Catawba - Orientation

Identification. The Catawba are an American Indian group who live in North and South Carolina. The meaning of the name "Catawba" is unclear. It may be derived from the Choctaw katapa, meaning "separated" or "divided." Other scholars have traced it to a Catawba word meaning "people on the edge (or bank) of a river," or "people of the fork." The Catawba called themselves "Nieye" (people), or "Ye iswa'here" (people of the river).

Location. Aboriginally the Catawba lived in the southern Piedmont between 34° and 36° N and 79° and 82° W, an area now occupied by North and South Carolina. Most Catawba today live in these two states.

Demography. Today the Catawba population is approximately fourteen hundred. At the beginning of frequent Contact with Europeans in the late seventeenth century, after 150 years of sporadic contact (and, presumably, losses to European diseases), Catawba numbers may have approached ten thousand.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Catawba aboriginal language was a branch of Siouan, often termed Eastern Siouan. The last known speaker of the language died in 1959.

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