Edisto Natchez-Kusso move closer to federal recognition

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By VICKI BROWN

The Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribal Council in rural Colleton County recently received letters from South Carolina Congressional Representative Nancy Mace and U.S. Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham supporting the tribe's petition for Federal Acknowledgement.

Approximately 600 Edisto Natchez-Kusso Native Americans of Ridgeville and Cottageville have been on a quest for years to become a federally recognized tribe. Current tribe Chief Dr. John Creel and his nine Tribal Council Board Members have worked diligently to achieve that goal.

Thus, a bill was introduced in November of 2021 by Rep. Mace to federally recognize the Native American Tribe, which is located in the Creel Town, St. Bartholomew's Parish, and Four Holes Indian communities of Dorchester and Colleton counties. “The Natchez-Kusso tribe has been a part of this land since long before America has been a country. This is long over-due,” Mace said, in a written statement.

On December 8, 2021, Mace presented a resolution that passed in the House of Representatives recognizing the tribe. The Edisto Natchez-Kusso Native Americans, better known as the Edisto Indians, are descendants of the Natchez and Kusso Indians and are recorded as living in this area as early as 1577.

“Once I was elected chief, my primary goal was to move our tribe towards Federal Acknowledgment so that we can tap into federal dollars to help enhance many programs that we already have in place for our people and the surrounding communities,” said Creel. “We are hoping to bring in new services, including building a senior assisted living facility in the near future.”

Although the name 'Edisto" was adopted by the tribe in 1970, since they reside along the Edisto River, the Edisto people are seen in the 1850 United States Census living in Creel Town, Saint Bartholomew's Paris, Colleton County, which is also the location of the present community of Native Americans.

The Four Holes Indian Community, which branched off from Creel Town between 1890 and 1900, are seen in the Federal Census. The Four Holes Indian Organization, Edisto Tribal Council, Inc. was established in l969 to serve the Natives of Creel Town, Saint Bartholomew's Parish, Colleton County, and the Four Holes Indian Communities.

“Ridgeville is ground zero for development in the Lowcountry area right now, and a part of our community tribal grounds sits right in the center of what is taking place,” said Creel. “We do not want to be left out; therefore, we are working with some land developers and landowners as well as local county council members to improve our communities in a mutualistic way. “Having the support of our U.S. Representatives and Senators is a big step towards Federal Acknowledgement. We are thankful to those who have already agreed to support us and to those that will be joining in that support,” said Creel.

Since 1970, the Edisto Indian people who lived in the Charleston, Colleton, Berkeley, Dorchester County areas, and were recognized by the State of South Carolina as a tribe in 1987 and again in 2010.

Today, tribal enrollment is growing, and the Edisto people are living in multiple communities in the Lowcountry.

They all come together and have an annual Powwow, similar to a “family reunion,” to celebrate their culture.

The next Powwow will be on April 22-24, 2022, on tribal grounds at 1125 Ridge Road in Ridgeville. For more information, go to edistonatchezkussotribe@gmail.com.

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