South Carolina has a rich Native American history—at least 29 distinct groups of American Indians lived here—with ancient American Indian names still used for many of our rivers, cities and places, including the Catawba, South Carolina’s only federally recognized tribe, as well as the Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto. South Carolina also was once home to the Cherokee and Waxhaw.
You can see and experience parts of that history at Several South Carolina state parks. Here's how.
The first English settlement in South Carolina naturally came in close contact with the Native Americans already living here. Charles Towne Landing provides tours, living history demonstrations and hands-on activities to help visitors understand the experience of settlers and Native Americans trying to coexist.
The Spanish Mount Shell Midden Site here dates back about 4,000 years. One key feature is a 12-foot high circle of shells that could have been part of a ceremonial site or simply an ancient trash pile (midden) for shells. The site is reached by the Spanish Mount trail.
This state park sits on the site of an American Indian ford in the Catawba River. It was used by explorers, traders and soldiers on both sides of the Revolutionary and Civil wars. The land around what later became a two-mile canal paralleling the Catawba was deeded to Thomas Land in 1754. Fort Taylor was built to protect the area from the Native Americans. The location was used by both Revolutionaries and British troops to cross the river. Today, Landsford Canal State Park is enjoyed mostly for its natural beauty and the rare rocky shoals spider lilies that bloom in abundance here.
This site provides a glimpse at early frontier life as Oconee served as a defensive fort, protecting settlers against American Indian assault, housing dozens of militiamen during the late 18th century. The site later became a train post and the home of the first trader, William Richards, still stands today. The park hosts the annual Native American Day that includes demonstrations on how pottery and bows were made as well as arrowheads and other tools.