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Marlboro, Chesterfield, Darlington County Pee Dee Indian Tribe

The Trading Post
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Sharon Malinowski, Anna Sheets, Jeffrey Lehman, Melissa Walsh Doig, Editors


Published by Gale Research Inc.

Every tribe from Abenaki to Wyandotte in the Northeast; Alabama to Yuchi in the Southeast; Arawak and Ciboney in the Caribbean is included.  This encyclopedia includes wonderful informative articles about the histories and cultures of the tribes accompanied by complete bibliographical references and "Further Reading" on each tribal group.  We tend to think in terms of a few tribal groups and that can limit our abilities as researchers to find the real facts.  This encyclopedia will open horizons in our genealogical and cultural research.

Following is an excerpt:


Gorry, Conner; The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Vol. 1:  New York, NY; page 468-470.

The Pedee (pee-dee) Indians were a small tribe living on the banks of the Pedee River in coastal South Carolina when English colonists first arrived.  In the most comprehensive study of the Pedee to date, The History of the Old Cheraws, Alexander Gregg said "of the meaning of 'Pedee,' nothing is known.  It has even been made a question whether the name is of Indian origin; and the opinion has been advanced that it is not."  Most likely, the Pedee split from a larger tribe, resettled on the Pedee River, and adopted its name..

Little is known of Pedee history and even less of their language, although historians suppose they formed a part of the great southeastern Siouan tribes.  In discussing the Pedee in Red Carolinians, Chapman J. Milling cited James Mooney and others as "establish[ing]chiefly by linguistic criteria, that these Indians...belonged to the Siouan stock."  One explanation for the dearth of information regarding the Pedee is that they had been reduced to such small numbers by the time of white colonization as to escape inquiry.  Mooney estimated that there were 600 Pedee living in South Carolina in 1600.  They are not mentioned in the comprehensive census of 1715.  Though oral accounts from 1808 suggested that there were about 30 Pedee still residing on white settlements, assimilation into larger tribes such as the Cheraw resulted in the Pedee no longer being considered a distinct group.


Since there is no extant oral tradition concerning their aboriginal ancestry or origins, information regarding the Pedee before extensive white contact must be reconstructed through archeological excavations, comparison with their closest neighbors, and conjecture.  Historians concur that the Pedee most likely belong in the Siouan family of tribes, since their traits so closely resemble those of the Creek, Catawba, and others.  It is surmised that the Pedee split from these Siouan ancestors following their migration to South Carolina, the supposed birthplace of the Pedee.  According to John R. Swanton in Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors, accounts from Spanish slavers indicate that the Pedee may have been "the first natives of the Carolinas to be visited by the white men."

Though it is known from field journals and similar sources that the Pedee fought with Captain Bull's troops in the Tuscarora War (1712) and in the Yamasee War (1715-1716), the first official mention of the Pedee Indians in colonial records is from an entry for July 16, 1716, in the Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade.  The Pedee enjoyed a healthy trade with their English allies during this period, bartering deer skins, foodstuffs, and wampum for guns and ammunition.  Along with trade agreements, the Pedee also had a peace accord with the colonists whereby the English promised protection from their enemies and judicial intervention.  The Pedee apparently convince their Cheraw neighbors of the benefits of such a peace, because the entry on February 12, 1717 in the Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade  says "Tom West, a Pedee Indiancome in Behalf of the Charraws to conciliate a Peace with the Government."

The agreements between the English and the Indians would prove integral to the latter's survival during the many intertribal wars of the 1700's in South Carolina.  The English interceded on behalf of many tribes to maintain peace and prosperity.  If an agreement could not be reached, the English often negotiated to help tribes resettle in areas far removed from their enemies.  In the 1720s the Keyauwee, Saponi, and Tutelo were relocated along the shore of South Carolina.  Some Cheraw and Pedee also moved to the new settlement.  Milling and Swanton believed that these Indians later moved father north in Robeson County, North Carolina, and, therefore, were the ancestors of the Lumbee Indians.

In the 1730s, colonization of the South Carolinian coast intensified, causing a subsequent increase in intertribal warfare as Native American people competed with European settlers and among the various tribes for land and provisions.  They English fostered a mutually beneficial relationship with the Pedee during this period.  For example, in 1744, the English Provincial government convinced the Catawba to maintain their unity with the Pedee even after four Pedee Indians were accused of killing seven Catawba.  Some Pedee did not trust the Catawba to remain faithful to the agreement, however, choosing instead to become settlement Indians.  While the colonists quelled rebellion among the tribes so that they would remain faithful to their English allies, the French attempted to divide the Indian forces.  The English were aware of this, and, after the Albany conference (1751), united the Indians into two broad groups that they called the Northward and the Southward.  The Pedee were included in the Southward group of Indians who joined the British in the French and Indian War.

In a letter from Documents Relating to Indian Affairs dated November 21, 1752, the Catawba chief stated in part that "there are a great many Pedee Indians living in the [white] settlements that we want to come and settle amongst us.  We desire for you to send for them."  Provincial Governor Glenn related the Catawba request to the Pedee and from that point, the two tribes were regarded as one.  The colonial records last referred to the Pedee in 1755, when they cited the murder of some Pedee settlement Indians by the Cherokee.  Although the few remaining Pedee were able to survive by uniting with the more powerful Catawba, their traditions, language, and culture were not salvaged.

Culture - Religion

Milling stated, "The culture of all the [Southeastern Siouan] groups was practically identical."  Therefore, the religious culture of the Pedee can be inferred from general characteristics of Siouan religion.  Their religious culture included idol worship probably related to fertility rites.  Gregg detailed their belief in "two spirits, the one good and the other bad."  The good spirit was the creator of man and the earth.  This spirit provided man with sustenance and the ability to hunt and gather.  To this end, the good spirit taught them to hunt, fish, and farm the land so that they might prosper.  The bad spirit was most commonly associated with the onslaught of disease, famine, natural disasters, and general hardships visited upon the earth.


Nothing is known of the Pedee's language except that it was a member of the Siouan, also known as Dakotan, family of languages.  This determination was made through cultural, geographical, and historical parallels.  In The Siouan Indians, W.J. McGee inferred the Pedee's Siouan stock "in part from geographic relation, but chiefly form the recorded federation of tribes."  He argued that the federation of tribes formed because of the "conformity in mode of thought which is characteristic of people speaking identical or closely related languages."


The Pedee lived in settlements grouped near fresh water sources, usually the Pedee River or nearby tributaries.  They built circular homes made of tree bark.  House raisings were a community project.  The Pedee used sweat lodges in purification rituals, but no description of these structures exists.


Methods of hunting gathering, and food preparation are the areas of Pedee culture about which the most information is available.  When the English first began colonizing the coast of South Carolina in the eighteenth century, the Pedee were semi-nomadic river dwellers who farmed small plots of land to grow vegetables and grains.  The Pedee also cultivated corn, preparing it by "beating it till the husks came off, then boiling it in large earthen pots,:  wrote Gregg.  The corn was then pounded into a meal with a stone mortar.  They used stone axes to fell trees and then lit the area on fire, a method known as slash and burn.  The Pedee gathered wild fruits, nuts, and roots native to the area including chestnuts, black mulberries, wild potatoes, plums, strawberries, and sassafras.  Acorns were an integral part of their diet and they collected six different varieties which were eaten raw or used to make bread.  The Pedee used salt in their food, probably obtained from tribes to the north.  They hunted deer and other small game using bows and arrows, trading the dressed skins with the English for guns, knives, and ammunition.

Clothing and Adornment

Descriptions of the clothing worn by the Pedee was given no attention in the historical accounts of the tribe.  Gregg described a small pottery vessel excavated from a Pedee archaeological site, however, which may provide a clue to one of their practices.  The artifact "is very small, not holding more than a gill [four ounces], and seems to have been used for paint, or some other valuable liquid."  Cinnabar, which neighboring tribes used as body and face paint, may have been the substance intended for the vessel.

Healing Practices

"Common to many Native American tribes, the Pedee practiced the sweat lodge ritual, especially after contact with Europeans and their foreign diseases.  At the height of the sickness, they would enter the sweat lodge, remain inside until they were unbearably hot, and then plunge themselves into the icy Pedee River.  This was not a successful treatment for diseases such as small pox, however, and the Pedee perished in large numbers."  Conner Gorry

Shamons, believed to have received supernatural healing power, also were prevalent in Pedee society.  The shamans used the wild herbs and plants of the region to cure illnesses, and, according to Gregg, "the knowledge of some of the most valuable plants now in use was derived from them."


Archaeological excavations have provided many clues as to the death and internment customs of the Pedee.  Arrowheads and tobacco pipes, objects believed to be important to a satisfying afterlife, have been uncovered in Pedee graves.  In addition, important members of the tribe were interned in sepulchers.  When a Pedee was murdered, rock cairnes were erected at the sight, with the number of rocks corresponding the the number of fatalities.  Widows were respected:  young men were expected to provide for their well being.  This sense of community responsibility was an important part of the Pedee lifestyle in other ways as well.  For instance, if a Pedee community member's house was destroyed, they immediately held a large feast for the tribe.  An elder would make a speech, after which everyone was required to make a donation to the person suffering the loss.  Finally,  the Pedee observed the custom of an annual holy fire, whereby the trees that had been felled to clear a piece of land were kept burning in a bonfire.  According to Gregg, the fire inevitably spread to the grasses and secondary growth, "an ancient custom of the Indians."

Current Tribal Issues

The Pedee occupied a short period in the history since the discovery of the New World.  Colonial documents mentioned the Pedee for a scat 50 years.  It is not incumbent upon archaeologists to furnish more clues regarding the life and history of this tribe.  Unfortunately, some of their culture will never be recovered.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Carroll, B.R. Historical Collections of South Carolina. New York:  Harper and Brothers, 1836.

Colonial Records of South Carolina.  Documents Relating to Indian Affairs.  Columbia:  South Carolina Archives Department, 1958

Colonial Records of South Carolina.  Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade.  Columbia:  South Carolina Archives Department, 1955.

Gregg Alexander.  History of the Old Cheraws.  New York:  Richardson and Company, 1867

Hodge, Frederick Webb.  Handbook of the American Indians North of Mexico.  New York:  Pageant Books. 1959.

McGee, W.J.  The Siouan Indians.  15th Annual Report, Bureau of America Ethnology.  Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1897.

Milling, Chapman J.  Red Carolinians.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1940.
Mooney, James.  The Siouan Tribes of the East.  Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1894.

Swanton, John R.  Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors.  Washington, D.C.:  Bureau of American Ethnology, 1922.

_________.  Indians of the Southeastern United States.  Bulletin 137, Bureau of American Ethnology.  Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944.