The lost tribe of South Carolina
Condensed by Native Village
Carolina: North Carolina has the Lost Colony ...
The desert Southwest has the Anasazi ... South Carolina has a combination of the
two. It's called Cofitachequi.
In the 1500s,
Cofitachequi was the main city of a chiefdom in the state’s interior. Hernando
de Soto discovered it in April,
1540. By the 1600s, this Native American mound city had mysteriously
When scholars recently gathered at USC to answer questions about
Cofitachequi, their answers often ended with a variation of “we
might never really know the answer.”
There’s little doubt a town existed in what is now central South Carolina. A
1930s government report indicated the town was near Silver
Bluff. But further examination of early Spanish accounts
indicates it was on the Wateree River, perhaps near Camden.
De Soto had more luck finding Cofitachequi. He journeyed there after hearing tales from a young native of gold, silver
and pearls at an interior community ruled by a female chief. De Soto forced the
boy to lead him to the town.
As de Soto’s men approached Cofitachequi, they were greeted by a woman — either
the leader of the chiefdom or a trusted emissary. Various accounts say the Lady
of Cofitachequi invited de Soto to the town’s temple, or de Soto forced her to
take him to the temple.
Based on descriptions,
the grand temple structure likely was built atop a mound. It was covered in mats made
of cut reeds, and the outside was adorned with shells and pearls. Inside were
amazing piles of pearls and plenty of dead bodies (likely of former chiefs), but
no gold or silver.
The Spaniards were offered food and pearls, which they took.
Later they abducted and forced the Lady of Cofitachequi
to lead them north to the next major chiefdom. Legend has it the Lady of Cofitachequi escaped along the route
and safely returned to her town.
Years later, other explorers arrived at Cofitachequi and documented
the town's existence.
Then between the 1670 visit and the 1690s, Cofitachequi mysteriously
Some archaeologists believe the natives were wiped out by slave traders who forced them
into captivity in Virginia.
Others speculate Cofitachequi was wiped out by diseases brought by
Some wonder if they didn't disappear at all and simply moved north
to join the Catawba tribe. Or perhaps they were Catawban all along.
At the recent USC meeting,
Catawba tribal board member Beckee Garris spoke up.
“You’re all right, and you’re all wrong,” said Garris, quoting stories passed
down through generations. “It was us, but it was also the Lakota Sioux, the
Chickasaw, the Cree and the Blackfoot. You’re going to find evidence to support
all of us.”
Native Village News
September 2009Native Village Home Page
Robert Kaufman Fabrics:
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