Catawbas didn't wear long headdresses like their cousins the Sioux. Usually Catawba people went bareheaded. Catawba men and women both wore their hair long. Catawba men usually wore their hair in a topknot, while women made their hair into buns in the back. Sometimes Catawba warriors would dye their hair red. Catawba men and women both wore tribal tattoos on their faces, and the Catawbas often painted their bodies bright colors during battles and festivals.

What was Catawba transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?

Catawba Indians made dugout canoes from hollowed-out logs. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, so the Catawbas used dogs to help them carry their belongings over land.

What was Catawba food like in the days before supermarkets?

The Catawbas were farming people. Catawba women harvested crops of corn, beans, and squash. Catawba men hunted deer, wild turkeys, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers. Catawba dishes included cornbread, soups, and stews.

What were Catawba weapons and tools like in the past?

Catawba hunters used blowguns to kill birds and small animals, and spears or bows and arrows to hunt large game. In war, Catawba men fired their bows or fought with heavy war clubs.

What are Catawba arts and crafts like?

The Catawbas are especially known for their pottery. Unlike many southeastern tribes, not all the Catawbas were forced to move to Oklahoma or go into hiding, so the Catawba pottery tradition has continued to the present day. Catawba artists also made beautiful baskets and woodcarvings.

What kinds of stories do the Catawbas tell?

There were many traditional Catawba legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Catawba Indian culture. Here is one interesting local story about the origin of evening lights.