RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina lawmakers are rallying behind a Lowcountry Native American tribe that is fighting for recognition from the federal government.
The Edisto Natchez-Kusso tribe was recorded as living in the Lowcountry as early as the 1500’s. The state of South Carolina granted the tribe recognition first in 1987 and again in 2010.
Now concentrated mostly in Dorchester and Colleton Counties, members of the tribe still live in the Creel Town, St. Bartholomew’s Parish, and Four Holes communities.
However, those communities are not eligible for federal protection or benefits since the tribe is not federally recognized.
The tribe’s Chief, Rev. John G. Creel, M.D., said that the recognition would help mitigate potential impacts of development, which could cut in to tribal land:
“Ridgeville is ground zero for development in the Lowcountry area and a part of our community tribal grounds is right in the center of what is taking place. 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.”
Chief Creel also said that being recognized by the federal government would enable the tribe “to tap into federal dollars to help enhance many programs that [they] already have in place for [their] people and the surrounding communities, as well as bring in new services including building a senior assisted living facility.”
In November, Representative Nancy Mace (R) introduced legislation calling for the tribe’s federal recognition. Senator’s Tim Scott (R) and Lindsey Graham (R) have also advocated for the tribe, sending a letter to the Department of Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs “asking for full consideration” of the tribe’s petition for acknowledgement.