Chief Harold “Buster” Hatcher of the Waccamaw Indian People in South Carolina is waging a persistent war to gain recognition for his people, saying that they, like Native Americans across the nation, are virtually “invisible.”
“I don’t think anybody should have to be ‘recognized’ to have the rights guaranteed in the Constitution,” he says. “It doesn’t say in the Constitution ‘unless you’re an Indian.’”
In that context, Hatcher was talking about the freedom of religion, but it also goes to the right to equal pay for equal work, and even the right to provide a proper burial for Indian ancestors.
The chief is now engaged in a letter writing campaign to influential South Carolinians, such as Gen. Glenn M. Walters of The Citadel, decrying the situation faced by Waccamaw Indians, and he discussed it in more detail for a NFN Radio News podcast and Not Fake News video.
In his letter to Gen. Walters, Hatcher said:
"All over the United States, including our home state of South Carolina, Native American Indians have virtually become invisible. Our voting populace is less than 0.1%, so politicians have no interest in our people or our culture. One of the results of our meager political clout is the loss of our religious freedoms. We are barred from worshipping as our ancestors did, even though President Lincoln declared such freedoms to be among Americans’ inalienable rights. "In South Carolina, although nine tribes have been recognized by the state government as true and indigenous Native American Indian Tribes, only one (Catawba) appears in the state’s social studies or history textbooks. Legislators have not included state tribes in South Carolina’s teaching curriculum. As a result, our children in our schools are thought to be fraudulent and treated accordingly by their peers. "Our graveyards are regarded as open for artifact seekers. Governor McMaster has no concern for them and Mr. Alan Wilson, the Attorney General, will not prosecute the offenders. Additionally, we are subject to endure a national holiday for Christopher Columbus, a villain disguised as an American hero. This villain robbed, raped and murdered our ancestors and was a slave trader who captured, raped, tortured and sold our people into slavery. "Although every politician takes an oath to serve and protect the Constitution, of the state and country, they act as if there is an exclusion for Indians. They simply ignore Native people and the rights that we are denied. They do not include us in the population, except for taxes. We are the only citizens of this country who are forced to advocate for recognition just to have the same rights that others are granted upon birth."
In a video interview with Not Fake News, Chief Hatcher said he continues to seek recognition by the federal government for the Waccamaw Indian People as an official tribe, but is resentful that such a step is necessary.
Nevertheless, he said, recognition would enable tribal members to give proper burial to ancestors whose remains are currently stored in museums, have access to means to generate revenue to provide needed services, and improve education for Waccamaw children.
The battle has been ongoing for several years with little assistance from local politicians or state officials. Congressional representatives who could make federal recognition happen have done nothing, he said.
"Yes, we are still invisible people," said Hatcher. "Nothing seems to change."