My Turn, Douglas Isham: How sad for Catawba to remove Indian logo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2022

By Douglas Isham

I feel I needed to post something about the recent demise of the Catawba indigenous people’s heritage from the local college here.

I moved into the area approximately 10 years ago and was intrigued by the history of the Catawba Indian Tribe, ISWA, The River People.

The more I studied the tribe, the more I was impressed about the history, stamina, work ethic and bravery of this incredible group of people. At their peak, the River People were over 8,000 strong and controlled most of the trade routes throughout North Carolina. During our war for independence from the British, the Catawba Nation fought alongside the American revolutionaries resulting in the defeat of Lord Charles Cornwallis’ forces at the Battle of Clap Hill, N.C. A devastating series of battles decided the war in our favor.

After the war, the Catawba returned to their land in South Carolina and found their villages had been destroyed. With little help from the newly formed American government or the state of South Carolina, the Catawba struggled to find a permanent settlement. The Catawba survived colonial expansion, war, disease and continued to fight for their cultural identity into the 20th century. After a long history of struggling with the American government, the Catawba received recognition from South Carolina in 1973. It took another 20 years of court battles to receive official federal recognition.

To help preserve their culture, Catawba College in 2007 was presented a grant to use the Indian logo and name for their sports teams from the Catawba Nation. This agreement allowed the use of the Name, Likeness and Image (NIL) of the Catawba Indian tribe for sports teams in exchange for a scholarship for a student from the Catawba Nation. The tribe did this because like everyone, the tribe wanted and needed to be remembered, years from now, when all of us had passed. The Catawba Indian Nation name would live on from a small college in North Carolina.

Incredible feel-good story. A small Indian tribe decimated by disease and colonial expansion, denied even a piece of land to live on … fights itself back to relevance. Negotiates with an educational institution to assure their history and struggles will be communicated throughout America for perpetuity with a NIL agreement. And as long as a little college in N.C. is playing sports somewhere, their name is being proudly displayed.

Who could possibly be against a small native American tribe achieving that? Well, you might know that answer now. I am not surprised Catawba students recently tossed the tribe’s memories aside, perpetrating the genocide of another indigenous people.

I found the students had no idea there was an actual Indian tribe that their school bore its name from. When I informed the students of my dog’s names, Iya and Nuti Iswa: Girl of the River People … Sun of the River People, most of them were surprised there was an actual Indian language that existed from a tribe whose logo they displayed on their sweaters. The $70 ones at the Catawba College gift shop that Mom’s credit card paid for.

The students of Catawba College had no problem burying the remembrance of these proud people. Remembering the history and hardships of a bunch of poor native Americans living on a Res? Why would they care about a disadvantage people struggling to feed their families or warm their homes?

Catawba students are giving each other high fives for removing the Catawba Indian logo from their campus, ridding them of the history of the underprivileged and unfortunate Indian Nation so tied to the Catawba College name.

In 10 years, someone will ask them, your school has the same name as a casino in South Carolina? And they will just nod their head. How sad.

Douglas Isham lives in Salisbury.