UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Cal Harrison
Interviewer: Emma Echols
December 8, 1993
Cal Harrison is a senior reporter for the Rock Hill Herald and
has written many articles about the Catawbas f the newspaper.
In this interview he discusses the Catawba's feelings about
membership on the tribal roll, their effort s to reclaim lost
artifacts from museums and institutions around the country, and
Catawba "tenaciousness" and survival in the face of great
difficulty. He also discusses Chief Gilbert Blue and his
grandfather Chief Samuel Taylor Blue. He states that while the
tribe has become more unified, there are still a number of internal
conflicts that have not been resolved and probably never will be
Interviewee: Cal Harrison
Interviewer: Emma Echols
Date: December 8, 1993
E: This is Emma Reed Echols, 5150 Sharon Road, Charlotte, North
Carolina, and this is December 8, and I am visiting here
again with Cal Harrison. I put all the things he wrote over
the past eight years together in a big folder and it is
chock full. I want to ask him about his impression of the
people he has met on the reservation, and what does he see
J for the future. What you are going to write about? &e8I
will leave it for you to tell me all you want to tell me.
/Ill H: right In terms of my impression of the tribe, I guess in
1u0o LicA a general sense I will have to say I have probably never met
a more cooperative group of people. Even when I met
Catawbas who really were not that interested in being
interviewed with the newspaper, they were still very
courteous and still usually were willing to offer their
opinions. One of the things that has always struck me as
V interesting about the Catawbas and I think one of their
strong points/ is the fact that they are always willing to
express their own opinion and they are very much American
citizens in that regard; they are very democratic and they
do not hesitate on speaking out when something concerns them
or troubles them. Of course, as a reporter w really enjoy
talking with those kinds of people.
E: Do they speak kindly of each other? How do you feel about
H: Well, of course, that is another issue. I think within them
all is a certain tribal tradition in which they feel a great
sort of strong tie with each other, coupled with the fact
that they had been through this long lawsuit and years of
litigation. They feel very close because they all sort of
feel like they have been through the same ordeal. You know,
this was really evident just--I believe it was last week--
when Governor [Carrol] Campbell [Governor of South Carolina]
came to the reservation for the first time and signed over
the papers that officially deeded the 630-acre reservation
to the federal government. You saw people in the tribe who
have been at odds with each other over the years basically
shaking hands, smiling. You saw a few tears, and you could
tell that for at least the purpose of putting a closure to
their long-standing claim they were one people. Despite
their differences they were very close to each other and
that is definitely the Catawba strong point: their ability
to sort of overcome their smaller differences.
E: The governor had never been there before?
H: That was his first trip. As far as I know it is probably
the first trip any governor made to the Catawba reservation.
E: He was not down there for the festival?
H: No, that was kind of a sore point that I heard [about] from
some of the Catawbas. They felt that the governor should
have been there during the festival, but he came the Monday
after the festival. I think he was out of town or had some
business out of town.
E: WellAit rained so much I do not know whether he could have
gotten in and [it was] jam packed with people. They were
from Oklahoma City to New York to Florida to Texas. I got
four tapes when I was down there and I had an interesting
time. Of course, I went back into the kitchen and saw them
making their fry-bread, and the Indians back there knew me
so they were giving me samples of it. That will be
continued by them.
H: One really interesting thing) ou mentioned some people came
from such distances to the festival, there were at least two
Catawbas that I spoke with who had travelled from Colorado
and I want to say New Mexico. They were members of the
remnant Catawbas; they are Catawbas by blood but not
officially recognized by the tribe. One gentleman was
introduced to me by Susan George--I do not know if you know
Susan, I believe she is on the role committee--but anyway,
she wanted to make sure that I met this gentleman from
Colorado and as soon as I ascertained that he was a member
of the remnant Catawbas, I began to ask him questions about
how he felt about not being included on the tribal roles,
whether or not he would like to be included one day, and how
he would feel toward the tribe if at some point he was not
Of course, his response was that it was pleasurable to him
just to be with some of his own people and to learn that he
does have a culture and a family background that goes back
generations upon generations. So for him it was sort of an
introduction to a whole culture and family that he had never
met before. He also said that regardless of whether he is
added to theo or not (he has applied to get on the(role
he will still support the Catawbas and their future. After
we had this discussion, Susan mentioned they had spent a
couple of days together throughout the weekend, through the
festival, and had gotten to know this gentleman and his
family, and of course, had been welcomed and greeted
heartily at all the events. Of course everyone was aware
also that he was not on the tribalrole But she said
during this entire time/ mention was never made of whether
or not he was on theUro Or-et, or what his future may be
as a Catawba. She said that the Catawbas, although they are
aware of these issues about who should get in the tribe and
who should not, are very silent on that issue [and] do not
like to talk about that publicly. It is a very sensitive
topic with them.
Have you seen any of those files or roles?
No, I have not actually gone through the roles.
X- 0, J
E: I have. They gave me one. I have one of 1966. A/Interesting
to see the line and where they were confirmed out in Utah.
What is Susan George's background? /ou know her parents? L
That is all right, I will check.
H: She is Evelyn George's daughter or granddaughter.
E: Oh, yes. I know who she is, I know her. Go ahead. Will
you continue to writewill your newspaper continue to have
a great interest in these Catawbas?
H: Certainly we will. You asked me what we will do next. Of
course one of the key things that we will cover for the
Catawbas will be their sort of "recovery," the introduction
of the federal services to the tribe. In other words how
much money they are getting and what they are going to do
with this money and what it is going to do for the tribe in
terms of raising their standard of living, raising their
income levels, providing better housing and health care for
But I think there are several other exciting topics about
the Catawbas, including the story on the Catawbas efforts to
repatriate their lost artifacts and in some cases skeletons
of old Catawbas from museums and institutions all around the
country. I hope to get this story out by Christmas. Wanda
George Warren (Buck George's daughter and the transition
director) is very active in this issue in Georgia and has
very strong feelings about the fact that if artifacts are
dug up they should be returned to the tribe if they actually
belong to it. They should not be sitting on a shelf in a
museum or, even worse, stored in a box somewhere in a
basement. So I think we will see the Catawbas reaching out
to institutions like the Smithsonian and the Kisset Museum
in Columbia and elsewhere, and getting these pieces of the
past back to the tribe a*R so that the tribal members can
learn and appreciate them. Apparently, there is even a
skeleton of a Catawba that was dug up and is sitting in a
box somewhere at the Smithsonian Institution.
E: At the festival, the walls were covered with beautiful
framed pictures they had brought from Columbia from the
museum and they hung on the walls and then they promptly
took them downnd took the
H: Right. I suspect something may change in regard to that.
E: Did you find a great pride in their culture and what they
are doing and their future? Do you not find a great pride?
H: Oh yes, they do. Of course, I can not really speak for how
the older generations have viewed their culture. I have read
in several different books that there was a time, and I
guess a lot of Indian tribes went through this, where the
younger people were kind of embarrassed by their culture and
did not really want to have any part of it. For the
Catawbas it probably almost wiped out their culture. Very
little was saved except for the pottery and maybe some oral
Sfotale nd stuff like that. But now, obviously, there is
a great enthusiasm in it. I think some Catawbas are seeing
dollar signs from the sales of the pottery. I just saw a
beautiful piece of pottery that was a wedding jug that
someone just paid ninety dollars for or something like that.
E: Did you see the $500? Some of them down there were $500.
H: Really! Well, some of them are worth it, others I do not
know if I would pay that much for I, but that is pretty
profitable. I think Dr. Wenonah Haire's motivations, from
my impression, are truly just trying to get the culture re-
established and get a firm footing so there will be
something to pass on to future generations. Like I said,
for others, there may be some sort of monetary reason that
they are more interested in it. But for whatever reason the
important thing is that they will be getting their culture
back. Did you bear the Catawba drumming group at the
festival? That is a good example of a group gentleman who
have . .
E: The young people and the old involved in the dancing.
Evelyn George was dancing and she is eighty-sevenand then
the younger ones were dancing along too. Of course [with]
the rain you went from one building to the other, which is
very difficult to do for the festival. But they kept going
just the same. Buck George was roasting the corn in that
big fireplace, and the bread and the other things. If it
had been a pretty sunshine day it would have been even
better. But it was amazing. And amazing what Wenonah
George has done with that old school house. I never thought
it would look as it doeshe id a tremendous job. Well, if
you had to summarize how you feel about the Catawbas, what
would you say?
H: That is a tough question. Well, I guess the one thing that
I have been impressed with most of all is (and I guess I am
not the first to make this observation) they are a very
tenacious people. They do not stay down when they are
/ knocked downthey get right back up. AgainAthey have that
sort of tribal unity so they are able to lean on each other
during tough times and they have literally survived probably
longer than any tribe in their exposure to white settlers
and stuff like that, and they have managed to keep some of
their culture. Fortunately, there were some researchers in
the early part of the nineteenth century that also
documented other parts of their culture that otherwise would
have been lost. They will tell you that in a way the
Catawbas are very dependent on white America, white South
Carolina, and are just as much a part of white South
Carolina as they are of the Catawba Indian tribe.
E: You made friends among them and you do not find any
resentment toward white people. They do not remember that
they were mistreated in the past very much, do they?
H: Well, I think they remember it, they just do not talk about
it. I do not think there is that much bitterness and
resentment now. Maybe things would have been different if
/ they had not gotten a settlement/I do not know. Of course,
a lot has been written about the issue that, for more than a
century, they have been trying to be in the good graces of
the dominant white culture in South Carolina.
E: I am visiting today in the newspaper office of the Herald.
I have a very special person and he is so interested in
this. He has been writing article after article and I have
been sending some of them to you in Florida and I will send
others. Will you put your name on and your official
capacity here at the Herald
H: Certainly. My name is Cal Harrison and I am one of the two
senior reporters here at the Herald. I have worked here
about six years. I am a native of Columbia and have lived
S in South Carolina all my life. I moved up here in the big
snow of January of 1988--I do not know if you remember that-
/ ith my wife and we have one five year old daughter.
E: So you were interested before you came here; coming from
Columbia you had a lot background interest in the Catawbas,
did you not? r
Gc4 H: Yes. It isires certainly I studied South
Carolina history I guess in seventh grade, and of course
being a southerner, I think it is kind of ingrained upon you
that you need to learn about your heritage and the history
of your state. So I was certainly aware of the Catawbas and
their history. I guess the thing that most people remember
from South Carolina history in high school is that the
Catawbas were--b- ftaer and friends with the early colonists,
and that they were really sort of used as a buffer against
the Cherokees, and they sided with the colonists in several
wars. I was fairly surprised, though, when I moved up here
to learn that there was an actual group of Catawba Indians
still existing and still trying to cling to their heritage.
E: And when you were in Columbia, you never met or really knew
a Catawba Indian, did you?
H: No, I would not have been able to recognize one if he or she
had walked up to me.
E: Bcausd I taught school so long and I have been so impressed
that there is nothing written that sufficiently details the
background of the Catawbas. And I think that is true today;
there is not enough written about their background. That is
the reason it is so important, for me, that I am preserving
little bits and pieces of their history that nobody knows,
A nobody has written down. How did you happen to get going
with the Herald in doing the Catawbas?
H: Again, I started here almost six years ago and I covered the
York County Council for quite a few years, and sometime in
1989 people began to take the land claim seriously when the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Catawbas
actually did have a right to a trial. Then the Herald
began to write many stories on it. My predecessor in
covering this tiw a gentleman named Peter Judge, who worked
for the Herald from around 1982 till he died at a young age
in 1990. Peter wrote most of the Catawba stories during
that time and prior to him, Ted Melmick, who now works for
the Charlotte Observer, wrote quite a few stories during the
time when they sued in 1980.
One of the real humbling things about covering this occasion
of the signing into law of the Catawba settlement bill is
the fact that I am just one of a long line of newspaper
reporters that has covered this issue since the late 1800s.
It is really a pleasure to be able to share in that and
hopefully bring a lot of this together for people to
understand and make it interesting.
E: You get more and more involved. I took Peter Judge out
there to meet a potter, Nola Campbell, and he was so
fascinated with her pottery that he bought pieces from her.
,' Later on he wrote [about] it. And Andy(CBcress) your
photographer, went with me all over the reservation and he
took the-Apictures in color$, be.auti.~7e. I have about a
dozen pictures that he took in color. Then I have taken
some of you all down on guided tours over the reservation,
and I know there are so many nooks and crannies all around
back in the woods to find your way, of course. It is
absolutely fascinating. You have met lots of these Catawbas
and you have seen, I am sure, that they are banding
together; they are more united now, I think, than they have
ever been. There are a few dissidents out on the outside
but most of them are working together. What outstanding
leaders have you met or do you know down there?
H: Well, obviously, Chief [Gilbert] Blue is probably one of the
greatest leaders of all time for the Catawbas. One of the
stories that I wrote, and you may have read, was where we
listed the chiefs of the Catawbas from the contact in the
early 1700s to 1993 and of course Chief Blue has been chief
since 1973. I think probably one of the reasons why they
have survived is that they have been blessed with
enlightened leaders. In the 1700s they had King Hagler and
Young Warrior who were smart enough to befriend the
colonists rather than fight against them, although they did
attempt to wipe out the colonist in the Yemmasee War in
1715, I think. But after that they got smart and they
became ambassadors and for much of the twentieth century
Chief Samuel Taylor Blue was such a great ambassador. From
what I have read, he was one of the few Catawbas who really
clung to the language and to the different aspects of the
tribal culture, and probably almost single-handedly kept a
little enthusiasm for that going at a time . .
E: He was highly respected by all the tribe.
H: Yes. Right. Both on and off the reservation. From what I
have read, he would have people from the Rock Hill community
come visit him at his home and he would do the Indian dances
and the war whoops. One of the ladies I spoke with--I want
to say it was Mildred Blue--said that she remembered
watching him, and this was her father, and how he used to
all of a sudden startle the people who had come to visit
them with his big war whoop because they were not expecting
E: We are talking here on Main Street and he came right down
the street to the orthopedic school, where the Junior
Welfare League Building is now, and the children were around
a big table and he was on the outside of it and he went
around with his drum and his headdress, and as you said, he
gave a big war whoop. Later on, he was too feeble to do
that kind of thing; he would sometimes do his dance but
would not do the war whoop. I knew him personally, and then
of course I have known Gilbert.
H: What kind of comparison do you see between Gilbert and Sam?
E: Well, a great deal of difference. Chief Sam Blue had no
education, he could not read or write; he memorized long
passages of scripture and he did it out in Salt Lake City
when he went out there. In his church, he conducted
funerals, but only by memory. He knew it a perfectly.
When he would go down to the Mormon church, a crowd of
children would be with him (he had twenty-two children
altogether and a lot of grandchildren) and so all he had to
do was shake a finger. He had perfect control. They
respected him, they honored him. He was a man of no
education but a great spiritual leader. There were enough
Blues to vote him in for a long time. Then his grandson
comes along, and Gilbert with his eight years in the navy
comes home an educated, intelligent person. He buys this
home off the reservation, he marries a white girl from
Chester, and he brings in a new culture, a new feeling.
They tell me on the reservation that they do not agree with
him all the time but they highly respect him and they like
him. He has been my friend for a long time. Satme of the
other leaders beside Chief Blue, Carson Blue, you know
H: I was about to say Carson is another; I will put him in the
category of sort of a colorful leader because he is always
coming up with colorful remarks about the situation. Of
course, he is the former bishop for the Mormon church and so
he is also highly respected in terms of his integrity for
the tribe and he has been successful in owning his own
business, the tire dealership.
E: He is an amazing person. His mother and father (you
probably know them) had a long bulletin board completely
covered with pictures. His mother said to me: "You taught
this one and that one and the other one. And not a single
one of my children or grandchildren have ever been arrested
or had any trouble with the law." She was very proud of
that. Carson went to Black Stock to get his wife, Susan, a
beautiful young girl. She was accepted into the tribe and
highly respected and loved. That is something that I have
got a whole article on: twenty or more white women that
have come into the tribe and brought new culture and new
ideas. Carson's wife and Gilbert Blue's are two of those
that have come in like that.
H: I was about to say Buck George is certainly another key
leader for the tribe. He is a real soft-spoken man and of
course he is a big fellow too. I do not know if you have
ever seen him. And obviously, he was very successful in
being able to get an athletic scholarship to Clemson and was
a star tailback, I believe, for Clemson University. I think
that in itself was a major achievement for the tribe; it
brought them state-wide recognition to have a football star
on the Clemson team.
E: He was at Northside School in the seventh grade and the
children would hurry to get out of school and go out and sit
on the bleachers to watch him play. He was a very famous
person here in Rock Hill.
H: Of course, you judge people by their children. Dr. Wenonah
Haire has played a really vital role in helping to re-
awaken some of the culture that was lost or forgotten by the
Catawbas. Then Wanda George Warren was appointed the
transition director and, of course, she graduated from
Georgetown University and obtained her law degree and works
as an Atlanta lawyer. So they are both two very
professional, strong-willed, Catawba-orientated children,
who will probably be the next line of leaders for the tribe.
E: Buck George and his two daughters have kept in touch with
the Catawbas, but they also keep in touch with the white
people, and so they are highly respected and loved
H: I do not think we have enough time to get into this today,
but one of the things I wanted to talk about (and I am doing
a story about it this weekend, as a matter of fact) is it is
true that the tribe has come closer together but there still
are a number of internal conflicts that have not been
resolved and probably never will be resolved. There will
always be some problems. Some of them come from the
dissident group in the 1970s that was not really interested
in a full-fledged settlement, they just wanted a cash
payment. Another split in the tribe has formed between
those who live on the reservation and those who live off the
reservation. That not only causes some political strife but
it also, I think, causes some personal enmity between the
tribal members. So can we sort of take it back up on that
point the next time we talk?
E: Yes we would like to hear that. You are absolutely right in
what you are saying because I have seen the same thing.