Chicora Nation Of South Carolina Survives Into 21st Century With Their Own Holiday

Island on which the Spanish slave dealers landed in the early 1500s.
Island on which the Spanish slave dealers landed in the early 1500s. | Source

Recognizing a Living People

Horry County Council in South Carolina resolved in 2015 to make April 20th the official Chicora Indian Day.

Recent History of the Chicora People

American History presents additional questions as we study it and we may never uncover all the answers we seek. Sometimes the popular mythology of misinformation muddies the evidence.

For example, some authors write that the Roanoke Colony is still missing, while a debate continues about whether San Juan, Peurto Rico or Saint Augustine is (settled before Jamestown and Plymouth) is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the USA. Simultaneously, some writers and teachers obscure the fact that the popular image of settlers and natives at the Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving was invented in 1840 for holiday marketing.

The claims of the Spanish on the Pacific Northwest are not taught in many classrooms. Further, we know that "totem" poles first appeared in the Eastern Hemisphere, rather than in the Pacific Northwest. The US educational system has plenty of room for dozens of new PhD students to present increasing amounts of evidence regarding these topics to fulfill their dissertation requirements.

In the mid-2010s, it was interesting to read differing opinions and evidence about a tribe or nation of Native Americans that some factions had declared extinct.

Range of Old Chicora Land

show route and directions
A markerChicora SC -
Chicora, South Carolina 29469, USA
[get directions]

A town is named for the people and man street names in North and South Carolina include the word "Chicora."

B markerWinyah Bay -
Winyah Bay, South Carolina, USA
[get directions]

Village at which Spanish slave traders captured 140 Chicora People in 1521.

C markerPawley's Island SC -
Pawleys Island, SC, USA
[get directions]

Another Chicora VIllage

Pawleys Island estuary.
Pawleys Island estuary. | Source

The Chicora's Version Of History

The Chicora write that they are the oldest and on-time largest group of Native Americans in South Carolina. They settled and framed along the Atlantic Coast, growing the Three Sisters as well as gourds, tobacco, and agricultural animals. They also successfully hunted deer and enjoyed a variety of fish.

Their name has been written Chicora, Chicorana, Chiquola, and Shakori.

Slave captures are underestimated across the Internet and an actual 140 Chicora were captured for sale after Spanish trickery. Next, the French entered the area, eager for it resources. War broke out between the Spanish and the French, with many Chicora massacred.

The Chicora meet the Spanish. Friendly at first, the Spanish suddenly captured 140 people for slaves and half died en route to Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea.
The Chicora meet the Spanish. Friendly at first, the Spanish suddenly captured 140 people for slaves and half died en route to Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. | Source

War broke out between the Spanish and the French, with many Chicora massacred.

Spanish, French, and English Settlers Reduce the Number of Chicora Alive

Some individuals from Spain and France remained in South Carolina and in 150 years, the English ventured into the area. Their diseases - some as simple as measles - leveled many Native Americans and the Chicora declined again.

By 1743, the colony of South Carolina tried to force the remaining individuals onto Catawba land, but many remained along the coastline, and others joined into white families, while other moved westward. Their descendants are alive today, and not extinct.

The Chicora report that their Chief Gene Martin (Igmu Tanka Sutanaji or Great Cougar Standstrong) spoke up from his white family in 1975 to admit he was Native American and began the resurgence of Chicora recognition. Some naysayers claim that he is a fraud, but the Chicora do not believe that.

Groups of Chicora People Today

Rather than being extinct, the descendants of the original Chicora may live as one or two separate nations today:

Other, smaller groups of these individual's and families may also exist in additional communities not yet poked by archaeology and anthropology. Most of the people live along the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina.

The Waccamaw People of South Carolina eliminated the term Chicora from their tribal name in 2002.

I Say Chicora and You Say Catawba

The Cape Fear natives (reportedly extinct) that inhabited what is now Carolina Beach State Park called this area and themselves Chicora. Spanish slave dealers gave one of the men they captured the surname "Chicora", which has no translation I can find; although, in Basque, it seems to mean "anchovy." Some opinions are that "Chicora" in the indigenous language means "the land." This may be correct, but many indigenous groups call themselves "the people."

Some researchers feel that the Chicora group of natives was a band of the Catawba Nation. The South Carolina website called SCIWAY states, rather, that the government tried to force all of the Chicora onto the Catawba land. Other writers feel that the Chicora are a remnant of the Cheraw People. However, all three groups share language origins in the Siouan language group.

Catawba Nation was recognized as a Native American tribe in 1941 and produced a written constitution in 1944 during World War II. The US Government revoked their recognition in 1959 and they regrouped in the 1970s. They were not given the right to vote in American elections until 1965 and had their first tribal elections after 1977, 30 years later in 2007.

Locations of Chicora and Catawba Peoples

Catawba Indian Nation, Federally Recognized Tribe

  • Chief Donald W. Rodgers and Assistant Chief Gene Blue
  • Catawba, SC 29704

Catawba Tribal Historic Preservation Office

  • Dr. Wenonah Haire, Tribal Historic Preservation Office
    P O Box 750; Rock Hill, SC 29731

Chicora Indian Tribe of South Carolina and Chicora Siouan (Chicora Shakori) Indian People

  • Chief Clyde Strickland (Chief Thinking Bird)
  • 6001 S. Kings Highway, Unit 107
  • Myrtle Beach, SC 29575

Held annually, the Chicora Communities Cleanup Program is a partnership with Keep Horry County Beautiful Committee. In 2014, the Chicora People picked up over half a ton of litter and debris from two local parks.

Interesting Chicora Locations

show route and directions
A markerCarolina Beach State Park (formerly Cape Fear) -
Carolina Beach State Park, 1010 B Road, Carolina Beach, NC 28428, USA
[get directions]

B markerRock Hill SC -
Rock Hill, SC, USA
[get directions]

Homelands of the Catawba People

C markerWinyah Bay SC -
Winyah Bay, South Carolina, USA
[get directions]

Village of Chicora People.

D markerPawley's Island SC -
Pawleys Island, SC, USA
[get directions]

Another Chicora village.

E markerPort Royal SC -
Port Royal, SC, USA
[get directions]

French first contact.

2015: The Chicora Are Recognized With Their Own Day

Chicora People of SC in 2014

The above video is credited to Chief Clyde Strickland Thinking Bird, who explains that some of the music and photos in it are from other nations of America's Indigenous Peoples, all used at a celebration.

Documentary: Chicora Dakota Sioux

© 2015 Patty Inglish

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Comments 5 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 15 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

You have such a wide field of curiosity. Thanks for providing a glimpse into this area of the past. The east coast prior to the arrival of Europeans must have been a paradise, as I am sure from my reading that California was.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

Oooooooh, I think California was gorgeous in those days. A Native American living history director (and retired minister) told me that our rivers in Ohio and the East Coast used to have salmon as large as a tall man's arm - and that was the small salmon! Happily, our National Seashores, Waterways, and Forests are bringing some of the paradise back in these parts.


drbj profile image

drbj 15 months ago from south Florida

Hi, Patty. Thanks for bringing to life for me, at least, the Chicora people. Cannot even begin to imagine how beautiful and peaceful the land was before America began.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

@drbj - It was beautiful indeed and we can still see parts of it. Most of the Native Americans left Ohio, but we have several wonderful Pow Wows every year and the storytellers are wonderful, giving us the picture of those times.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 15 months ago from USA

Very interesting hub and I like their activism in cleaning up local parks. I wish more local groups would come together to do good for nature in that way.

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