Carolina - The Native Americans

The Wateree Indians

Gatschet suggests a connection with the Catawba word, wateran, "to float on the water." Also called: Chickanee, name for a division of Wateree and meaning "little;" Guatari, Spanish spelling of their name.

The Wateree are placed in the Siouan linguistic stock on circumstantial evidence.

The location associated most closely with the Wateree historically is on Wateree River, below present-day Camden, South Carolina. According to Lederer, they were living in 1670 on the upper Yadkin River in North Carolina.

The Wateree are first mentioned in the report of an expedition from Santa Elena by Juan Pardo in 1566-67. They lived well inland toward the Cherokee frontier. Pardo made a small fort and left a corporal there and 17 soldiers, but the Indians soon wiped it out.

In 1670, Lederer places them very much farther north, perhaps on the upper Yadkin River, but soon afterward they are found on the Wateree River where Lawson met them in 1701.

In 1711-12, they furnished a contingent to Colonel John Barnwell in his expedition against the Tuscarora in North Carolina.

In a map dated 1715, their village is placed on the west bank of Wateree River, possibly in Fairfield County, South Carolina, but on the Moll map of 1730 it is laid down on the east bank.

The Yamasee War (1715-1716) reduced their power considerably, and toward the middle of the eighteenth century they went to live with the Catawba, with whom the survivors must ultimately have fused. They appear as a separate tribe, however, as late as 1744, when they sold the neck of land between Congaree and Wateree Rivers to a white trader.

The number of Wateree is estimated by Mooney (1928) at 1,000 in 1600. There is no later enumeration.

The Wateree were one of the most powerful tribes of central South Carolina as far back as the time of the Spanish settlements at Santa Elena of the late 1560s. Their name is preserved in Wateree River, in South Carolina, and in a post village in Richland County, SC.


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