Native Americans Of Edisto

by Gretchen Smith


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In October, 2018, the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society (EIHPS) opened its new exhibit, entitled “Exhibit of Early Edistonians,” which can be seen at the Edisto Island Museum. This permanent exhibit enables the museum to finally be able to add the fascinating Native American era to complete the full story of Edisto’s history.



“While we are very proud of our museum and the history we have been able to share with our community and visitors, there has always been a gaping hole in the narrative,” said Gretchen Smith, director of EIHPS. “We have never before been able to include the Native American story until now. Our other exhibits do an excellent job of informing our visitors about the early European and African American history; this new exhibit relates the story of Edisto prior to the arrival of the early settlers in the 1600s.”


The artifacts in the exhibit are derived from all over the historical spectrum, with at least one of them dating back to the Early Archaic Period (7,000–6,500 BC). In addition to the numerous artifacts, the exhibit also includes a few reproductions that will let visitors get a fuller picture of Edisto’s Native American history. Reproductions include an atlatl, dart, and bone pin.



Prior to the first European contact in South Carolina, there were five major cultural groups, each with a single language. One of these groups, called the Muskhogean Indians, was related to the Creeks of Alabama and Georgia. The South Carolina branch was called Cusabo. Edisto was home to one of the Cusabo tribes.


After the English settled at Charles Towne in 1670, the Edisto and all other Indians of South Carolina experienced a disastrous decline in numbers. The greatest devastation came as a result of diseases for which the Indians had no natural immunity. By 1775, the Edisto tribe was no more, and there are few visible remnants of them along the South Carolina coast. Vestiges of Indian shell rings, mounds, and middens are located on Edisto, but they are in danger of disappearing due to erosion.


To learn more about the rich and interesting history and way of life of Edisto’s Native Americans, be sure to visit the Edisto Island Museum. The museum is located at 8123 Chisolm Plantation Road, and its hours of operation can be found at