January 2010 Volume 1
Varnertown Indians gain state recognition
South Carolina: The Wassamassaw tribe of Varnertown Indians became the sixth Native American community in South Carolina to be given state status as a tribe.
" It's something that you dreamed about," said Loretta Leach, an elder who attended the ceremonies.
The Wassamassaw number only about 1,500 in a state with 27,000
American Indians. They had lived for generations between
Summerville and Moncks Corner. They lived on dirt side roads,
attended their own school, and were not accepted by white or black
communities unless they could "pass."
TThe Wassamassaw were one of those tiny remnants of a tribe that record
keepers never bothered with. Even local historians weren't
familiar with them.
To gain state status, the Wassamassaw had to gather 100 years of
records proving they lived in Varnertown as a community. Their
search led to the 1800s and "Indian Mary." Indian Mar married
into a Varnertown family and identified herself as an Edistow. This
could mean the Varnertown community is the last living link to the Edistow.
State recognition does something more for the Wassamassaw. It gives them back their own. "It's just marvelous," Loretta Leach said. "We knew we were here. But to be recognized by the state, that's a good feeling."
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