The Cheraw Indians were also called: Ani'-Suwa'II, a Cherokee name; Saraw, Suali, synonyms even more common than Cheraw; Xuala, Xualla, Spanish and Portuguese forms of the word, the x being intended for sh.
The Cheraw are classed on circumstantial grounds in the Siouan linguistic family though no words of their tongue have been preserved.
The earliest known location of the Cheraw appears to have been near the head of Saluda River in what is present-day Pickens and Oconee Counties, South Carolina, whence they removed at an early date to the present day Henderson, Polk, and Rutherford Counties of North Carolina.
Villages: The names given are always those of the tribe, though we have a "Lower Saura Town" and an "Upper Saura Town" on a map dating from 1760.
Mooney (1928) has shown that the Cheraw are identical with the Xuala province, which Hernando De Soto entered in 1540, remaining about four days.
They were visited by Juan Pardo in 1566, and almost a hundred years afterward Lederer heard of them in the same region.
Before 1700, they left their old country and moved to the Dan River near the southern line of Virginia, where they seem to have had two distinct settlements about thirty miles apart.
About the year 1710, on account of constant Iroquois attacks, they moved southeast and joined the Keyauwee.
The colonists of North Carolina, being dissatisfied at the proximity of these and other tribes, Governor Eden declared war against the Cheraw, and applied to Virginia for assistance. This Governor Spotswood refused, as he believed the Carolinians were the aggressors, but the contest was prosecuted by the latter until after the Yamasee War.
During this period, complaint was made that the Cheraw were responsible for most of the depredations committed north of the Santee River in South Carolina, and they were accused of trying to draw the coast tribes into an alliance with them from Virginia.
The Cheraw were then living upon the upper course of the Great Pee Dee River, near the line between the two colonies and in the later Cheraw District of South Carolina.
Being still subject to attack by the Iroquois they finally, between 1726 and 1739, became incorporated with the Catawba, with whom at an earlier date they had been at enmity.
During the Spanish period the Cheraw appear to have been of considerable importance but no estimate of their numbers has come down to us. Mooney (1928) gives 1,200 as a probable figure for the year 1600. The census of 1715 gives 140 men and a total of 510, probably including the Keyauwee and perhaps some other tribes. In 1768 the survivors numbered 50 to 60.
The Cheraw are famous as one of the few tribes in the Carolinas mentioned by De Soto's chroniclers which can be identified and located with fair precision.
They were noted later for their persistent hostility to the English and have left their name in Suwali Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, NC; in Saura Town Mountains, Stokes County, NC; in the town of Cheraw, Chesterfield County, SC; and, possibly in the Uwaharrie River and Uwaharrie Mountains of North Carolina. There is a locality named Cheraw in Otero County, Colorado.