Interview with Steve E. McKellar August 28 1993

Material Information

Interview with Steve E. McKellar August 28 1993
McKellar, Steve E. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Catawba Indians -- Florida
Kataba Indians -- Florida
Catawba Oral History Collection ( local )


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Catawba' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
the University of Florida


Interviewee: Steve E. McKellar
Interviewer: Emma Echols
August 28, 1993
CAT 213

Steve E. McKellar is a Cherokee Indian who married Billie Ann,
Arzada Sanders daughter. He gathers clay and burns the pots for
Arzada. ie talks about his attempts to find more clay reserves
for the'otters.


Interviewee: Steve McKellar

Interviewer: mma Echols

Date Interview: August 28, 1993


E: This is Emma Reid Echols, 5150 Sharon Road, Charlotte, North

Carolina. I am down on the reservation. I am working on

the oral history of the Catawba Indians. This is August 28,

1993. I am working with the University of Florida, Dr.

Samuel Proctor. I have got an interesting thing I have

never had before. This gentleman knows where the clay is

along the river. He has been out and dug the clay and

brought it in. He is going to tell you a lot about the

clay, and about the pottery makers that he knows down here.

Now, lets get your name and address.

M: I am Steve McKellar and I live on 1543 Tom Steven Road in

Rock Hill [South Carolina], which is on the reservation.

E: You are part Cherokee [Indian], I believe?

M: Yes, I have Cherokee in me on my momma's side.

E: Then you married a Catawba Indian who is Arzada Sanders'


M: Yes, that is right.

E: How long have you been married?

M: We have been married twenty-six years.

E: When did you become interested in the making of pottery?


M: I became interested in it when I first married Billie Ann.

I saw the pottery that her grandmother made. I was very

interested in it then; I started buying pottery from her

then and questioned her about the pottery, and how it was

made. I wanted to learn how it was made, how it was fired,

how you got the different colors, and find out about the

different kind of clays. Over the years, I more or less

watched her and learned some from her and also Billie Ann's

uncle, which was Arzada's son. I watched him dig clay and

burn the pots, and stuff like that. And [I] also [learned]

from my mother-in-law, Catherine Canty.

E: Now tell us, you have been on the Nisbet farm digging clay.

Tell me where that was and how you got to digging that.

M: Billie Ann and I carried her grandmother, Arzada, over to

get some clay, and she showed us where the clay was at when

we went down the road and went out on the river bottoms.

/ When we stopped on the road to get the clay, there is a

little creek it runs down. Wellshe stepped off so many
steps up that creek bank and went up the creek bank across

/ the bottom. Nowthis had been taught to her [by] her

mother. They [would] step off so many steps and they had

one place there that they dug, and they said that was the

best clay. So she walked up through there so many steps.

/ She counted them, and told me to start digging. t that

time, I really did not know what kind of clay [it was]. I

knew kind of what the clay looked like, but I did not know


how you could tell if the clay was the right kind of clay.

So once I got down, probably six feet deep in the ground, I

would hand her the clay as I would dig and let her check it.

She would rub it between her fingers and look at it.

Finally I told her, "Granny," I said, "if I keep on digging

I am going to go to hell before I get you the right kind of

clay." She said "No, you will not go that deep. Just keep

digging." So I dug a few more feet and then handed her the

clay, and she checked it and said that was the right kind of

clay. At that time I asked her, "Well, how do you know that

that clay is better than the clay that I have been giving

you before," because it all looked the same to me. At that

point she took the clay and she rubbed it between her

fingers, and she showed it to me and she said, "If you rub

it between your fingers and hold it out to the light, you

will see it shine." It has a waxy-like film to it, and that

way you know that the clay is good stiff clay and it will

hold up. Also you can tell that it does not have any grit

in the clay. So that is how I learned to find and to check

the clay, when you are digging it out of the ground, to tell

if the clay is any good.

E: Now, the newspapers have an article on you with your

picture, digging along the banks until you found some other

clay. Tell me about that.

M: I was out behind our house and I had been just walking

around looking in the creek banks because I really feel like


there is good clay on the reservation, if we can ever find

it. I just happened to step down into the creek bank and

was just walking up the creek a little bit, and I looked

down and I saw this clay and I picked it up. I felt it and

I knew it was good clay. I got a little bit of it and I

brought it back here to the house and worked it up with my

mother-in-law, and she made some pots out of it. They all

turned out really good. I carried a few more people down

there and they kind of dug down in the place that we found

the clay. There is a small amount there. There is not a

large amount or anything; it is more or less a small pocket

of clay in that one little section. I guess she has made

probably a dozen pieces out from down there on the creek.

E: Are these all dark or have they any light spots along it?

M: They do have light spots on them too. She has made one that

I think she has got down at her house. She and I did not

/ notice it, but another Indian looked at it and saidA"If you

* look into the base, the wais urned, it looks like
spirits dancing on the side." He said, "It looks like

people in there and they are doing a dance inside of a fog."

We did not ever notice until that was pointed out to us,

then we got to looking at it and sure enough. The clay

burned black. It came out with spots on it, and also it

came out with a smokey-gray tint to it.

E: You and Earl Robbins have found some other clay, have you



M: Earl found the clay down on Bo Waters' land, which is just

down the river here.

E: There is an abundance of clay to use at the present time.

M: Well, the clay that we are getting down there now is not a

good grade of clay. It will do to make pots, but they do

not hold up as good as the clay from over at Nisbet's. The

Sclay is not as pure ; it has got a lot more dirt in it .

E: Nowyou have some interesting pieces of Arzada's, one of

them the old owl, and several of her old pieces. You fired

that owl yourself, did you not?

M: Yes, I did.

E: That is the most unusual. They did not used to have owls

because they thought they brought them bad luck. But Arzada

made squirrels and rabbits and owls. She made one that I

always liked called the "laughing frog". She made frogs in

different poses. You have seen some of her's like that?

M: Yes, I have.

E: It is so interesting that you are so interested in the

Catawba language, culture, and the pottery, and you keep on

being interested. What do you see for the future of these


M: The way I feel as far as my grandchildren, and my children,

and my great-grandchildren, if I live that long, I want them

to know everything that is possible to find out about the

Catawba Indians. Any knowledge that they can get about the

Catawba Indians, I want them to be able to sort that


knowledge and be able to put it to good work. [They should]

know what their ancestors have done, know how their

ancestors did it, and to keep on passing it on and on and

on, so we will never run out.

E: Do you think the younger generation are proud of their

heritage, more so than they used to be?

M: I think that the last two generations that have come along

are more proud of being an Indian than their mothers, their

grandmothers, and their great-grandmothers were.

E: We are thankful that you are so interested. You will pass

on what you know to your children, will you not?

M: I sure will.