Rua and I visited the Catawba Tribe last Friday to tell them about the South Atlantic LCC and explore ways we can work together. I contacted the Catawba recently to invite them to participate on a committee that will advise the South Atlantic LCC on cultural resource conservation – the first meeting is scheduled for March 8. After a brief conversation about our work, Darin Steen, Catawba Environmental Services Director, invited us for an in-person discussion. I learned that the Catawba call themselves yeh is-WAH h’reh, which means “people of the river.”
The name Catawba is how other tribes referred to them in colonial times and means “strong people standing together”, I found both names still apply to the people of the Catawba today. There was evidence of the tribe’s commitment to conserving their culture and its connection to the land at every turn, from use of natural clay deposits to create beautiful pottery, to the way nature was brought artistically into the longhouse and cultural center.
The longhouse stands at the top of a slope and overlooks the Catawba River, the waters of which supported spirituality, and provided transportation, food and drink for thousands of years. Today, the river remains central to Catawba life, but is also a source of deep concern as development, agriculture, and timber practices have impaired the quality of the water with too many nutrients, little dissolved oxygen, coliform, sedimentation, and mercury (http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/News/waterqualityfacts).
I left the meeting asking Rua about the natural resource indicator team’s water quality indicators, hopeful that our work will benefit the Catawba. In my mind, I no longer thought of them as separate – a resource and a people, but as one, a contiguous living system where the people and the water are integrated with the land, a complex assemblage that forms a whole, the Catawba, the yeh is-WAH h’reh.
To learn more about the Catawba, visit http://catawbaindian.net/ or, if you’re in the Rock Hill, SC area, stop by their cultural center and learn about the nation first-hand https://sites.google.com/site/catawbaculturalpreservation/ .
If you’re interested in participating in the cultural resource committee, email or call me and let me know firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-707-0288 .