Pee Dee people
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( South Carolina)|
|Christianity (incl. syncretistic forms)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Catawba, Lumbee, and other Siouan peoples|
The Pee Dee tribe (also spelled Pedee and Peedee) are a nation of American Indians of the southeast United States, especially the Piedmont of present-day South Carolina. Several tribes claiming Pee Dee descent have been officially recognized by the state since 2005, although none has federal recognition. The Pee Dee River and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina were named for the nation. Scholars are unsure of what language they spoke, although it may have been of the Siouan family, as were the languages of neighboring small tribes in the Piedmont region.
The anthropologist Charles Hudson described the prehistoric and protohistoric ancestors of the Pee Dee as possibly a "southern chiefdom" of the southeastern Mississippian culture type. Around 1550 A.D., the historical Pee Dee migrated from the lower Pee Dee River of the Atlantic Coastal Plain to the upper Pee Dee River of the Piedmont. Neighboring tribes in the Piedmont spoke Siouan languages, but those of the Low Country spoke Algonquian languages. They remained in the Piedmont for about a century and descendants live in the area today.
Colonial and 19th-century history
The Pee Dee allied with other American Indian nations and colonial settlers against the Tuscarora people, an Iroquoian-speaking tribe, during the Tuscarora War of the early 18th century. As a result, most of the Tuscarora left the area and migrated north, reaching present-day New York to join the related Iroquois tribes. Their leaders said that Tuscarora remaining in South Carolina were no longer considered part of the tribe.
The political relationships formed between the Pee Dee and other tribes in the area at this time carried over into the Yamasee War. The Yamasee War of 1715-1717 caused major changes among the southeastern tribes. By some accounts the Pee Dee, along with many other tribes, were "utterly extirpated". But some survivors may have found refuge with the Siouan-speaking Catawba, who were located closer to the South and North Carolina border. Other survivors either remained along the lower Pee Dee River or returned in the years following the Yamasee War.
In 1737, the tribe petitioned South Carolina for a parcel of land to live upon. They, along with the Notchees (also spelled Nochis), were moved to a 100-acre (0.40 km2) reservation provided by James Coachman in 1738. This reservation was in Berkeley County, along the Edisto River.
Conflicts in 1744 led to the Catawba forcing the Pee Dee off the reservation lands and back into white settlements. South Carolina colonists referred to Indians living within the European-settled areas as "Settlement Indians." A 1740s list of such tribes included the Pee Dee. In 1752 the Catawba asked South Carolina to encourage the Pee Dee "Settlement Indians" to move north and rejoin the Catawba.
During the American Revolution, a company of Pee Dee warriors fought for the Continentals under the British-American general Francis Marion. Known as the Raccoon Company, their company of riflemen was headed by Captain John Alston, a colonist. A group of Pee Dee men who had lived on John Coachman's land were recorded as being under the command of Colonel William Thompson. Many of the militia received grants of land as a form of payment following the conclusion of the war.
Following the American Revolution, the Pee Dee tribe was mentioned only once in governmental documents. During the decades, Pee Dee descendants intermarried with both white and black residents. Under the terms of segregation, they were forced into one or another category. Some members of the remnant tribe began assimilation into the majority white society. This enabled their descendants to avoid removal to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the 1830s.
Such assimilation led to a number of issues in the 20th century. During the South's period of racial segregation and classifying all people into a binary society, appearing and identifying as "white" brought people more privileges and freedom. Since many Pee Dee were of mixed ancestry, some began to identify as white to make their daily lives easier, and gradually assimilated to the white community. The state classified those of darker complexions as black and made their children attend segregated "black" schools. Some attended one of the few Indian schools around the Neeses and Charleston areas during that time.
Some Pee Dee institutions created during the years of segregation have continued to be maintained to this day. One example is the Rocky Swamp Methodist Church, with a majority Pee Dee congregation. Its members observe a combination of Methodist and Native American Church religions. Many Pee Dee people are buried in its historic cemetery.
No branch of the Pee Dee tribe is officially recognized by the United States Federal government. The people identifying as Pee Dee live primarily in Dillon and Marlboro counties.Other descendants of the historic tribe have affiliated with several different tribes: members live mostly in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Since 2005, some remnant or merged Indian communities have gained recognition by South Carolina as state recognized tribes or groups. They include:
- Pee Dee Nation of Upper South Carolina (recognized in 2005), 532 members, living primarily in Dillon and Marlboro counties;
- Beaver Creek Indians (recognized in 2006), primarily in Orangeburg County between the forks of the Edisto River;
- Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina (recognized in 2006), and
- Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek (recognized in 2007).
Issues of identity and politics have prevented these bands from uniting as one Pee Dee tribe. Each is also seeking federal recognition. The only tribe in South Carolina that has gained federal recognition is the related Catawba tribe.
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Little is known about what kind of language the historic Pee Dee spoke. Based on a theory proposed by James Mooney in his 1894 Siouan Tribes of the East, and reinforced by John R. Swanton in his 1936 essay "Early History of the Eastern Siouan Tribes", the Pee Dee are surmised to have spoken a Siouan language, specifically an "Eastern" or "Southeastern" Siouan language. However, Mooney's theory had no linguistic evidence and tenuous ethnohistoric evidence to support it.
- Hudson, Charles M. (1970). The Catawba Nation. University of Georgia Press. p. 16.
- Hudson (1970), pp. 16-17
- Hudson (1970), p. 42
- Hudson (1970), pg. 42
- "Saukee Bluff - Brittons Ferry". rootsweb. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- "South Carolina – Indians, Native Americans – The Pee Dee". Sciway. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
- Hudson (1970), pp. 47-48
- O'Kelley, Patrick (2004). Nothing But Blood and Slaughter: Military Operations and Order of Battle of the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas 1771-1779. Book Locker. p. 54.
- "Wassamaw-Varnertown Indians", South Carolina Information Highway
- "Rocky Swamp Cemetery", Interment.net
- Kevin Smetana, "Pee Dee Indian Nation Might Get Federal Recognition", SC Now, 21 Jun 2008
- "Pee Dee", South Carolina Information Highway
- Hudson (1970), pp. 6-8