Wateree people

The Wateree were a Native American tribe in the interior of the present-day Carolinas. They probably belonged to the Siouan-Catawba language family. First encountered by the Spanish in 1567 in western North Carolina, they migrated to the southeast by 1700, where English colonists noted them. They had settled along the Wateree River near what has become present-day Camden, South Carolina. Originally a large tribe, they were diminished by the Yamasee War of 1715 and became extinct as a tribe by the end of the century.

Total population
extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( South Carolina)
unknown, possibly an Eastern Siouan language[1]
Native American religion
Related ethnic groups
probably Catawba people[1]

Language and nameEdit

The name Wateree may come from Catawban wateran, "to float on the water."[1]

16th- and 17th-century historyEdit

They were recorded in 1567 by Spanish captain Juan Pardo's scribe Juan de la Bandera during their expedition through the interior of the Carolinas.[1] Bandera called them the Guatari in his journal, which was also given as the name of their village.[2] Bandera described them as ruled by two female chiefs.[1]

The Spaniards noted that Guatari was far from the coast. The settlement is believed to have been in present-day Rowan County, North Carolina. In 1670, English colonists and explorers mentioned the Wateree as inhabiting the area of the upper Yadkin River, to the northwest of their later habitat.

18th-century historyEdit

A c. 1724 English copy of a deerskin Catawba map of the tribes between Charleston (left) and Virginia (right) following the displacements of a century of disease and enslavement and the 1715–7 Yamasee War. The Wateree are labelled as "Waterie".

By 1700, when observed by John Lawson's expedition, the Wateree had migrated south to settle near present-day Camden, South Carolina along the Wateree River.[1] The British observed that the chiefs of the Wateree had a higher degree of power than those of other Indian tribes of the region. Originally a large tribe, the Wateree had their power broken during the Yamasee War of 1715 against Carolina colonists. The Wateree became allies in a tribal confederation dominated by the Catawba. The latter tribe absorbed remnant bands of many other tribes of the region from the chaos of intertribal fighting.[1]

"James Adair heard more than twenty different languages spoken by the Indians in the Catawba River settlements when he trade there between 1736 and 1743. This included Eno, Cheraw, Wateree, Congaree, Natchez, Yamasee, Coosah, and others. He could probably have added Saponi, Waccamaw, Pedee, Santee and others to his list. The groups varied in size. If large enough, each language tribe tended to create its own village and appoint its own leaders." [3]

The Wateree appeared to have been able to maintain their culture and distinct language as late as 1744. A record of land sale noted that Wateree Indians sold to a white man. The tribe as a group culture has become extinct, but some present-day Catawba are likely genetic descendants of the Wateree.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hodge 921
  2. ^ Catherine Clabby, "Dig finds evidence of Spanish fort", News Observer, 1 Aug 2004, accessed 26 Jun 2008
  3. ^ James Hart Merrell, The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 110.


  • Hodge, Frederick Webb (1912). Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico: N-Z, Part 2. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Wateree language.
  • Mooney, James. Siouan Tribes of the East. Washington, DC.: Government Printing Press, 1894.
  • Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1952; reprint, 1984, pp. 90–92.
  • Adair, James. History of the American Indians. Publisher: Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, London, 1775.