History, Heritage & Culture

What is Catawba Nation?

We are Ye Iswąre, the People of the River, a tribe in North and South Carolina recognized by the United States from 1944 – 1959 and from 1993 to the present.

We are yemą: parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents dedicated to the future of our people.

We are yękαpįsαwačα: a community of artists, farmers, teachers, and diplomats. We are

dedicated to sharing the beauty and knowledge of our culture.

We are yen tas hea: warriors who have fought to defend our lands and the universal values of human liberty. We are one of hundreds of tribal nations that exist within the United States with our own unique language, history, and values.

A: Some scholars have traced the word to mean, “people on the edge (or bank) of a river,” or “people of the fork.” The tribal people called themselves yeh is-WAH h’reh, meaning “people of the river.” The colonists who came to trade began calling all the tribes along the Catawba River Valley by the name Catawba.

A: According to our stories, our ancestors have lived here since the world began. Archaeologists have confirmed that we have lived on these lands for more than 6,000 years. Artifacts and evidence of our ancestors can be found throughout the Piedmont of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virgina. During most of these millenia our people existed as a confederacy bound by culture, family, diplomacy, and values. In our thousands of years on these lands, Catawbas created ways to live respectfully with each other, with other people, and with the non-humans we share these lands with.

A: Early colonial estimates of the Catawba population when settlers arrived are between 15,000-25,000. By 1760, the fourth smallpox outbreak in one hundred years brought the Catawba population to less than 1,000. By the early 1800’s, the Catawba tribe was made of fewer than 100 citizens.

A: Our ancestors have taught us that “land” is more than “property” and to this day “Catawba Land” remains a complicated topic. Traditionally and contemporarily, Catawbas are well travelled people with connections across the continent and the world and we have traditional values of honoring the land and People of everywhere we visit and live.

Today, there are three main categories of Catawba Land that are important to understand:

  • Traditional Lands: Catawba traditional lands include South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and beyond. Catawbas were and are well travelled people with relationships to far away lands.
  • Trust Lands: The Federal Government holds certain lands “in trust” for tribal nations, conferring certain privileges and restrictions on tribal land. In general, tribes have sovereign control over their trust lands. Catawba Nation has hundreds of acres of trust land located in York County, South Carolina and Cleveland County, North Carolina. Catawba Nation’s Old Reservation and Green Earth Reservation are all classified as trust land.
  • Service Area: According to the 1993 United States “Catawba Land Claim Settlement Act” Catawba Nation’s service area includes all of the state of South Carolina as well as multiple counties in North Carolina.
  • Fee Simple Title Land: Just like any individual, corporation, or municipality Catawba Nation holds land privately that is subject to the taxes of the city, county, state, and federal governments.

A: The Catawba Indians have lived on their ancestral lands along the banks of the Catawba River dating back at least 6,000 years. Before European settlers arrived, it is believed that the Nation inhabited most of the Piedmont area of South Carolina, North Carolina and parts of Virginia. When other tribes were being moved west on the Trail of Tears in the mid-1800s, the state of South Carolina decided not to spend the money because the tribe membership was so low in numbers at the time that it was expected the Catawba would be extinct soon.

A: Pottery. Catawba Pottery is a tradition that has been alive for over 4,000 years with very few changes to the materials and processes used.

Tribal Government (Council, Executive Committees)

A: Catawba Indian Nation is a constitutionally established and democratically governed Nation.

As such, we are dedicated to the function of a free and independent press to provide quality information and accountability to all levels of civic and government life.

The Catawba Nation’s governing body is the General Council, which is composed of all qualified voters of the Catawba Nation. The General Council also elects from its own members an Executive Committee.

A: The General Council elects from its own members a Chief, an Assistant Chief, a Secretary Treasurer, and two Committee men who shall serve as the Executive Committee of the Nation, and oversee the day to day business of the Nation. There are five elected officials that serve four year terms.

A: Each office comes with specific responsibilities as described in the Nation’s constitution. The Executive Committee is specifically asked to oversee laws on behalf of the General Council.

Community & Services

A: The Catawba Indian Reservation is located in the Piedmont (foothill) region of South Carolina in York County. It is composed of two tracts of land, The Old Reservation and Green Earth. Each of these is bordered on one side by the Catawba River.

A:  As of October 2020, there are a total of 3,403 enrolled Catawba citizens.

A: Health services, housing services, transit services, job training, family services, senior center, organic farming, security services, education and cultural preservation, and more.

A: Yes. The Catawba Nation recognizes the importance of building relationships to create more robust programs for our tribe and our citizens as well as to build partnerships to bring economic development opportunities to the Nation.


A: The Little People Academy is a childcare center for children ages of six weeks to five years old. ISWA Head Start provides comprehensive children’s services for the Catawba Indian Nation through funding from Head Start and the state. The Catawba Indian Nation also partners with the Boys and Girls Club for youth development.

A: The Catawba Indian Nation Scholarship Program (Tribal Trust Fund Account) provides tuition assistance to Catawba Indian Nation citizens enrolling or enrolled in degree programs at accredited colleges and universities. There are other scholarships available to Native American students that can be found here.

A: The Catawba Cultural Center is open to the public six days a week. The center offers exhibits which display the history, culture, and heritage of the Catawba Indian Nation. The craft store in the center features crafts from many of our native artisans.

Economic Development, Corporate Nation & Tribal Enterprises

A: The Catawba Indian Nation is designated as a HUBZone. Reservation land is eligible for consideration to become an enterprise zone or general purpose foreign trade zone.

A: The Corporate Nation (TCN) is the Catawba Indian Nation’s tribal enterprise formed through a federal charter under Section 17 of the Indian Reorganization Act as a tribal corporation chartered under tribal law. The Corporate Nation’s board of directors has seven members, with bylaws stating 51% of the board must consist of Catawba tribal members. Business related to the Corporate Nation is separate from the tribal government operations.

A: Red Heritage Media, LLC; Red Heritage Services, LLC; TCN GET

Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort

A: The resort will be developed in phases with the first phase projected to be open by August 2021.

A: Phase 1 will include about 500 slot machines and basic amenities. The next phase, which will open in 2022, will include 1,300 slot machines. At full build out, the resort is planned to have 5,000 machines, table games, restaurants, and hotels.

A: The resort will be operated by the Catawba Nation, and we have partnered with Delaware North for the day-to-day management of the project.

A: We will begin initial job postings very soon. Jobs will be posted on our websites and linked to our social media pages.

Careers and Employment

A: Available job opportunities can be found in the Longhouse lobby on the job board, our other tribal buildings and  online through our website, social media, and Indeed.

A: The Job Training and Development Program assists members who live in our service area and are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe with acquiring job skills necessary to obtain full-time sustainable employment. The program provides vocational guidance by relating personal skills to pre-approved training options and availability of jobs in the current labor market.

A: Jobs will be posted on our websites and linked to our social media pages.

Media Relations

A: It is the policy of Catawba Nation that only our Chief, the elected executive officer of Catawba Nation, and the Tribal Administrator, the unelected head administrator of our tribe, may allow official interviews on behalf of Catawba Nation.

As a sovereign community, we reserve the right to determine our own official spokespeople, just as cities, states, and federal governments do. All of the work undertaken by Catawba Nation is the result of intense collaboration between officials, employees, citizens, community members, and partners and it is crucial to Catawba Nation that these projects be understood as community efforts and not the results of a single person.

A: One of Catawba Nation’s values is the understanding that everything we do builds on the work of others and particularly the work of past generations. When interviewing Catawbas it’s important to include these collaborations and precedents as crucial parts of the story.

A: Individuals that are citizens of indigenous communities should be referred to by their tribal citizenship. For example: Chief Bill Harris (Catawba Nation), Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek Nation).  “Native American” is the most widely accepted term for indigenous people from the lands currently occupied by the United States. “American Indian” is a term that has roughly the same meaning as “Native American” but with additional legal and census connotations. “Indigenous” is a broad term referring to any community with historical continuity to pre-colonial times.