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Interview with Roderick Beck, March 12, 1994

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Roderick Beck, March 12, 1994
Creator:
Beck, Roderick ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

Funding:
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: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT



Interviewee: Rod Beck
Interviewer: Emma Echols
March 12, 1994
CAT 238




Rod Beck is the Catawba son of Margaret Helen Beck and Samuel
Beck. In this interview he discusses his grandparents and their
relation to the Cherokees, his work as an electrician, his memories
of school on and off the reservation, the work of the Mormon Church
among the Catawbas, his work on behalf of the tribe, and his hopes
for the future.










Interviewee: Roderick Beck-

Interviewer Emm chols

March 12 994

238A

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

Carolina. I am visiting in the home of Mr. Rod Beck. I am

recording the oral history of the Catawba Indians. This is

March 12, 1994. I remember well his grandparents and his

mother and his father, and [his] living room is filled with

Indian pictures of all kinds. He [Beck] married a white

girl and brought her here and she has picked up all the

culture of the Indians and then she added a great deal

herself. Rod, would you put your name and address on the

tape for me?

B: Roderick Beck, 2525 Indian Trail, Rockhill, South Carolina.

E: Who were your mother and father?

B: My mother is Margaret Helen Beck and my father was Samuel

Beck.

E: And your grandparents?

B: Fletcher Beck was my daddy's daddy. Sally Beck was my

grandmother on my daddy's side, and my mother's mother was

Fanny Harris and her daddy was Alonzo Canty.

E: The Becks that came in were Fletcher Beck, your grandfather,

and Major Beck. Were they brothers?

B: No. Fletcher and Uncle Major, as we called Major Beck, was

my granddaddy's uncle.


1










E: How did these white men come into the reservation? Do you

know?

Cc B: Well, actually Uncle Major and grandpa were not white men.

Uncle Major and granddaddy both were half Cherokee and half

"white. The Beck name comes from a set of German brothers

who came across over 200 years or so ago, and theym--

settled in Clayton, Georgia, and in that area. Out of that

family one of the brothers went into Cherokee [territory]

and married a Cherokee lady and that is the part of the

family that granddaddy and Uncle Major came out of. Granny

Lilly, granddaddy's mother, was Cherokee and she was a Beck

"and she came to the reservation back when she was a young

lady and she married a fellow by the name of Joe Sanders.

E: It is good that the Cherokees and Catawbas are at peace and

[are] friends today. Your work is in Charlotte. How many

years have you been working in Charlotte?

B: Yes, I work in Charlotte. I am an electrician and I do

troubleshooting and maintenance work.

E: For how many years?

B: Well, I have been there for twenty-one years. I spent four

years in the navy doing electronic work, but I have been

doing electronic work since I was about twelve or thirteen,

somewhere in that neighborhood. I started as a young boy

helping daddy. Daddy was an electrician and had a

contractor's license, so I was able to start as a young boy




2










helping him and picking up the trade from him. I have been

doing it for quite a few years.

E: Did you go to school on the reservation for awhile?

B: Yes, across the road, just a short distance.

E: Who were your teachers?

B: There was a Mrs. Cornish and a Mrs. Robins.

E: I know both of them very well. They really did a lot of

different things with you all. I remember they put on

Thanksgiving dinners for you and parades downtown. I bet

you remember them, too.

B: Yes, I went through the fourth grade at the schoolhouse over

there. At the time that I was going to school here in 1954,

mama and daddy had just built the house that they live in

now, so I was going to school right across the road from the

house there. I was able to walk to school every morning,

just an eighth of a mile or so.

E: Then you went to high school after that?

B: Well, when they closed the school down on the reservation,

we went through the fourth grade. The period before then I

think there were different grades they taught, higher grades

maybe up to the eighth grade, but I went through the fourth

grade here and then when I started fifth grade we were

transferred to Leslie. I went from there to Sullivan Junior

High School, which had just opened out on Terrace and

then after I finished there I went to Rock Hill High School.




3










E: How were you treated as an Indian in the white schools in

Rock Hill? Did you feel that you were discriminated

against, or anything of that kind? Nobody made fun of you,

I am sure.

B: I did not have any problems, but there were some children

that did have problems going to the schools. Our family has

been blessed [in] that daddy and mama have been able to

provide for us and that we had the things we needed. We did

not have all the fine clothes and things that some of the

others kids had at school, but we were well provided for.

But there were some Indian children down here that did not

have clothes as nice to wear to school and some of our kids

in school were kind of looked down on and people mocked them

some.

E: Schools today are interested in giving every child an equal

chance and they are also concerned that there is nothing in

the textbooks and literature that give the history of the

Catawbas, and they are interested in having that done and

other people are interested in that, too. There is so many

wonderful stories that have never been written and never

been told and this should be done. What are you doing on

the reservation? What are your official titles here?

B: Well, I do not have any official titles with the tribe. I

have some things I work [on], helping the tribe. At present

I am working with the Executive Committee on updating the

roll and there are other people working on that. I am just


4










one of the workers on that. We have task forces that the

tribe has organized to help try to get things going on the

reservation and I am on the Economic Development

[Committee], plus we are also in the process of writing a

new constitution for our tribe. Several weeks ago I was

elected the chairperson of that [committee], so we are in

the process of trying to get the constitution written.

E: Someone will have to be in charge of the roll too, will they

not? Are you on that committee?

B: Yes, I am on the membership roll [committee] and there is a

lot of work that is going to have to be done on the

membership roll. Somebody cannot just walk up and say "I am

a Catawba Indian, and I want to put my name on your roll."

There is a lot of work that has to be done to document who

you are, where you are, and where you came from.

E: The congressman said that if you all pull together and

cooperate, he feels that there is a bright future ahead of

you. How do you feel about your future?

B: Well, there is no limit to what we can do as a tribe and as

a people, but like you say, we have to work together, we

have to stay together, we have to stay focused, and we have

to know where we want to go. [We have to know] not only

where we want to go but we have to know how to get there.

If you do not know how to get somewhere, what is the use of

trying to get there?




5










E: You have got to have a vision and a purpose and a plan, do

you not?

B: That is right. It is just like going from here to

Charlotte. You know that you want to go to Charlotte but if

you do not know the road to get on to go from here to

Charlotte, it may take you six months to get to Charlotte.

E: [Laughter] Well, you are one of the ones that are working

for peace and harmony in your tribe. Do you not think peace

and harmony has improved? Or are there still [people] that

go in the other direction?

B: Well, I do not know. You are talking about going in the

other direction. It is not going in the other direction,

but right now we are having some problems in the tribe and

the problems that we have are created by our leadership

because we have a constitution to go by and our leadership

is not going by the constitution right now. The public law

that was passed said that we were to live and be governed by

the old constitution until the new one is written and voted

on and passed by the tribe and until that time comes, we

still have old laws to go by and people are not doing what

they know they are supposed to do.

E: You are one of the leaders that will help to smooth that

over, I am sure.

B: Well, I do not know if that will be enough. See, it is up

to our tribe to decide who they want for leaders and who

they want to represent us as a people. When the tribe makes


6










that decision on whoever that may be, it will be the tribe's

decision and not mine, or anybody else's who just walks in

and says, "Hey, I want to be a leader, and I want to do

this, and I want to do that, and you are to do what I ask

you." The General Council is the one that has the final

decision in the decision making of our tribe, not one or two

individuals.

E: Will the decision to get a new chieftain come up in the near

future?

B: Well, it will after the new constitution is written.

According to the public law there is a time frame that you

have to go through and we have so many days to get the

constitution written and approved by the tribe and then

there will be new leadership elected. As far as being able

to pinpoint it down as to when it will happen, such as in

the next six months or a year, there is a vast time period

that that can happen and I will have to go back and look in

the public law, but I think it can go probably as much as

four years before we would actually get new leadership.

E: I am also interested in what the Mormon Church and its

followers are doing for your young people. Tell me about

that.

B: Well, the Mormon Church teaches that one of our greatest

assets is our family, and our children, and our young

people, and they teach us that we are to teach our young

people and our children the right way to do things and the


7










type of lives that they should live and if we teach them

right and they follow the teachings, then they should be

able to go through life and have a good life. You are not

promised that you will not have problems, because everybody

has problems, but it will be a guide.

E: Last year you took a group across the river for a camping

experience. Tell me about that.

B: We did not take a group across the river, it was an

encampment that the church has every year. It is not

something just for our tribe; it is a worldwide encampment

that the Mormon Church has every year and it is the

restoration of the priesthood that was brought back to the

earth. In the Mormon Church we have the Aaronic priesthood

and the Melchizedek priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is

the priesthood that deals with the younger men and they

start at age twelve and it goes up through eighteen, and

then the Melchizedek priesthood picks up there. Then every

year in May when they have the celebration for the

restoration of the Aaronic priesthood they have an

encampment, and the fathers and sons go out and they spend a

night together, and we have a church service there wherever

the encampment may be. This particular year it happened to

be out at the river, at what we refer to as the church farm

that the Catawba ward has and maintains there. So that is

where we were, alongside the river, and when we are out

there camping out like that, there is nothing to interfere


8










with you; it is off away from the road. The only road that

goes into it is through the church farm, so we are out there

away from everybody. There are no lights on anywhere. The

only lights that you have are what you bring with you.

There are no city lights or lights from REA [Rural

Electrification Administration] or anywhere. There is no

electricity out there, so we are just out there away from

everything when we are having that campout. So it is a real

good time for father and son to get together. We have a

dinner that night and the ones that spend the night and

campout cook their own breakfast the following morning.

E: I think that is a fine thing that you do. Of all the people

that have influenced you and made you what you are today,

who do you put on the top of the ladder? Who has influenced

you most?

B: Well, there is no question that there is nobody else I can

put there except my mother and my daddy. They are the main

people in my life and without them, I could not be the

person I am today.

E: That is very good. Let me ask one question. You are on so

many committees and you are so busy and involved with so

much and your heart is in [your work]. What do you see down

the years as the future of your Catawba nation?

B: Well, there were some negatives and some positives in that

settlement package we got. We did not necessarily get

everything that we wanted in that package. That could


9










possibly hurt us in some things that we want to do, but I

think that with some new leadership and our people working

together we could be a strong economic force in the area

here. [I mean] not only in York County and Mecklenburg

County, but I think that we may be a strong force to be

reckoned with in the state of South Carolina once we get all

our programs implemented and get things started and working.

According to the language, we are not tied down to just this

630 acres and the 4000 acres that we are going to get with

additional lands that we will be able to buy. We do not

have to keep it confined right here; we can venture out all

over the state of South Carolina, picking up spots of land

here and there. The things that we can do are unlimited,

but it is going to take a lot of hard work. Money is not

the answer to everything. You are still going to have to

sacrifice a lot and you still have to have a lot of people

working and going that extra step sometimes to get things

accomplished.

E: You have lots of friends all around who appreciate what has

been done and they are looking to the future with a great

deal of expectancy, so we say God bless you in that.











10





Full Text

PAGE 1

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA ORAL HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Rod Beck Interviewer: Emma Echols March 12, 1994 CAT 238 Rod Beck is the Catawba son of Margaret Helen Beck and Samuel Beck. In this interview he discusses his grandparents and their relation to the Cherokees, his work as an electrician, his memories of school on and off the reservation, the work of the Mormon Church among the Catawbas, his work on behalf of the tribe, and his hopes for the future.

PAGE 2

E: This is Emma Echols, 5150 Sharon Road, Charlotte, North Carolina. I am visiting in the home of Mr. Rod Beck. I am recording the oral history of the Catawba Indians. This is March 12, 1994. I remember well his grandparents and his mother and his father, and [his] living room is filled with Indian pictures of all kinds. He [Beck] married a white girl and brought her here and she has picked up all the culture of the Indians and then she added a great deal herself. Rod, would you put your name and address on the tape for me? B: Roderick Beck, 2525 Indian Trail, Rockhill, South Carolina. E: Who were your mother and father? B: My mother is Margaret Helen Beck and my father was Samuel Beck. E: And your grandparents? B: Fletcher Beck was my daddy's daddy. Sally Beck was my grandmother on my daddy's side, and my mother's mother was Fanny Harris and her daddy was Alonzo Canty. E: The Becks that came in were Fletcher Beck, your grandfather, and Major Beck. Were they brothers? B: No. Fletcher and Uncle Major, as we called Major Beck, was my granddaddy's uncle. 1

PAGE 3

E: How did these white men come into the reservation? Do you j know? Well, actually Uncle Major and grandpa were not white men. c::!' ,__. Uncle Major and granddaddy both were half Cherokee and half white. The Beck name comes from a set of German brothers who came across over 200 years or so ago, and they~ settled in Clayton, Georgia, and in that area. out of that family one of the brothers went into Cherokee [territory] and married a Cherokee lady and that is the part of the family that granddaddy and Uncle Major came out of. Granny Lilly, granddaddy's mother, was Cherokee and she was a Beck and she came to the reservation back when she was a young lady and she married a fellow by the name of Joe Sanders. E: It is good that the Cherokees and Catawbas are at peace and [are] friends today. Your work is in Charlotte. How many years have you been working in Charlotte? B: Yes, I work in Charlotte. I am an electrician and I do troubleshooting and maintenance work. E: For how many years? B: Well, I have been there for twenty-one years. I spent four years in the navy doing electronic work, but I have been doing electronic work since I was about twelve or thirteen, somewhere in that neighborhood. I started as a young boy helping daddy. Daddy was an electrician and had a contractor's license, so I was able to start as a young boy 2

PAGE 4

helping him and picking up the trade from him. I have been doing it for quite a few years. E: Did you go to school on the reservation for awhile? B: Yes, across the road, just a short distance. E: Who were your teachers? B: There was a Mrs. Cornish and a Mrs. Robins. E: I know both of them very well. They really did a lot of different things with you all. I remember they put on Thanksgiving dinners for you and parades downtown. I bet you remember them, too. B: Yes, I went through the fourth grade at the schoolhouse over there. At the time that I was going to school here in 1954, mama and daddy had just built the house that they live in now, so I was going to school right across the road from the house there. I was able to walk to school every morning, just an eighth of a mile or so. E: Then you went to high school after that? B: Well, when they closed the school down on the reservation, we went through the fourth grade. The period before then I think there were different grades they taught, higher grades maybe up to the eighth grade, but I went through the fourth grade here and then when I started fifth grade we were transferred to Leslie. I went from there to Sullivan Junior High School, which had just opened out on ___ Terrace and then after I finished there I went to Rock Hill High School. 3

PAGE 5

E: How were you treated as an Indian in the white schools in Rock Hill? Did you feel that you were discriminated against, or anything of that kind? Nobody made fun of you, I am sure. B: I did not have any problems, but there were some children that did have problems going to the schools. our family has been blessed [in] that daddy and mama have been able to provide for us and that we had the things we needed. We did not have all the fine clothes and things that some of the others kids had at school, but we were well provided for. But there were some Indian children down here that did not have clothes as nice to wear to school and some of our kids in school were kind of looked down on and people mocked them some. E: Schools today are interested in giving every child an equal chance and they are also concerned that there is nothing in the textbooks and literature that give the history of the Catawbas, and they are interested in having that done and other people are interested in that, too. There is so many wonderful stories that have never been written and never been told and this should be done. What are you doing on the reservation? What are your official titles here? B: Well, I do not have any official titles with the tribe. I have some things I work (on], helping the tribe. At present I am working with the Executive Committee on updating the roll and there are other people working on that. I am just 4

PAGE 6

one of the workers on that. We have task forces that the tribe has organized to help try to get things going on the reservation and I am on the Economic Development [Committee), plus we are also in the process of writing a new constitution for our tribe. Several weeks ago I was elected the chairperson of that [committee], so we are in the process of trying to get the constitution written. E: Someone will have to be in charge of the roll too, will they not? Are you on that committee? B: Yes, I am on the membership roll [committee] and there is a lot of work that is going to have to be done on the membership roll. Somebody cannot just walk up and say "I am a Catawba Indian, and I want to put my name on your roll." There is a lot of work that has to be done to document who you are, where you are, and where you came from. E: The congressman said that if you all pull together and cooperate, he feels that there is a bright future ahead of you. How do you feel about your future? B: Well, there is no limit to what we can do as a tribe and as a people, but like you say, we have to work together, we have to stay together, we have to stay focused, and we have to know where we want to go. [We have to know) not only where we want to go but we have to know how to get there. If you do not know how to get somewhere, what is the use of trying to get there? 5

PAGE 7

E: You have got to have a vision and a purpose and a plan, do you not? B: That is right. It is just like going from here to Charlotte. You know that you want to go to Charlotte but if you do not know the road to get on to go from here to Charlotte, it may take you six months to get to Charlotte. E: [Laughter] Well, you are one of the ones that are working for peace and harmony in your tribe. Do you not think peace and harmony has improved? Or are there still [people] that go in the other direction? B: Well, I do not know. You are talking about going in the other direction. It is not going in the other direction, but right now we are having some problems in the tribe and the problems that we have are created by our leadership because we have a constitution to go by and our leadership is not going by the constitution right now. The public law that was passed said that we were to live and be governed by the old constitution until the new one is written and voted on and passed by the tribe and until that time comes, we still have old laws to go by and people are not doing what they know they are supposed to do. E: You are one of the leaders that will help to smooth that over, I am sure. B: Well, I do not know if that will be enough. See, it is up to our tribe to decide who they want for leaders and who they want to represent us as a people. When the tribe makes 6

PAGE 8

that decision on whoever that may be, it will be the tribe's decision and not mine, or anybody else's who just walks in and says, "Hey, I want to be a leader, and I want to do this, and I want to do that, and you are to do what I ask you." The General Council is the one that has the final decision in the decision making of our tribe, not one or two individuals. E: Will the decision to get a new chieftain come up in the near future? B: Well, it will after the new constitution is written. According to the public law there is a time frame that you have to go through and we have so many days to get the constitution written and approved by the tribe and then there will be new leadership elected. As far as being able to pinpoint it down as to when it will happen, such as in the next six months or a year, there is a vast time period that that can happen and I will have to go back and look in the public law, but I think it can go probably as much as four years before we would actually get new leadership. E: I am also interested in what the Mormon Church and its followers are doing for your young people. Tell me about that. B: Well, the Mormon Church teaches that one of our greatest assets is our family, and our children, and our young people, and they teach us that we are to teach our young people and our children the right way to do things and the 7

PAGE 9

type of lives that they should live and if we teach them right and they follow the teachings, then they should be able to go through life and have a good life. You are not promised that you will not have problems, because everybody has problems, but it will be a guide. E: Last year you took a group across the river for a camping experience. Tell me about that. B: We did not take a group across the river, it was an encampment that the church has every year. It is not something just for our tribe; it is a worldwide encampment that the Mormon Church has every year and it is the restoration of the priesthood that was brought back to the earth. In the Mormon Church we have the Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood is the priesthood that deals with the younger men and they start at age twelve and it goes up through eighteen, and then the Melchizedek priesthood picks up there. Then every year in May when they have the celebration for the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood they have an encampment, and the fathers and sons go out and they spend a night together, and we have a church service there wherever the encampment may be. This particular year it happened to be out at the river, at what we refer to as the church farm that the Catawba ward has and maintains there. So that is where we were, alongside the river, and when we are out there camping out like that, there is nothing to interfere 8

PAGE 10

with you; it is off away from the road. The only road that goes into it is through the church farm, so we are out there away from everybody. There are no lights on anywhere. The only lights that you have are what you bring with you. There are no city lights or lights from REA [Rural Electrification Administration) or anywhere. There is no electricity out there, so we are just out there away from everything when we are having that campout. So it is a real good time for father and son to get together. We have a dinner that night and the ones that spend the night and campout cook their own breakfast the following morning. E: I think that is a fine thing that you do. Of all the people that have influenced you and made you what you are today, who do you put on the top of the ladder? Who has influenced you most? B: Well, there is no question that there is nobody else I can put there except my mother and my daddy. They are the main people in my life and without them, I could not be the person I am today. E: That is very good. Let me ask one question. You are on so many committees and you are so busy and involved with so much and your heart is in [your work]. What do you see down the years as the future of your Catawba nation? B: Well, there were some negatives and some positives in that settlement package we got. We did not necessarily get everything that we wanted in that package. That could 9

PAGE 11

possibly hurt us in some things that we want to do, but I think that with some new leadership and our people working together we could be a strong economic force in the area here. [I mean] not only in York County and Mecklenburg County, but I think that we may be a strong force to be reckoned with in the state of South Carolina once we get all our programs implemented and get things started and working. According to the language, we are not tied down to just this 630 acres and the 4000 acres that we are going to get with additional lands that we will be able to buy. We do not have to keep it confined right here; we can venture out all over the state of South Carolina, picking up spots of land here and there. The things that we can do are unlimited, but it is going to take a lot of hard work. Money is not the answer to everything. You are still going to have to sacrifice a lot and you still have to have a lot of people working and going that extra step sometimes to get things accomplished. E: You have lots of friends all around who appreciate what has been done and they are looking to the future with a great deal of expectancy, so we say God bless you in that. 10