Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Once a proud people in South Carolina, peaceful people who farmed, worked their gardens, and trod their pathways long before the days of Christopher Columbus, the Waccamaw Indian People today have all but faded away.
But Chief Harold "Buster" Hatcher is fighting with every last breath to make certain that does not happen and to preserve their heritage, even though he and many of the 600 known Waccamaws in the Palmetto State feel all but invisible.
Speaking this evening to the Myrtle Beach Human Rights Commission, Hatcher said it's "not just Indians" who have been made to feel invisible because of prejudices, common practices, and actions and non-actions by government. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF HIS PRESENTATION.
"The Jews, Bahai, Muslims, and whatever, are also invisible in the Christian deep south," he said. "Our Christian leaders think there is no way to worship but their way, and even in official government meetings they pray to Jesus Christ. Christians are not the only people on this earth."
When the first white settlers began to take over back in the 1600s, the natives -- the Indians -- "were conditioned to obey the white people." Then, he said, after the revolution the new state of South Carolina just gave large tracts of land away to Caucasians; "maybe the governor's brother, cousin, or some prominent citizen. However, there were houses, fields, villages, and people living on the land when it was granted."
The people living there were told to move, and "if they didn't, they were beaten, killed and otherwise forced to obey," said Hatcher. "When they complained, they complained to deaf ears. We were made to go away and we faded a little more."
Indigenous Peoples' Day
Hatcher's purpose in meeting with the Commission was to propose that Myrtle Beach begin the process of renaming what is celebrated as Columbus Day in many areas as "Indigenous Peoples' Day."
"Columbus was not a good man," said Hatcher. "He was not moral, he was not a good sailor, and he was not the first European to arrive in North America." The chief recounted atrocities committed by Columbus and his men, raping and beating native women and girls, even cutting slices off of Indians "to test the sharpness of their blades."
"Indians were nothing to Columbus," Hatcher said. "But even with the knowledge of these atrocities, this country holds a holiday for Christopher Columbus, and hails him as a hero."
Members of the Commission pointed out that Myrtle Beach does not recognize Columbus Day as an official holiday and seemed to favor recommending that City Council officially recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Beyond that, Chief Hatcher pointed out that the Waccamaws have long sought to obtain federal recognition as an official Indian tribe, an action that was previously for the state level by the state of South Carolina. However, the feds require that the Waccamaws must show unbroken lineage from a Waccamaw today to an ancient Waccamaw back in the 1600s, and that, said Hatcher, is impossible to meet.
Even today, the tribe contends with the lack of recognition and respect in every day life, including the desecration of graves in its cemetery, actions that have been ignored, Hatcher said, by law enforcement, and the housing of hundreds of ancestors' remains in boxes on museum shelves, unable to be given proper burial without federal recognition of the tribe.
"We are basically ignored," said Hatcher. "They think we are all dead."