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South Carolina Indian Land Cessions

 Native American Nations | Indian Land Cessions in the United States                    

The first settlement of this state, which was destined to form part of the real history thereof, was made in 1670 at or near Port Royal. Dissatisfied with the location, the settlers moved to the banks of Ashley river, where they began what was to become the city of Charleston. Whether the particular lands taken possession of for these settlements were purchased at the time such settlements were made is unknown; at least, history has left the inquiry unanswered. However, it is known that for the purpose of affording room for the expansion of the colony which had settled at the junction of Ashley and Cooper rivers, land was purchased from the natives.

Mills' says the first public deed of conveyance found on record is dated March 10, 1675. This was probably while the settlers were still occupying the site first selected on the western bank of Ashley river and before the removal to Oyster point. The deed as given by Mills is as follows:

To all manner of people. Know ye, that we the cassiques, natural born heirs and sole owners and proprietors of greater and lesser Casor, lying on the river of Kyewaw, the river of Stono, and the fresher of the river Edistoh, doe, for us, ourselves and subjects and vassels, demise, sell, grant, and forever quit and resign, the whole parcels of land called by the name and names of great and little Casor with all the timber of said land or lands, and all manner of tho appurtenances any way belonging to any part or parts of the said land or lands, unto the Right Honorable Anthony Earle of Shaftsbury, Lord Baron Ashley of Winboon, St. Gyles's, Lord Cooper of Pawlett, and to the rest of the lords proprietors of Carolina for and in consideration of a valuable parcel of cloth, hatchets, beads, and other goods and manufactures, now received ,it the hands of Andrew Percivall, Gent. in full satisfaction of and for these our territories, lands, and royalties, with all manner the appurtenances, privileges, and dignities, any manner of way to us, ourselves or vassals belonging. In confirmation whereof we the said cassiques have hereunto set our hands, and affixed our seals, this tenth day of March, in the year of our Lord God one thousand six-hundred seventy and five, and in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Charles the second of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, defender of the faith etc.

By another deed, dated February 28, 1683, the chief or "cassiques" of Wimbee (or Wimbee Indians) cedes "a strip of country between the Combahee and Broad river extending back to the mountains."

Another deed, dated February 13, 1681, is a conveyance by the "Cassique of Stono." Another of the same date is by the "Cassique of Combahee;" and another also of the same date is by "the Queen of St Helena;" and also of the same date is one by the "Cassique of Kissah." On the same day '-'all these cassiques joined to make a general deed conveying all the lands which they before conveyed separately to the lords proprietors."

It would seem from these facts that the South Carolina colony adopted at the outset a correct, just, and humane policy in treating with the Indians for their lands. Not only was the territory purchased, but the grants were made to the properly constituted authorities, the Lords Proprietors. And yet this was at a time when there was constant friction between the people and the rulers. "The continued struggles with the proprietaries hastened the emancipation of the people from their rule; but the praise of having been always in the right can not be awarded to the colonists. The latter claimed the right of weakening the neighboring Indian tribes by a partisan warfare, and a sale of the captives into West India bondage; their antagonists demanded that the treaty of peace with the natives should be preserved."2

The dark blot on South Carolina's Indian history is her encouragement of Indian enslavement. On this point it is sufficient to quote the following remarks by Doyle,3 which are based on the report of Governor Johnson, made to the proprietors in 1708.

In another way, too, the settlers had placed a weapon in the hands of their enemies. The Spaniards were but little to be dreaded, unless strengthened by an Indian alliance. The English colonists themselves increased this danger y too faithful an imitation of Spanish usages. In both the other colonies with which we have dealt, the troubles with the Indians were mostly due to those collisions which must inevitably occur between civilized and savage races. But from the first settlement of Carolina the colony was tainted with a vice which imperiled its relations with the Indians. In Virginia and Maryland there are but few traces of any attempt to enslave the Indians. In Carolina the Negro must always have been the cheaper, more docile, and more efficient instrument, and in time the African race furnished the whole supply of servile labor. But in the early days of the colony the Negro had no such monopoly of suffering. The Indian was kidnapped and sold, sometimes to work on what had once been his own soil, sometimes to end his days as an exile and bondsman in the West Indies. As late as 1708 the native population furnished a quarter of the whole body of slaves.

We are informed by Logan4 that "as early as 1707 the exciting abuses of the trade, the rapid profits of which had allured into the Indian nations many irresponsible men of the most despicable character, induced the passage of an act by the assembly by which a board of commissioners was instituted to manage and direct everything relating to the traffic with the Indians, and all traders were compelled, under heavy penalties, to take out a license as their authority in the nation."

The same act, which furnishes some important items of history, provides further:

Whereas, the greater number of those persons that trade among the Indians in amity with this government, do generally lead loose, vicious lives, to the scandal of the Christian religion, and do likewise oppress the people among whom they live, by their unjust and illegal actions, which, if not prevented, may in time tend to the destruction of this province; therefore, be it enacted, that after the first day of, October next, every trader that shall live and deal with any Indians, except the Itawans, Sewees, Santees, Stonoes, Kiawas, Kussoes, Edistoes, and St. Helenas, for the purpose of trading in: furs, skins, slaves, or any other commodity, shall first have a license under the hand and seal of the Commissioners hereafter to be named; for which he shall pay the public receiver the full stem of eight pounds current money. The license shall contiuue in force one year and no longer, and he shall give a surety of one hundred pounds currency.5

On November 25 of the same year an act was passed to limit the bounds of the "Yamasse settlement," to prevent persons from disturbing them with their stock, and to remove such as are settled within the limitations mentioned. But these Indians, together with other tribes, having engaged in 1715 in bloody war with the colonists, were at length completely conquered and the remnant driven from the province. Having deserted their lands and forfeited their right to them, these by act of June 13, 1716, (number 373,) were appropriated to other uses.6 This act was declared null and void by the Lords Proprietors.

In 1712 there was passed "An act for settling the Island called Palawana, upon the Cusaboe Indians now living in Granville County and upon their Posterity forever." The first section of this act is as follows:

Whereas the Cusaboe Indians of Granville County, are the native and ancient Inhabitants of the Sea Coasts of this Province, and kindly entertained the first Eaglish who arrived in the same, and are useful to the Government for Watching and Discovering Enemies, and finding Shipwrecked People; And whereas the Island called Palawana near the Island of St. Helena, upon which most of the Plantations of the said Cusaboes now are, was formerly by Inadvertency granted by the Right Honorable the Lords Proprietors of this Province, to Matthew Smallwood, and by him sold and transferred to James Cockram, whose Property and Possession it is at present; Be it Enacted by the most noble Prince Henry Duke of Beauford, Palatine, and the Rest of the Right Honorable the true and absolute Lords and Proprietors of Carolina, together with the Advice and Consent of the Members of the General Assembly now met at Charles Town for the South West Part of this Province, That from and after the Ratification of this Act, the Island of Palawana, lying nigh the Island of St. Helena, in Granville County, containing between Four and Five Hundred Acres of Land, be it more or less, now in the Possession of James Cockram as aforesaid, shall be and is hereby declared to be vested in the aforesaid Cusaboe Indians, and in their Heirs forever.6

The only important treaties in regard to lands after this date were with the Cherokee and Creek Indians. As the treaties with the Cherokee are all mentioned by Mr Royce in his paper published in the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, a brief reference to them is all that is necessary here. The map which accompanies the paper cited shows the several tracts obtained by these treaties.

By treaty of 1721 with the Cherokee, Governor Nicholson fixed the boundary line between that tribe and the English; he also regulated the weights and measures to be used, and appointed an agent to superintend their affairs.

About the same time a treaty of peace was concluded with the Creeks by which Savannah river was made the boundary of their hunting grounds, beyond which no settlement of the whites was to extend.

In 1755 Governor Glenn, by treaty with the Cherokee, obtained an important cession. By its terms the Indians ceded to Great Britain all that territory embraced in the present limits of Abbeville, Edgefield, Laurens, Union, Spartanburg, Newberry, Chester, Fairfield, Richland, and York districts.

In 1761 another treaty was made with the same tribe by Lieutenant-Governor Bull, by which the sources of the great rivers flowing into the Atlantic were declared to be the boundary between the Indians and the whites.

On June 1, 1773, a treaty was concluded jointly with the Creeks and Cherokee by the British superintendent, by which they ceded to Great Britain a tract "begin," etc., as described below under "Georgia."

It is proper to remind the reader at this point that the royal proclamation of George III, dated October 7, 1763, forbidding private persons from purchasing lands of the Indians and requiring all purchases of such lands to be made for the Crown, applied to South Carolina.

On May 20, 1777, a treaty was concluded by South Carolina and Georgia with the Cherokee, by which the .Indians ceded a considerable section of country on Savannah and Saluda rivers.

As the subsequent treaties were made with the United States, they will be found in Mr Royce's schedule.

It would appear from the foregoing facts that the policy pursued by the South Carolina colony in regard to the Indian title was in the main just, and was based impliedly, at least on an acknowledgment of this title. But it is necessary to call attention to the fact that a large area in this state, as in North Carolina, appears to have been taken possession of without any formal treaties with or purchases from the Indians. This was due probably to the fact that, with the exception of the Catawba, the tribes who occupied this central portion were of minor importance and unsettled, and the Catawba, by the constant wars in which they were engaged, bad been greatly reduced in numbers, so much so, in fact, that the governors of South Carolina and Georgia came to their relief by means of treaties of peace with their enemies.

1 Statistics of South Carolina (1826), p. 106.
2 Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. II.
3 English Colonies in America, vol. t, p. 359.
4 History of Upper south Carolina, p.170.
5 Ibid., pp. 170-171.
6 Laws of the Province of South Carolina. by Nicholas Trott (1763), p. 295
7 Ibid., No. 338, p. 277

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First annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80

Indian Land Cessions in the United States


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