Waccamaw Indian tribe receives federal aid to feed members during pandemic

Grand Strand

AYNOR, SC (WBTW) – A Native American tribe in Horry County is getting federal help to feed its members and neighbors during the pandemic.

South Carolina nonprofit groups will get $2,270,416 from the CARES Act to fight hunger and homelessness. It’s part of FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) and one main goal of it is to help children, veterans and underserved communities.

The Waccamaw Indian People are known for their annual pauwau in November. Native American groups gather on the Waccamaw tribal grounds off Bluewater Road to share their cultures.

It’s unclear if the coronavirus will cancel this mass gathering, but the pandemic has already hurt many members of the Waccamaw.

“I have a plan that I think I can make sure my people get to eat,” said Chief Harold “Buster” Hatcher.

Chief Hatcher says the Waccamaw will get $5-10,000 in EFSP funds to pay for food pickups. Other organizations like Help4Kids and The Salvation Army are also getting part of Horry County’s $152,097 split of the CARES Act funds in the EFSP.

Here’s how much of that money other South Carolina counties in our area are getting:

  • Chesterfield County – $19,098
  • Darlington County – $30,598
  • Dillon County – $15,314
  • Florence County – $57,710
  • Georgetown County – $27,887
  • Marion County – $16,059
  • Marlboro County – $12,305
  • Williamsburg County – $16,357

Chief Hatcher says Native Americans already make about 27% less than white people and are struggling to support their families during the pandemic.

“Nobody wants to care or does care of what the Indians think,” he said. “Our people get hungry too.”

The federal aid is very helpful for Chief Hatcher, who says he’s spent at least $2,000 of his own money to pay for food and bills for other people.

“That’s been pretty heavy over the last couple of months,” he said. “It comes out of my pocket, but that’s OK. I’d rather do that than to see people go hungry.”

The food drives will not only help the roughly 450 official Waccamaw tribal members, but anyone in need in the Aynor area.

“I don’t think it’s right just to concentrate on Indians and let other people go hungry,” Chief Hatcher said. “We’re part of the community and we should stay part of the community. Hopefully, we’ll have a solution to a bunch of this, but I think it’s going to get worse than it is now.”

The Waccamaw could receive the money as soon as next month.

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