Title: Roger Trimnel
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


Interviewee: Roger Trimnel
Interviewer: Emma Echols
August 8, 1993
CAT 206




Roger Trimnel is a member of the Catawba tribe whom Mrs.
Echols refers to as "the historian of the Catawbas." Trimnel owns
a large collection of photographs and other information pertaining
to the Catawbas, and in the interview he discusses his reluctance
to place them in a museum for fear they will not be properly
preserved. He also discusses his disapproval of the goals of the
Catawba Cultural Preservation Project and says they are more
interested in "setting up a Cherokee-type commercial arrangement"
than in preserving the past. Trimnel also explains his political
and cultural disaffection with the Catawba leadership and says he
has lost all confidence in and respect for the executive committee
of the tribe because, he says, they do not represent the people.









Roger


E: I am visiting down on the reservation with [the man] I call

the historian of the Catawbas. He knows more about the

Catawba people, has more pictures [and] more information,

and he has spent lots of his time and money doing this. I

am talking about Roger Trimnel. I am interested in knowing

what you are going to do with all the things that you have

J collected and what you haveF

T: Well, my intention has always been to make it available to

anybody that wants to use it.

E: Will it be put in the new facility here?

T: That depends on the new facility and how it is operated,

because my experience in the past has been that everything

that has been collected and put in any facility has

Disappeared. -Bec~auewhen I worked with CENA years ago, I

left all the documents and records in a file cabinet with

the instruction that one copy would stay in the file--it

would stay closed and locked and never given out--and the

other would be used to make copies for public consumption.

Those files do not even exist anymore.

I am not a member of the Cultural Preservation Project. I

believe in the concept of cultural preservation but the









people who are currently involved in doing that have a very

different concept of cultural preservation. My concept is

to find out what really was, how it was really done, why it

was really done, and to continue those things. But like

most eastern Native American groups now, it appears that the

cultural preservation project is to mimic other Indians, not

Catawbas, and I do not agree with that.

You should say that again.

[Its purpose is] to mimic other Indians. The people in

Cherokee and most Indians in that area wear the Sioux and

Cheyenne headdress. There is no record that any kind of

headdress was ever used in this area. They always insist on

the tepees and western-type dwellings. Well, there is no

evidence that anything like that was ever used here. And it

is my impression that the cultural preservation project is

more interested in--how can I put it--setting up a Cherokee-

type commercial arrangement here at Catawba than they are in

truly preserving what past or culture does still exist, and

I do not agree with that. I do not think that the people

here on the reservation want a Cherokee retail area here.

That is my impression; I may be wrong. But all the people

that I know (which is about all of the older people) do not

want a retail commercial village that will exploit what

remains here as far as homesites and the history.

I am not part of the Cultural Preservation Project and I

have already told one of my sons that when my time comes, I









intend that all my children will have copies of everything I

have got, but one in particular will have all the originals.

I have asked Dr. Proctor for years for copies of the oral

histories. He has been very rude and I want him to hear

this because he has never even acknowledged the letters. He

has never answered the letters, he has never acknowledged

them. I have written letters to the president of the

Sv university. I intend to write letters to the e -uke
C5 ^ 0r Q eA- y
Foundation. I think A othDuke still lives in Hawaii and

I intend to write her and ask for copies of those oral

V R r histories as well as the tapes Bpcause Dr. Proctor has

totally ignored any efforts, even when I was a part of the

cultural preservation project. Frankly, I have no reason to

think it will ever be preserved because I do not really

think that the majority of the people have an interest in

it.

E: My little part has been very small, but I started making

friends with them and the little bits of history that I have

preserved are like bits of a patchwork quilt. I have

/ especially been interested in -teducation. I have

preserved a lot about the teachers and the schools, and the

things like that. And so it is like a patchwork quilt:

this, then that, and the other, all put together. But you

have a great deal. Now to me, you are part of it, the

University of Florida has a thing, there is also pottery by

Mr. Simpson in Rock Hill. I do not know what is going to









happen to that. And there may be other items of history,

but what is going to happen to them? Are they going to be

displayed on the wall, are they going to be put in a

library?

T: I have no idea. Bill Simpson told me six months ago that he

was going to sit down and talk to me about that collection.

Whether you know it or not, Bill Simpson and I have been

involved in what later became SCRAP: South Carolina

Residents Against Pollution. There was an effort on the

part of the city of Charlotte that has not ceased yet to put

a big sewer plant in on the Simpson properties, across the

river from Sugar Creek. Bill Simpson and I pretty well

founded that organization and formed another and that

[plant] has been either delayed or cancelled, and moved

further down river. We do not know what the city of

Charlotte is planning on doing, but they had planned on

putting the sewer plant--put it this way--right in the

center of all Catawba historical cultural centers; either on

Sugar Creek or on this side of the river on the Simpson

r/ property or on the other side of the river near King Creel-"

J which is really ___ .sPd? But the last we heard, they

had negotiated with Lancaster County to put it in somewhere

between the railroad bridge, near Bow Water and Landsford.

Still do not understand why Charlotte or the people in

York County area will even tolerate that. I do not know if

you have even heard about the sledge, as it is called, that









they have taken out of the old lagoon there, near where

Carson Blue is, and spread it all over areas of McConnell

and York County, and the people there are totally outraged.

And if that sewer plant came into existence, that would be

happening every day; there would be hundreds of thousands of

tons of sledge to be scattered all over York County. But

all I am saying is that Bill Simpson and I worked on this

for quite a long time, and so far we feel like we have been

successful in having that not done. My main interest was

the fact that it would destroy cultural sites of CatawbaAand

it may yet happen.

E: Bill Simpson's father was very much interested in preserving

all that beautiful pottery, but he wanted a cultural center

where it would be preserved. He was anxious to have the old

library made into the cultural center of Rock Hill. He did

not want to give it to the nature museum [because] he did

not think the nature museum would take care of it. So now

there it sits in the little house behind the garage. When

this big building is finished, would you be willing to put

your things on display down there or not?

T: That depends on how well they would be cared for and

preserved.

E: They say they have got a grant of $70,000 to finish that

building. On the outside it is a monstrosity (you know what

I am taking about) but on the inside . .

T: They got a grant that they robbed from the tribe.









E: . they have finished floors and walls and so forth. And

they plan to use a whole wall for pictures and plan to let

people come in and read the things and use it but not to

check them out like a library, where they will be lost. I

am anxious . .

T: I am afraid they will be lost anyway.

E: . that the things I have contributed through the

University of Florida will be preserved in some way.

T: Well, all I can say is current history has shown that there

has been very little interest in those kind of things, and

if you knew the real number of people who supported the

Cultural Preservation Project from the standpoint of

participating in a program and assisting in the work that is

done down there, it is a bare handful. I have no reason at

this point to think that that will really change. I hope it

does because there is a real need to preserve our culture.

E: Do you know Tom Stanley? He was here for the celebration.

T: The last time?

E: Yes. He knows the pottery-making. Is it true that Winthrop

College is going to take your pictures or my pictures or

whose ever, and transpose them and arrange them so that they

would be on display and to be used?

T: Well, he is not going to do mine that way because I have not

talked with him about it. About four or five years ago,

when the Cultural Preservation Project was organized, I went

and talked to the curator--I have his name here somewhere--









of the archives downstairs in the library. He said that

they would be happy to take whatever we had and keep it in a

safe environment and safe conditions so they could be

preserved. But I have negatives of all the pictures that I

have so far.

E: You have got an amazing collection, really.

T: Of course, if I can keep the negatives, the pictures can be

made forever. But I cannot tell you what they are going to

do because I do not know what they are going to do. What is

even more important than that [is that] even though a

facility might be planned, are they going to have somebody

S there all the time)?is it going to have plexiglass? A

great-nephew of somebody on the reservation was robbed last

night. People are robbed down here on this reservation once

a month. Once a month is not an unfair estimation. There

is no reason for me to believe that it will not happen too

in that building over there.

E: With $70,000 they are not going to begin to finish the

outside of that building: make an entrance, make it

attractive for visitors to want to come into it.

T: First of all, let me say this Mrs. Echols: I disagree with

the way the $70,000 was taken, and I say taken.

E: That was from the tribe.

T: It was taken from the tribe. Saturday I washed my hands of

Catawba.

E: Saturday.









T: Saturday. The only thing I am ever going to have to do with

Catawba any longer is the history and the genealogy on a

personal basis. And as far as what the Catawba Nation does

politically or what they do with the Cultural Preservation

Project is between them and whoever else they deal with,

because I lost all confidence and all respect in our

leadership and the people Saturday for what they did. They

have very little foresight, they make decisions not knowing

what is the case now or what may be the case in the future.

For example, last night, we had a lady here from Clemson

[University] who did her thesis on landscape planning and

she had some concepts that she wanted to throw out to the

tribe about how that discipline can be used for the

reservation. She was turned down cold by the executive

committee; they did not even really want to talk to her.

E: Who are the executive committee [members]? Can you name

them?

T: Gilbert [Blue] is the chief. There is no assistant chief,

Buck George is a committeeman, Carson Blue is a

committeeman.

E: I cannot imagine them not wanting to listen.

T: Carson Blue is also the acting secretary-treasurer. Several

other individuals have been attached to the executive

committee, which, called the Land Claim committee, in the

past was called the money group, who wanted nothing but

money and were willing to sell off Catawba. It is my guess,









or my estimation, that the people of Catawba who really care

about what is going on down here were totally left out of

the meeting Saturday by the leadership, including Gilbert

Blue, who I have always had the deepest and highest respect

for. As far as I am concerned, they have no real concern

for what is going to happen down here, regardless of the

money.

So as of Saturday I have nothing to do politically, I have

nothing to do with the Cultural Preservation Project. What

I do is private and personnel, and I will continue doing

that. At this point, I have no reason to believe that

anything that is or is not collected by the Cultural

Preservation Project will ever be kept on behalf of Catawba.

I see no reason for that to be the case because there is so

little foresight. For example, this woman sitting right

over here, she knows as much about these people down here as

anybody living. She knows more about it than a lot of

people older than her and nobody ever asked her, nobody ever

goes talk to Lula Beck, nobody ever goes to see

Ayers. People are more concerned with what they are going

to have in their hand, by way of money, in the next few

years, and all these other abstracts do not even exist now.

They forget totally about the past. It bothers me; I

decided Saturday there is nothing I can do about it so I

might just as well quit worrying about it.









V E: Now I have got interested in this because I have collected

bits and bits of history. Tell me what should I do with my

Stapes and my pictures.

T: Well, that is for you to decide Mrs. Echols. I am not going

to tell you that. But I can tell you that what I have is

going to be preserved. Like I said I have already made

arrangements with my children. It will be there and

everyone of them will have copies of everything I have got.

My intention was to put it in a public place and if that

public place becomes a reality and it is a safe place and it

can be assured that they are going to stay there, I do not

have a problem with it going there. For example, Tom _

is giving all his pottery to the Cultural Preservation /

Project.




E: Yes, I know him.

T: I do not know if he was a professor at Winthrop, but he at

least was an instructor there, and is now employed by the

Library of Congress. He has become quite an expert.

E: Will his things be put down here?

T: Well, that is my understanding. He said he was going to

give them to the tribe, I think specifically the Cultural

J Preservation Project. I understand the museum has

made some commitments to the Cultural Preservation Project.









But quite frankly, I am concerned if that will ever really

happen . .

E: They say Winthrop College has said they would prepare the

pictures and fix things to be preserved.

T: . because certain documents have to be kept in the

right atmosphere, under certain kinds of light, certain

kinds of humidity, and so forth. But this was three or four

years ago. I have not even talked to those people since

then.

E: Well, the future is way in advance t is not right now.

T: I know the future is also right now, Mrs. Echols. For

example, if people do not know what Mildred knows or what

Lula Beck knows now, there is no future for that; it is

gone. So it needs to be done now. For example, on the

other side of the river over here, I asked the Cultural

Preservation Project, when I was on it, and the executive

committee, to consider the bottoms, where the old ferry used

to be. You know the last Early Brown ferries, on the other

side of the river. Have you seen that lately?

E: No.

T: You ought to go across the bridge. They have literally

raked the river bottom. There is a pond over there now,

just to the right of where the ferry used to come out on the

opposite side of the river. They have dug out clay--and it

is mainly clay because it is the Ash Brick Company that is

doing it--but anyway, that old river bottom has had the









surface down to three, four, five feet, totally ripped out.

They were going in and out of there with truck loads of

V clay, hundred truck loads of clay. As far as the

cultural past there, it is dead, because the executive

committee would take no steps to do anything about it.

Where the old cemetery is located on the Nesbit land, up

here up river, below the old Nesbit hunting cabin--you

probably know where that is--they have gone in there and cut

out all the timber and all the trees.

E: Now who has done that? The government?

T: Mr. Nesbit has. It is his land. But that is where the

cemetery is. The executive committee has taken no steps to

do anything. Now as far as this sewer plant is concerned,

Gilbert did attend one meeting with the city council of Rock

Hill about a year and a half ago, when our committee SCRAP

was there. He did attend. I had represented the executive

committee independently, thinking that I was reflecting what

they wanted. They made no steps to do anything about the

extension of l Boulevard. They have had nothing to do

with the city of Charlotte sewer plan on Catawba

traditional cultural land. They have done nothing about

the old cemetery. I get the idea from the executive

committee that they do not care.

E: So you think it will be years before this building sitting

out here next door will be in usable condition?









T: Well, if they have got $70,000 they feel they can complete

it and have it very serviceable.

S E: That means heat, driveway, and an entrance and underpinning.

T: I have no idea what they mean because I have not attended

the meetings. But I do know that the building was in a

questionable state of repair when it was moved to begin

with.

E: That was a huge thing to move -thb -th-ingfrom two miles

away.

T: It was. It was one of the biggest physical moves that has

taken place in this part of the country.

E: Roger, you and I agree on a great many things and I

appreciate what you have done. And other people in the

tribe all appreciate what I have done and what others have

done in trying to preserve this history, and you have done

the great part of it, and I appreciate what you have done

and what you have meant. And I appreciate you talking to me

because I learn from you everyday.

T: I have great concerns about Catawba. I am certainly not the

only one.

E: Yet you hope for the future, do you not?

T: Well, I certainly do. But to be honest with youAMrs.

Echols, what I saw Saturday was the demise of Catawba, as

far as a traditional and cultural past. As far as I am

concerned it began fading fast on Saturday because we have a

committee now that does not represent the people. It stands









there and tells everybody what to do. It does not allow

people to present their grievances or their views. I

understand they committed themselves to spend over five

million dollars Saturday that they do not even have. I told

you after Saturday I was washing my hands of Catawba. My

personal opinion is they had really little regard to

preserve anything. T-H a w-ng -b eve m I

hope I am wrong, I really do; I hope I am totally wrong.

Now you know Gilbert; you have known him for years just like

I have, and up until aboutA/eek or two ago I had almost

total faith in Gilbert. I would have gone to the moon with

Gilbert Blue. But when you turn your back on your people

and you stand before a group of people who you lie to over

and over and over, something is very wrong with this. Two

members of that committee I had considered my brothers,

literally. I would have trusted my wife or children with

them.

E: What two?

T: I would rather not say.

E: Oh, well, that is -oka- n the years to come, somebody will

appreciate maybe a little what I have done: loving these

people and recording my little bits of history, and they are

going to appreciate you.

T: That is not important. You see part of what happened

Saturday is part of what happened on February 20. The

committee and the order of the people of Catawba voted to









terminate or extinguish Catawba because that agreement

(which is going through the Congress and the president now)

agrees that in 100 years there will be no more Catawba. And

there is no way morally or ethically that I could ever agree

with that. If you know Catawba history, [you know] that has

been said at least ten times in the past. I am not sitting

here telling you that ye100 years from now we are going

to have a bunch of full-blooded Catawbas running around; you

know better than that. But there is no reason why a lot of

the culture and the history and the documents and all these

things that made Catawba what it is cannot be here. There

is no reason why there cannot be a successful reservation.

There is no reason why a lot of things cannot take place,

but when your leadership sides with the state of South

Carolina to limit everything that has been done for the past

150 years to keep this tribe here, I cannot agree that they

are acting [in the best interest] of Catawba.

E: I appreciate you giving me your time and your expertise,

your philosophy of life. I like what you said and I say I

hope the future is going to be good for you and that they

e are going to begin to appreciate what you have done/ 6Maybe

appreciate a little wee bit that I have done.

T: That is not the point. As far as I am concerned, that is

/ not the point. The point is that i-a;100 years from now,

people in this area ought to know that Catawba had a great

impact on what happened here, and I would hope 100 years


*









from now it still does. But because of-w the executive

committee and most of the general tribal council and the

actions they have taken, there legally will not be a Catawba

100 years from now.

E: I want to ask you about your daughter, the one that was a

valedictorian at Rock Hill. I always remember her up there

speaking.

T: She is expecting her third child. She is very happy.

E: Would you please write to her, when you write, to tell her I

have not forgotten her.

T: OK, I will.

E: Here, put her little address down for me and I will write

her myself. I have her picture that she gave me. She

started off and said, "We have come a long way." I wanted to

say, "Yes you have and I am proud of it." And for her to do

that before 150 students and be the leader of her class was

something. I am going to turn it off now.




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