Lecture’s focus is Catawba Indian pottery
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Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Lecture’s focus is Catawba Indian pottery

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- COURTESY OF BECKEE GARRIS
Beckee Garris

Beckee Garris will lecture about Catawba Indian Pottery and Tribal History at 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Museum of the Waxhaws.

This is the third lecture of the autumn “Listen and Learn” series sponsored by the Museum of the Waxhaw and the Sunrise Weddington-Waxhaw Rotary. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased online at museumofthewaxhaws.org or at the door.

According to the museum’s website, “Beckee Garris was born and raised on the Catawba Indian Reservation in Rock Hill, S.C., in 1947. She is the granddaughter of former Chief Albert H. Sanders, Sr., and the great-granddaughter of former Chief Samuel Taylor Blue. She is a divorced mother of three and grandmother of six.

“She has volunteered for more than 20 years at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project and serves on the board as secretary-treasurer. She began working for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office in 2000. In 2010, she was selected as one of the 21 contributing Native Storytellers from around the country to be included in the book ‘Trickster Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection.’”

Garris also is a Catawba potter. I gained an appreciation for just how much pottery was linked to the ongoing history of the Catawba tribe. In “By Her Hands: Catawba Women and Survival, Civil War through Reconstruction,” historian N. N. Augusté says by the end of the Civil War, the tribe was near extinction. Several Catawba men had died or been seriously wounded fighting for the South.

“Catawba Indian women knew that at that time the only profitable resource that could be extracted from the infertile land was its clay: plentiful and marketable for the exchange of food, clothing, and other goods,” Augusté writes. “From the Civil War to well into the twentieth century, Catawba women, with the assistance of their children at times, dug the clay, molded the clay, fired it into pots, and traded or sold the finished products in order to survive.”

Remembering Gettysburg 150 years later

My alma mater, Gettysburg College, wrote to alumni recently to remind us that “the third major 150th anniversary of the year in Gettysburg (Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1; Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3) takes place on Nov. 19, which is the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery created in the aftermath of the battle.”

The message continued, “The occasion is commemorated annually with a ceremony in the Cemetery, featuring a prominent speaker. This year, Pulitzer-prize-winning historian James McPherson and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will deliver remarks.”

This struck a chord with me on several levels, not the least of which was marking the passage of time.

I was there 50 years ago for the Centennial Celebration on Nov. 19, 1963. On that beautiful autumn afternoon, I donned my Air Force ROTC uniform and joined a line of march that followed Lincoln’s path from the railroad siding near the college, through the streets of Gettysburg to the site of the historic speech.

My newly issued dress shoes raised dollar-sized blisters on both heels, and on the way I contemplated a dozen other things I might have been doing. Once we were there, however, the reading of Lincoln’s carefully chosen words touched my heart, and for an hour or so, I was carried away by the magnitude of what had occurred there, and what those 272 words were expressing.

On that day 150 years ago, Lincoln honored the deaths of soldiers in both armies, including men from Waxhaw and the Catawba nation. Nov. 19 might be a good day to read his words and remind ourselves of the enormity of the vision embraced in the concept of “a new birth of Freedom.”

John Anderson is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for John? Email him at jafortrel@aol.com.

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