Catawba People

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Origin and History

The Catawba people are a Siouan-speaking group of Native Americans. They inhabited a region along the border between present-day North Carolina and South Carolina. Most of their villages were located along the Catawba River in North Carolina. They were traditional enemies of the Cherokee people.

Catawba warriors could undertake long distance raids as far as the Ohio Valley, across the Appalachian Mountains.

At the end of the 16th century the Catawba people came to contact with the Spanish.

By 1660, the Catawba were at war with the Shawnee, who had recently resettled in the region. The Seneca, members of the Iroquois Confederacy, also conducted raids against the Shawnee as well as the Catawba.

At the end of the 17th century, English colonists began to settle in the region. They estimated the Catawba people to a total of approx. 4,600, including 1,500 warriors.

In 1703, Catawba warriors attacked a French outpost at Mobile Bay.

In 1706, the British managed to convince the Iroquois and Catawba to make peace. After all, they were both allied with the British. Nevertheless, a protracted conflict continued for a long time.

In 1707, the Catawba drove the Shawnee northwards to Pennsylvania.

From 1711 to 1713, Catawba warriors joined the English settlers in their fight against the Tuscarora (a tribe who later joined the Iroquois Confederacy).

In 1715, when war broke out between the British settlers and the Yamasee people, some Catawba warriors joined the Yamasee in their attacks against British establishments.

Afterwards, the Catawba people lived in peace with their British neighbours, but had frequently to drive back Lenape raiding parties.

In 1738, a smallpox outbreak significantly weakened the Catawba population.

In 1743, even after incorporating several small tribes, the Catawba numbered fewer than 400 warriors.

By 1761, the Catawba numbered only some 1,000 people, including 300 warriors.

In 1762, a large part of the Catawba people moved to South Carolina.

Role during the War

By the time of the Seven Years’ War, the Catawba people still occupied the Catawba Valley and were allied with the British colonists.

In 1758, another smallpox outbreak ravaged the Catawba population, reducing their number to about half of the pre-1738 population.

In 1759, peace was finally concluded with the Iroquois at a meeting in Albany.

In 1760, some 45 Catawba warriors took part in the British expedition against the Cherokee people, where they served as scouts.

In 1761, 20 Catawba warriors took part in another British expedition against the Cherokee people.


The Catawba people was known to the French under the generic name of “Têtes-Plates” (Flatheads) because of their custom of flattening the head of male infants, a practice which they shared with several Native American peoples of the South-East. They wore their hair in ponytail and had a very distinctive war paint pattern: one eye in a black circle, the other in a white circle and remainder of the face painted black.

We have been unable to find other specific characteristic about the dress of this Native American people that would distinguish them from other peoples. If you can suggest sources documenting such characteristics, please do not hesitate to contact us with your suggestions.


Bows and arrows, war clubs.

By mid XVIIIth century metal knives and hatchets were common, as well as tomahawks with iron blades. Similarly, most Catawba warriors probably had European firearms obtained from the British.


Sultzman, Lee: Catawba History retrieved on Jan. 23, 2021

Waldman, Carl: Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Revised Edition, pp. 43-44


N.B.: the section Role during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.