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Pedee people

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Pee Dee, Pedee, or Peedee
Town Creek Indian Mound.JPG
Town Creek Mound, a precontact Pee Dee culture site in North Carolina
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( South Carolina)
unknown, likely Siouan languages
Related ethnic groups
Catawba and other Siouan peoples

The Pee Dee people, also Pedee and Peedee, are American Indians of the Southeast United States. Historically, their population has been concentrated in the Piedmont of present-day South Carolina. In the 17th and 18th centuries, English colonists named the Pee Dee River and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina for the tribe.

Linguists have not identified to which language family the Pedee language belonged, although it was likely a Siouan language,[1] as were the languages of neighboring small tribes in the Piedmont region.

Several organizations, including state recognized tribes,[2] one state recognized group[2] and unrecognized groups, claim descent from Pedee.[3][4]


The meaning of name Pedee is unknown but is believed to be a Catawba language-term. Anthropologist Frank Speck believed the term may have derived from the Catawba term pi'ri, meaning "something good," or pi'here, meaning "capable," "expert," or "smart."[1]

Pre-contact history

The Pee Dee culture is an archaeological cultural spanning 1000 to 1500 CE and is divided into the Teal phase (1000–1200), Town Creek phase (1200–1400), and Leak phase (1400–1500).[5] The Pee Dee were part of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture[6] that developed in the region as early as 980 CE,[7] extending into present-day North Carolina and Tennessee. They participated in a widespread trade network that stretched from Georgia to South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and the mountain and Piedmont regions of North Carolina. The Pee Dee culture had developed in the region as a distinct culture by 980 CE[7] and thrived in the Pee Dee River region of present-day North and South Carolina during the pre-Columbian era. As an example, the Town Creek Indian Mound site in western North Carolina was occupied from about 1150 to 1400 CE.[6]

Town Creek Mound in Montgomery County, North Carolina is a protohistoric Pee Dee culture site.[8] Extensive archeological research for 50 years since 1937 at the Town Creek Indian Mound and village site in western North Carolina near the border with South Carolina has provided insights into their culture.[9] The mound and village site has been designated a National Historic Landmark.


Around 1550, the Pedee migrated from the lower Pee Dee River of the Atlantic Coastal Plain to the upper Pee Dee River of the Piedmont and remained there for about a century. They displaced local hill tribes, such as the Saponi, who resettled the region when the Pedee left.[10] Historian Charles M. Hudson believes their migration may have been an effort to avoid Spanish slave raids along South Carolina's coast. These 16th-century Pedee practiced head flattening, like the neighboring Waxhaw.[11] In 1567, Spanish explorers encountered the village Vehidi on the Pee Dee River, believed to be a Pedee settlement.[12]

In 1600, the population of Pedee people was estimated to be 600.[1] Europeans began settling in South Carolina in large numbers in the 17th and early 18th century. The English established a trading post at Euauenee or Saukey in 1716 to trade with the Pedee and Waccamaw. The Winyaw and Algonquian-speaking Cape Fear Indians migrated from the Atlantic Coast up the Pee Dee River to the trading post.[1][13]

In 1711, the Tuscarora War broke out in North Carolina,[14] and South Carolina tribes joined in the fighting. In 1712, Pedee warriors, along with the Saraw, Saxapahaw, Winyaw, and Cape Fear Indians, served in British Captain John Bull's company[13] to fight alongside the British against the Tuscarora and helped defeat them. As a result, most of the Tuscarora left the area and migrated north, reaching present-day New York and Ontario to join the related Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Iroquois tribes.[14]

In 1715, English mapmakers recorded a Pedee village on the west band of the Pee Dee River's central course.[15]

The political relationships formed between the Pedee and other tribes in the area at this time carried over into their alliances of the Yamasee War. The Yamasee War of 1715–1717 resulted in major changes among the Southeastern tribes. Historian William James Rivers wrote in 1885 that the Pedee along with many other tribes were "utterly extirpated."[16] However, some survivors may have found refuge with the Siouan-speaking Catawba, who were located near the South and North Carolina border.[17]

In 1737, the Pedee tribe petitioned South Carolina for a parcel of land to live upon. They, along with the Natchez were moved to a 100-acre (0.40 km2) parcel provided by James Coachman in 1738.[citation needed] This land was in Berkeley County, along the Edisto River.[citation needed]

In the 1740s, the Pedee, along with the Sara, Yuchi, Natchez, and Cape Fear Indians, were known as "settlement Indians," by South Carolinian English settlers.[18] Anthropologists James Mooney and John R. Swanton both wrote that in 1744 the Natchez and Pedee attacked and killed several Catawba people,[1] so the Catawba drove them into European settlements. Mooney wrote of the Pedee that, "In 1746 they and the Sara are mentioned as two small tribes, which had been long incorporated with the Catawba. They were restless under the connection, however, and again Governor Glen had to interfere to prevent their separation."[15] Like neighboring tribes during this era, the Pedee owned African-America slaves.[15]

In 1751, at an intertribal conference in Albany, New York, the Pedee were recorded as being a small tribe living among European colonists.[19] In 1752, Catawba envoys encouraged the Pedee to settle with their tribe.[15] Governor John Glen spoke to Catawba leader King Haigler on May 29, 1755, and said South Carolina had "persuaded the Charraws, Waccamaws, and some of the Pedees to join you [the Catawba]." When Cherokee and Natchez killed Pedee and Waccamaw people in 1755, they were still living in European settlements.[20] This 1755 mention was the second-to-last historical record of the Pedee people[21] until the 20th century. Swanton wrote, "In 1808 White neighbors remembered when as many as 30 Pedee and Cape Fear Indians lived in their old territories,"[22] but "In 1808 the Pedee and Cape Fear tribes were represented by one half-breed woman."[1][23]


Little is known about what language the Pedee 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 Pedee are believed to have spoken a Siouan language, specifically an "Eastern" or "Southeastern" Siouan language.[24] No vocabulary of the Pedee language has been recorded.[1]


Possible descendants of the Pedee might be enrolled in the Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina.[3][15] Today, several other groups claim to be descended from the Pedee.[2]

The State of South Carolina has officially acknowledged two Pee Dee state recognized tribes and one state recognized group.[3] The state recognized tribes are:

The one state recognized group is:



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Swanton 97
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Federal and State Recognized Native American Entities". The South Caroline Commission for Minority Affairs. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Native American Heritage Federal and State Recognized Tribes". SC Department of Archives & History. State of South Carolina. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Pounds, Keith A. (12 June 2016). "'Not a Tribal Community'". T&D. The Times and Democrat. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina". The Archaeology of North Carolina. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Research Laborities of Archaeology. 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Cunningham, Sarah L. "Biological and Cultural Stress in a South Appalachian Mississippian Settlement: Town Creek Indian Mound, Mt. Gilead, NC" (PDF). North Carolina State University. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  7. ^ a b "The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina: Southern Piedmont Late Woodland". The Archaeology of North Carolina. Research Laboratories of Archaeology, UNC. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Town Creek Indian Mound: The Pee Dee Culture". North Carolina Historic Sites. NC Department of Cultural Resources. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "Town Creek Indian Mound: An American Indian Legacy", North Carolina Historic Sites, 2012, accessed 22 April 2014
  10. ^ Hudson (1970), 16–17, 26
  11. ^ Hudson (1970), 16–17
  12. ^ Rudes, Blumer, and May 302
  13. ^ a b Rudes, Blumer, and May 310
  14. ^ a b Rudes, Blumer, and May 308
  15. ^ a b c d e Mooney 77
  16. ^ Hudson (1970), 42
  17. ^ Hudson (1970), 42
  18. ^ Hudson (1970), 47
  19. ^ Hudson (1970), 47-48
  20. ^ Swanton 101
  21. ^ Rides, Blumer, and May 311
  22. ^ Swanton 75
  23. ^ a b c Kevin Smetana, "Pee Dee Indian nation might get federal recognition", SC Now Morning News, 21 June 2008 (accessed 12 August 2016).
  24. ^ Hudson (1970), 6-8


Further reading

  • H. Trawick Ward and R. P. Stephen Davis Jr., Time before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Joffre Lanning Coe, Town Creek Indian Mound: A Native American Legacy, University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

External links