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Chief speaks on Native American culture

Posted: September 13, 2017 - 1:54am
Chief Louie Chavis, of South Carolina’s Beaver Creek Indian Tribe, speaks to Grovetown Elementary fourth-graders about his culture and heritage.

Grovetown Elementary School fourth-graders took turns asking questions during a visit with a Native American chief last week.

Louie Chavis, chief of the Beaver Creek Indian Tribe of South Carolina, paid a visit to the school in full regalia, to share the ways of his ancestors with the students, who are currently studying about Native American history.

"I'm one of the few people that has a birth certificate that says ‘American Indian' on it," Chavis said. "I have come to share a wee tiny bit of knowledge, with some artifacts that I've brought."

Chavis said he is one of 38,000 identifiable Native Americans in South Carolina today, but that being identified as Indian wasn't acceptable when he was a child. Chavis said his grandfather, who was a Pentecostal preacher for more than 50 years, would change the subject anytime Chavis would ask him what kind of Indian they were.

"It's a culture that's just about completely annihilated, but somewhere, someone still needs to know that we are here as a people and as a culture," Chavis said. "I am chief of my people. I have strings that are calling me back to the old ways that my ancients walked. I have a sereve obligation to my ancients."

Chavis is a distant relative of Grovetown City Councilmember Sylvia Martin, whose family was recently accepted into the Beaver Creek Tribe in March. And Martin said her grandmother too would not discuss her Indian heritage, which made their geneology search difficult.

"I started gathering death records, birth records - anything I could find. We kept tracing back until we found out that they were related to the Indians in South Carolina," Martin said. "My grandmother always told me that they were born in Orangeberg, but they didn't have birth certificates prior to 1900 so I kept hitting dead ends."

Martin said they were successful after discovering their old family cemetery with the Chavis name on multiple headstones.

"I went (to the cemetery) and took pictures of the gravestones. I have those to show the births and deaths of the Chavis descendents," Martin said.

Chavis said he will visit more than 150 schools in a year in an effort to educate students that Native American Indians are still alive today.

He shared several tools with the students, including a moccasin mold out of rock, as well as other rocks that were used as a tomahawk head and hatchet. Chavis also brought along several knives, made of deer antlers and other natural resources.

Students asked questions of Chavis, inquiring about the tribe's traditions, how his people created clothing, what they did for fun and how they made jewelry.

For Martin, the event was successful and also provided a sense of closure for her.

"To me it was exciting to get that closure to part of your heritage, because I'd always thought it, but to finally get the closure and actual ‘yes,' is exciting," Martin said.

 

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