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Traditional Catawba dancer, Nov. 1999
Dean Canty, traditional dancer, November 1999 Photo: O. Keith Brown

Yap Ye Iswa (Day of the Catawba)

A event of the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project (CCPP), the Yap Ye Iswa  (Day of the Catawbas) originated in 1990 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and is held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This cultural festival, staged by the Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina's only federally recognized Indian tribe, was designed as an educational outreach to both the tribal community and the non-tribal community. The mission of the CCPP is to preserve, protect, promote and maintain the rich cultural heritage of the Catawba Nation, "The People of the River."

The festival begins with a calling song performed by the River Spirit drum group with the Grand Entry of tribal veterans, dancers and drummers. After the Grand Entry, various tribal drum groups play while tribal dancers perform traditional Catawba dances. Throughout the day, the festival continues to showcase drumming and dancing. A puppet show based on Catawba folklore and in the Catawba language is presented continuously, as are various video presentations on the Catawba culture.

The art and cultural event at Yap Ye Iswa features the work of any Catawba artisans who wish to participate, and visitors can view and purchase their work. Catawba pottery has long been the thread that has woven the tribe together. Archaeological evidence of the Catawba pottery shows that it predates the first European contact in this region. When Catawba men went to war alongside the colonists, the women made and sold pottery for their families' survival. During the Great Depression, this pottery again was sold for the Catawbas' survival. Thus pottery is the prominent art at Yap Ye Iswa, but other Catawba art forms such as beadworking, basketry, and flint knapping, are on also display during the event. During the 1999 festival, former Catawba chiefs and rulers of the Catawba Nation were presented in an educational exhibit, and the new tribal pageant representatives were introduced to the public. Visitors could sample Catawba culinary treats such as corn roasted in fire pits, venison stew and Indian tacos. For the less adventurous, hamburgers and hot dogs were also available.

The project is documented with a nine-page report, fourteen 8 x 10 photos with descriptions, a drumming and dancing schedule for the 1999 event, a list of Catawba stories and a schedule for their telling at the puppet show, newspaper and magazine coverage, several promotional flyers, and three videotapes: "10th Annual Yap Ye Iswa Festival, November 27, 1999," "Catawba Indian Festival, 1999," and " Yap Ye Iswa, 1999."

Originally submitted by: Strom Thurmond, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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