After I had reenrolled in my nation back in the Fall of 2017, I encountered an archival absence on my people. Although I had knowledge of the traditions which had been preserved and passed from my grandfather, our historic place as first contact people did not afford the thorough documentation seen with other Nations. The Shoccoree are believed the group encountered by the first European explorers to North America, when Lucas Vasquez de Ayllón and his slavers entered Winyah Bay, sailing up either the Pee Dee or Haw in 1520. At the time of contact, the Shoccoree belonged to a large polity known broadly to history as Cofitachequi. However, we remember Cofitachequi by its Eastern Siouan or “Tutelo” name, Chicora. It is unclear if Chicora referred specifically to the Town Creek polity, the paramountcy of Cofitachequi, or perhaps even the paramount leader or “Mico” of Cofitachequi. While the precise nature of the relationship between Cofitachequi and Chicora
Due to heavy cultural losses, prior leadership had begun borrowing culture from our cousins on the Great Plains, the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples.
As indigenous people, we understand the world through our traditional value system which emphasizes a land-based epistemology. We understand that it is the central value of reciprocity which forms the key pillar of each relationship, particularly with respect to land. When we speak our indigenous languages, we breathe life back into the culture. We begin to remember things we didn’t know we had forgotten. The more we begin to listen to our indigenous languages, the more we can hear the land and our ancestors speak back to us.
Understanding as much, I could never make myself at home with the Plains Sioux philosophy or language which was being pushed — it was cultural appropriation by another name which I refused to partake in. More specifically, I knew the land relations embedded within the languages of the Plains Sioux were not the ones intended for our people, as we are Eastern Woodlands people.
Since reenrolling in 2017, I had started a Google Drive to keep track of the materials I began to dig up. As the details began to slowly reveal themselves, a rudimentary timeline and understanding of our history became possible. There were still large gaps in our timeline of over 50 years, and unexplained migrations.
For my final semester at New York University, I have partnered with Dr.Elizabeth Ellis of the History Department. Dr.Ellis is a scholar of unrecognized nations in the southeast. Together, we have crafted a syllabus to explore the legacies of the first Southern peoples as a means of reconstructing Chicoran Shoccoree history. At the end of my independent study with Dr.Ellis, I have continued my work. This work is focused on illustrating the Shoccoree oral histories which have been passed down to me by my elders, and concentrates on filling in the full picture of Shoccoree History and Material Culture. Oral history will be checked against archeological and historical sources, rather than using historical and archeological sources to validate an oral history. With oral history as our guide through space and time, archeological and historical sources will be leveraged to better illustrate the South Carolinian origins of the Shoccoree, the Shoccoree’s relationship to Chicora, and the subsequent migrations spoken of in Shoccoree oral history.