What makes Catawba Indian pottery unique?

The Catawba Indian Reservation is a small reservation near Rock Hill, South Carolina.  The Catawba are the only federally recognized tribe in the state of South Carolina.  Perhaps the Catawba Nation's greatest legacy is its pottery, made in simple, elegant style that is instantly recognizable.

Catawba pottery is distinct in that no pottery wheel is used. The Catawba potters use favorite objects of just about whatever is handy, to shape and smooth the clay. Rubbing stones are common, but many eclectic items find their way into the potters' use. Items such as an elk antler, seashell, or even acorn cob. Following a process that has been used for millennia, the Catawba work clay dug from the banks of the Catawba River. Turtles, frogs, snakes, ducks, swans and sunflowers are common themes that seem to run through the pottery. Glazes are not used; the pieces are usually fired in an outdoor fire pit, which creates the distinctive coloration of the pottery.

Pottery is the "life thread" of our cultural existence. During the fight to restore our Federal status that was taken from us in the Termination Act, our pottery tradition established that pottery had and still is a part of our cultural existence.

One historian has even stated that "South Carolina is home to the only Native American pottery tradition with an unbroken line of descent from pre-Columbian times to the present. It is the only such community to survive east of the famed pottery-making Pueblos of New Mexico."

What is "The Yehasuri Trail"?

The Yehasuri trail is a scenic trail that is part of an historic wagon wheel trail that dates back to 1810. At the end of the trail you will be treated to a view of one of the most beautiful sections of the Catawba River that exists today! There are only two free-flowing sections remaining and this area is one of them. If you linger long enough by the river's edge, you'll most likely see a Great Blue Heron skimming the water.

There is a rock shelf that extends across the river and the sound of the rushing water is worth the hike! Along the trail you will be treated to several exhibits depicting the lifeways of the Catawba Indians, as well as the beautiful flora and fauna that are often found along the trail. Some of the exhibits that you can expect to see are a heritage garden where native plants are growing, a 19th century replica of the Isabelle Harris house site, a 19th century Archaeology site, a bark house, and points of interest about our flora and fauna. Coming soon is our living Catawba village where one can learn more about our Catawba lifeways.

The trail is based on one of the Catawba folk tales, the Yehasuri (Little Wild Indians). They are inhabitants of the Catawba Spirit World and exemplify the Catawba Cultural Center, providing the trail with a story, a purpose, and an atmosphere of authenticity sure to leave the flavor of a true experience.

The trail is approximately 1.5 miles round trip with about a 50-foot elevation. The difficulty of the trail is classified as Easy. There are benches along the way to rest and most of the time the trail is shaded. Enjoy your walk and keep a look out for the "Little Wild Indians" for whom the trail was named. Remember that the Yehasuri Trail is a compilation of living exhibits, a time line and a nature walk. This is a nature trail so keep your eyes out for the moderate wildlife that call this home. We encourage you to take time to check off which species you see and to learn the Catawba names of each species.

You might see the following while walking the trail: opossum, five lined skunk, turkey vulture, red tailed hawk, common crow, mockingbird, Carolina Chickadee, white tail deer, eastern gray squirrel, eastern cottontail rabbit, rat snake, American and Southern toads, cardinal, American robin, turkey, eastern box turtle, blue jay, tufted titmouse, raccoon, copperhead snake, common king snake, marble salamander, common grackle, Carolina wren, brown thrasher, mourning dove, and the Bald Eagle. Please let us know what you found!

What type of plant communities can be found along the trail?

There are three broadly defined plant communities within the trail site: River Bottom within the floodplain of the Catawba River, Creek Beds, and Upland Woodlands. The forests are dominated by plant species such as Oak, Poplar and Hickory trees. Secondary species include Sumac, Redbud and American Holly and Pine. The forests on the site are largely untouched, mature plants. Average ages of the trees range from one to twenty years with several sweet gum trees estimated to be 100 years old.

Who was our tribe's first contact with Europeans?

The Spanish explorer DeSoto made an expedition through the area known as the upstate of South Carolina and came in contact with a people first called the Esaws or Eswau. Eventually the term changed to ye iswa known as the "River People". Interestingly enough, linguists know of no known Siouan word "Catawba".