Awarded to: Dr. Wenonah Haire
Project: Catawba Cultural Preservation Project
Submitted by: Christopher Judge, USC Lancaster Native American Studies
Wenonah is the daughter of the former Catawba Nation Assistant Chief Evans. M. George Jr who served in that position for 19 years. Known as “Buck” he was the first non-white football player at Clemson University. Dr. Haire is the Executive Director of the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project, The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Officer of the Catawba Nation and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer) for the Catawba Nation.
She grew up in Rock Hill and attended Clemson University, a family tradition. She holds a Doctorate of Dental Medicine and works full time as a dentist.
The Catawba Cultural Preservation Project established in 1989, is located in the historic Catawba Indian School building on the Reservation. While many are aware that there were separate schools for whites and African American students prior to integration, the fact that Native folks had their own state funded public schools is not as well known. The mission of the CCPP is to “preserve, protect, promote and maintain the rich culture and heritage” of the Catawba Nation, South Carolina’s only Federally Recognized Tribe.
Dr. Haire directs the many programs of the CCPP including archives, archaeology, cultural programs and a Crafts Store, where Catawba pottery and other arts and crafts may be purchased by visitors. Cultural programs offered for both Catawba adults and children in immersion contexts, include pottery demonstrations, language classes, history, drumming and dancing. She enjoys beadworking as the many colors and sizes of beads intrigue her. In her own words "I
have always found arts and crafts to be an outlet for stress. Native American bead work is both very relaxing and rewarding when a piece finally comes together. I am proud to be able to be a part of carrying on our tribe's traditional art of bead work!" She is also a potter, one of a number who keep this celebrated and nearly 4,500 year old folk tradition, alive in the modern world. As the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) for the Catawba Nation since 1992, she is responsible to identify and evaluate historic properties and archaeological sites of both cultural and religious significance. Working with the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Office of State Archaeology (SCIAA), she helps determine how best to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impact of land disturbing activities on those types of properties
One of her many roles is to consult on inadvertently discovered Native American burials, or those revealed during archaeological investigations. Dr. Haire is appointed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Officer of the Catawba Nation.
She has served on the Catawba River Task Force that called attention to both the environmental and cultural resources along the river named for her people and this resulted in greater community and statewide awareness of the need to identify, protect and enhance Native American historic and archaeological resources
Early in the 2000’s, Dr. Haire consulted with archaeologists from the University of North Carolina on a ten-year project identifying and excavating 18th and 19th century Catawba Towns in close proximity to the Reservation. Most recently in 2021, Dr. Haire served as a consultant to her beloved Clemson University on the preservation of a 4,200 year old canoe recovered from the Cooper River. She and other South Carolina tribal representatives spent two days at the Warren Lash Conservation Lab (home of the Hunley Submarine) in Charleston, advising Clemson Maritime Archaeologists and Conservators on the preservation and ultimate disposition of the oldest Native American dugout canoe ever found in our state.
A future project she hopes to accomplish involves the getting the historic cemetery on the Catawba Reservation nominated and included on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing resource of a Historic District nomination for the Reservation.