Lesson Plan

Native American Connections


GOAL: To introduce students to Catawba and Cherokee culture in the Revolutionary Era Carolinas and have them access the role of each in the American Revolution.


The student will identify the Cherokees and Catawbas and locate their original homeland on a map.
The student will analyze Cherokee loyalty to the British, and, conversely, conflict with Americans.


Numerous Native American groups made their home in the Carolinas. Among these, the Cherokees and Catawbas are most known for their involvement in the American Revolution.

The Cherokees are most known today in North Carolina, but they were more dominant in Colonial days in South Carolina. At first, Anglo-Cherokee relations were good. Beginning at Charles Town, traders traveled the Cherokee Path to Cherokee settlements such as Keowee and beyond to settlements in present-day Tennessee. Trade in deerskins became a big business. Peaceful conditions were not to last, however. Anglo-Cherokee conflict began in the 1750s because of Cherokee complaints over dishonest traders and settlers coming onto their lands. Relations worsened when South Carolina’s colonial governor sought to solve the conflict with military force. The British and Cherokee warred with each other from 1758-61 in what was called the First Cherokee War.

Tensions remained, but the Cherokees accommodated themselves to some extent to European society. This was to change drastically, however, when the American Revolution began. The Cherokees, as with many tribal people, sided with the British against Scots-Irish and other settlers, whom they considered squatters on their lands.

In retaliation, American armies ravaged their lands in what became known as the Whig-Indian War (1776), even though the events in the 1770s - 1780s involving Cherokee, Shawnee, and other tribes were part of the American Revolution. The Cherokee choice was fatal, however, bringing great change to Cherokee society and leading to increasing demands for their removal to the west.

European settlement affected the Catawbas also, bringing fundamental change to their culture and territory. They differed from other tribal societies, however, in that they actively aided the Patriot cause, in part because they lacked enough warriors to stop Backcountry settlement and because of their traditional animosity toward the Cherokees. Gratitude for their service won respect and helped ensure their cultural survival, albeit a drastically changed existence.



1. Have students research Catawba and Cherokee history and write a precise definition of each.
2. Have students research various texts and maps to identify the historical territory of each tribal group.
3. Omit dates and mix the following events and military expeditions against the Cherokee. Have students sequence the events chronologically. Discuss effects on the Cherokee. Differentiate between those of the First Cherokee War and the Whig-Indian War.

First Cherokee War
1758-59 Cherokee-Carolina relations worsen under British Governor Lyttleton.
1759 Thirty Cherokee killed by Virginia settlers.
1759 The Cherokee attacked frontier Carolina settlements.
1760 British troops under Colonel Montgomery marched against the Cherokee, burning villages and destroying crops, but eventually withdrawing.
1761 Lieutenant Colonel Grant marched against the Cherokee, burning villages and destroying crops.
1761 At peace talks in Charles Town, the Cherokee acknowledged English supremacy.

Whig-Indian War
1776 The Cherokee attacked mountain settlements with encouragement from the British.
1776 Colonel Andrew Williamson marched against the Cherokee, burning villages, destroying crops and forcing surrenders.
1776 The Treaty of De Witt’s Corner (today, Due West, South Carolina) forced the Cherokee further westward, retaining only a small strip of land in western South Carolina (in modern-day Oconee County.)

Walk the battlefield trail with students and discuss the influence of Native-American fighting on patriot tactics. (Fighting was often conventional on British and American sides, but, at times, Native-American styles played a part. For example, Patriot skirmishers at Cowpens initially hid behind trees. Such fighting might be attributed to Native-American styles, but was, in the main, practical. Morgan’s tactics were non-conventional but not necessarily Native-American influenced.)

Have students, in context of all the above events and ultimate Patriot victory, distinguish between Catawba and Cherokee life in the aftermath of the American Revolution.

Additional Resources

Calloway, Colin G. The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Hatley, Tom. Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians Through the End of the Revolution

Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. The History of South Carolina in the Building of the Nation. Alester G. Furman, III, 1991.

Jones, Lewis P. South Carolina: One of Fifty States. Orangeburg, South Carolina: Sandlapper Publishing Co., 1985.

Thornton, Russell. The Cherokees: A Population History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Merrill, James H. The indians New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Merrell, James H. "The Indians' New World: The Catawba Experience," William and Mary Quarterly, 3 ser. 41 (Ocotber 1984), pp. 537-565.