Congaree people

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The Congaree (also spelled Conagree) were a group of Native Americans who lived in what is now central South Carolina of the United States, along the Congaree River. They spoke a dialect distinct from, and not intelligible by, Siouan language speakers, the primary language family of the area.

Unclassified language[edit]

Region Carolina
Extinct 18th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Linguist list
Glottolog None

Early European observers and later American scholars thought the Congaree were likely of the Siouan language family, given their geographic location and characteristics of neighboring tribes. Since the late 20th century, scholars more widely agree that the people were non-Siouan. Their language was distinct from the Siouan language, and not intelligible to their immediate Siouan neighbors, the Wateree.[1]


The Congaree lived on Santee and Congaree rivers, above and below the junction of the Wateree, in central South Carolina. They had the Santee tribe below them and the Wateree tribe above.[2]

By 1693, Congaree, Esaw and Savannah slave-catchers had pursued the Cherokee as "objects of the slave trade to the extent that a tribal delegation was sent" to Governor Smith seeking protection, and claiming that Cherokee had been sold in the Charles Town slave market.[3][4][5]

In 1698, the Congaree lost "most tribe members to smallpox."[6]

The explorer John Lawsonfound them in 1701, apparently on the northeastern bank of the river below the junction of the Wateree; but on a map of 1715 their village is indicated on the southern bank of the Congaree and considerably above, perhaps about Big Beaver creek, or about opposite the site of Columbia, on the eastern boundary of Lexington county. Lawson described their village in 1701 as consisting of only about a dozen houses, located on a small creek flowing into Santee river. They were then but a small tribe, having lost heavily by tribal feuds, but more especially by smallpox, which had depopulated whole villages.[2]

During the Tuscarora War of 1711, the Congaree fought with English colonist John Barnwell.[4] In early 1715 John Barnwell took a census, which identified the Congaree as living in one village, with a total population of 22 men and 70 women and children.[7]

During the Yamasee War of 1715, the Congaree joined with other tribes in the fight against the colony of South Carolina. Over half were either killed or enslaved by the colonists and Cherokee; some were sent into slavery in the West Indies.[8]

The Congaree, like their neighbors, took part in the Yamasi war in 1715, as a result of which they were so reduced that they were compelled to move up the country and join the Catawba, with whom they were still living in 1743.[9]

In 1718, Fort Congaree was established near the Congaree village, near today's Columbia, and became an important trading station.[2]

In the subsequent decades, Congaree survivors merged with the larger Catawba people. Different tribes lived in their own villages within the loose Catawba federation. The Congaree tribe maintained their distinction until the late 18th century, but are now extinct as an identifiable group.

Mooney described the Congaree as: "A friendly people, handsome and well built, the women being especially beautiful compared with those of other tribes.[9]

Keyauwee Jack, a Congaree by birth, became chief of the Keyauwee by marriage.[10]


Congaree National Park and the Congaree River are named after the tribe.

Some members of the present-day Catawba and other tribes of the Carolinas are likely genetic descendants of the Congaree.


  1. ^ James Hart Merrell, The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. p. 110
  2. ^ a b c Mooney, James (1894). The Siouan Tribes of the East : James Mooney. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  3. ^ Patrick Neal Minges. "'all my Slaves, whether Negroes, Indians, Mustees, Or Molattoes'". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  4. ^ a b Joseph Norman Heard (1987). Handbook of the American Frontier: Four Centuries of Indian-White Relationships : The Southeastern Woodlands. Scarecrow Press. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-0-8108-1931-3. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Lauber (1913). Indian Slavery in Colonial Times. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  6. ^ "History & Culture - Congaree National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  7. ^ Gallay, Alan (2002). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-1717. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10193-7. 
  8. ^ "South Carolina Indian Tribes". Access Genealogy. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  9. ^ a b "Congaree Indian Tribe History". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  10. ^ "Keyauwee Indians". Access Genealogy. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 

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