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Catawba Nation, '99 Things to Do'


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I am writing in response to your recent articles on the Catawba Nation, specifically the piece titled, "A Language in Crisis" (Oct. 4). While the article captures the urgency with which scholars, supporters of traditional and indigenous cultures and the Catawbas themselves must work to preserve the rich cultural heritage, including the linguistic tradition, of this community, I would challenge the article's claim of a lack of coordination in preservation efforts. The recently established Native American Studies Program of the University of South Carolina Lancaster is working with members of the Catawba Nation, without regard to their political affiliation, to coordinate efforts to document, preserve, and celebrate traditional Catawba culture. Thanks to a generous donation of materials from Dr. Thomas Blumer in 2003, USCL has established the Catawba Research Collection, which contains a wide variety of materials created and collected by the donor over a 40-year period as he conducted his research on the Catawbas and other Native American peoples. The USCL Native American Studies Program is working closely with the Catawba Cultural Center and with individual members of the Catawba Nation to continue the work of Dr. Blumer and other scholars of Catawba history and culture. With support from a wide variety of partnering organizations, we plan to digitize the Catawba Research Collection and make portions available on the Web. We also plan to co-host the 2007 Yap Ye Iswa (Day of the Catawba) Festival and a 2008 exhibit on the life and work of the late Georgia Harris, a Catawba potter and recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The latter event will focus on the pottery traditions of the Catawbas, an extremely important component of Catawba culture unexpectedly overlooked in your articles. I was surprised by the comment of Dr. Rudes, whose expertise in indigenous American languages is indisputable, but who was quoted as saying, "I don't know what thing people do identify with being Catawba, but it doesn't seem like language was one of them." Most residents of this area know the Catawba for their unique pottery, and many Catawbas celebrate this tradition as a defining element of their heritage. While Catawba as a language has been dead for decades, the pottery tradition, which stretches back hundreds if not thousands of years, is alive and well. Moreover, the success of this traditional art form is due, in a large part, to the coordinated efforts of the Catawba Cultural Center, the local academic and educational communities, the South Carolina Arts Commission and affiliated local arts councils, institutions such as the Columbia Museum of Art, the S.C. State Museum, the University of South Carolina, Winthrop University, and the Schiele Museum of Gastonia, and, of course, the potters themselves. The story of the perseverance and preservation of the Catawba pottery tradition is one of cooperation, creativity, affirmation, and success. It stands in stark contrast to the tone of despair and discord expressed in your articles.

-- Stephen Criswell, University of South Carolina, Lancaster


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Things to do #35 -- riding Cats bus (In response to "99 Things to Do," Oct. 11) I had not been on a city bus in years -- until recently -- last fall when the petro prices skyrocketed. Took bus #27 in Matthews to the/our new Arena to watch a Bobcat game. I was pleasantly suprised. Buses came by every fifteen minutes, on time. Got off across the street from the arena. No ten dollar parking fee or traffic hassle. Got shit faced after the game in downtown bars. Didn't have to worry about DUI or killing anyone driving home. (Buses run late on weekends, up to one PM.) Have taken the CATS buses many times since. And you meet some very interesting people. My only advice. Don't appear shit-faced when boarding a bus at the Trasportation center or you will be uptown without a paddle.

-- Bill Herrington, Charlotte


In the Oct. 4 issue, the cover photo for "Endangered Nation" was taken by Angus Lamond.

In the Oct. 11 issue, the picture accompanying number 99 in the cover story "99 Things to Do" was taken by Catalina Kulczar.

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