University of South Carolina

USC Lancaster opens Native American center

By USC Lancaster Communications, DRYSF@mailbox.sc.edu 

USC Lancaster’s Native American Studies Program opened the doors to a new center Thursday, Oct. 4, dedicated to the university’s Native American pottery collection, archives, research, and curriculum.

The Native American Studies (NAS) Center, located in historic Lancaster, is home to the largest collection of Catawba Indian pottery in existence and is South Carolina’s only university archive devoted to the state’s native cultures. It houses a 200,000-piece collection of artifacts from the Ice Age to the present, the area’s only Catawba linguist, an ongoing Native American oral history project and the only Native American studies academic program in the state. 

“It provides South Carolina's Native communities with a space to share their history and culture with the academy and non-Natives in general,” said Stephen Criswell, director of the Native American studies program. “It pulls all of our resources together into one place—our archive, pottery, artifacts, our scholars and teachers, and our students.” 


The center, which sits on lands once held by the Catawba Nation and within 20 miles of the current Catawba Reservation, boasts 15,000 square feet of gallery space, archives and classrooms, plus archaeology, language and folklore/oral history labs. The NAS Center will offer exhibits of regional Native American art, classes and workshops, a public archaeology lab and other public programs. 

USC Lancaster began to develop curricular and public programs focused on Native American art and culture, with a special emphasis on the Catawba, after acquiring the Thomas J. Blumer Catawba Research Collection in 2004. The Blumer archive contains 40 years of the longtime researcher’s correspondence and recorded interviews with Catawba leaders and potters, plus photographs, diaries and related materials.

“When we began our Native American Studies Program, we intentionally moved forward slowly and carefully,” Criswell said. “We worked for years to establish strong relationships with the Native communities in our state, with the local community, and with our colleagues throughout the USC system.  I like to think that we have proven ourselves to be serious and thoughtful scholars and teachers, so much so that the city of Lancaster has invested in us and the Native communities trust us to tell their stories.”


In 2007, the university acquired the Thomas J. Blumer Pottery Collection, at the time the largest such collection in existence, to support the NAS Program’s research and public programming efforts.  The Blumer pottery collection is now joined by hundreds of pieces acquired by USCL through the support of grants from Duke Energy and other sources.

The university has been working alongside local and regional businesses, the Catawba and other regional tribal groups, and with the City of Lancaster.  Lancaster purchased and renovated the commercial building housing the center.

“The new Native American Studies Center will become a resource for the faculty, staff, students and community,” said John Catalano, USC Lancaster dean. “It will not only celebrate the culture of Native Americans, but add to the richness of university life for all of our constituent groups.” 

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Posted: 10/03/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 10/06/12 @ 8:18 AM | Permalink