Cheraw Indians

Cheraw Tribe: Significance unknown.  Also called:

  • Ani’-Suwa’II, Cherokee name.
  • Saraw, Suali, synonyms even more common than Cheraw.
  • Xuala, Xualla, Spanish and Portuguese forms of the word, the x being intended for sh.

Cheraw Connections. The Cheraw are classed on circumstantial grounds in the Siouan linguistic family though no words of their tongue have been preserved.

Cheraw Location.-The earliest known location of the Cheraw appears to have been near the head of Saluda River in Pickens and Oconee Counties, S. C., whence they removed at an early date to the present Henderson, Polk, and Rutherford Counties.

Cheraw Villages. The names given are always those of the tribe, though we have a “Lower Saura Town” and an “Upper Saura Town on a map dating from 1760.

Cheraw History. Mooney (1928) has shown that the Cheraw are identical with the Xuala province which De Soto entered in 1540, remaining about 4 days. They were visited by Pardo at a later date, and almost a hundred years afterward Lederer (1912) heard of them in the same region. Before 1700 they left their old country and moved to the Dan River near the southern line of Virginia, where they seem to have had two distinct settlements about 30 miles apart. About the year 1710, on account of constant Iroquois attacks, they moved southeast and joined the Keyauwee. The colonists of North Carolina, being dissatisfied at the proximity of these and other tribes, Governor Eden declared war against the Cheraw, and applied to Virginia for assistance. This Governor Spotswood refused, as he believed the Carolinians were the aggressors, but the contest was prosecuted by the latter until after the Yamasee War. During this period complaint was made that the Cheraw were responsible for most of the depredations committed north of Santee River and they were accused of trying to draw the coast tribes into an alliance with them from Virginia. The Cheraw were then living upon the upper course of the Great Pee Dee, near the line between the two colonies and in the later Cheraw district of South Carolina. Being still subject to attack by the Iroquois they finally between 1726 and 1739 became incorporated with the Catawba, with whom at an earlier date they had been at enmity.

Cheraw Population. During the Spanish period the Cheraw appear to have been of considerable importance but no estimate of their numbers has come down to us. Mooney (1928) gives 1,200 as a probable figure for the year 1600. The census of 1715 gives 140 men and a total of 510, probably including the Keyauwee and perhaps some other tribes. In 1768 the survivors numbered 50 to 60.

Connection in which they have become noted. The Cheraw are famous as one of the few tribes in the Carolinas mentioned by De Soto’s chroniclers which can be identified and located with fair precision. They were noted later for their persistent hostility to the English and have left their name in Suwali Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, N. C.; in Saura Town Mountains, Stokes County, N. C.; in the town of Cheraw, Chesterfield County, S. C.; and possibly in the Uwaharrie River and Uwabarrie Mountains of North Carolina. There is a locality named Cheraw in Otero County, Colo.

Cheraw, Siouan,

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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