Episode 353: Brooke Bauer, Women and the Making of Catawba Identity

How did Indigenous people adapt and survive the onslaught of Indigenous warfare, European diseases, and population loss between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries?

How did past generations of Indigenous women ensure that their culture would live on from one generation to the next so that their people would endure?

Brooke Bauer, an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and author of the book Becoming Catawba: Catawba Women and Nation Building, 1540-1840, joins us to investigate these questions and what we might learn from the Catawba.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Brooke Bauer, an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, joins us to explore Catawba women and their significance in Catawba culture with details from her book, Becoming Catawba: Catawba Women and Nation Building, 1540-1840.

During our investigation, Brooke reveals the ancestral history of the Catawba Nation and the role Catawba women play in sustaining the Catawba culture; the importance of women’s pottery practices in Catawba culture and the Catawba Nation’s economic survival; And, the unique use of land-leasing by nineteenth-century Catawba peoples to reinforce Catawba identity into the nineteenth century.

What You’ll Discover

• The Piedmont region of the Carolinas
• What the Piedmont region looked and sounded like prior to European arrival
• The ancestral history of the Catawba people and language
• The uniqueness of the Catawba language from other Southeast Indigenous languages
• Cause and effect of Indigenous population loss for Southeastern groups with arrival of Europeans
• How and why Europeans caused so many changes to Indigenous politics and social dynamics in the Piedmont region
• Differences in how Europeans and Indigenous peoples think about land
• The coalescence of Piedmont Indian tribes because of European arrival
• The creation and persistence of the Catawba Nation
• The Catawba Nation as a matrilineal society
• Women’s crucial role in establishing and maintaining Catawba culture
• Catawba women’s pottery practices
• The importance of pottery to Catawba culture and daily life
• Adaptations that Catawba women made to pottery practices in response to 18th Century markets
• The Catawba Nation’s involvement in a land-leasing system beginning in 1765
• The impact of this land-leasing system on 19th century Catawba peoples
• Catawba land dispossession and reclamation in the 19th century
• Sally New River

Links to People, Places, and Publications

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Women’s History Month at Colonial Williamsburg 

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Complementary Episodes

Episode 082, Alejandra Dubcovsky, Information & Communication in the Early American South
Episode 158, The Revolutionaries’ Army
Episode 223, Susan Sleeper-Smith, A Native American History of the Ohio River Valley & Great Lakes Region
Episode 323, Michael Witgen, American Expansion and the Political Economy of Plunder
Episode 342, Elizabeth Ellis, The Great Power of Small Native Nations

Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Catawba women had not been willing to adapt to the geopolitical and economic changes Europeans wrought as they colonized North America? Do you think the Catawba Nation would have formed and the Catawba people would still exist today?

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