HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Grand Strand was inhabited by Native Americans long before the Europeans ever arrived. That is why there is so much mention of the Waccamaw people all around us.
There is the Waccamaw River, the Waccamaw Farmers Market, Waccamaw High School and Waccamaw Drive, but the origin is often forgotten.
The Waccamaw Indian people made history in 2005 when they became one of the first state-recognized tribes in South Carolina.
Harold “Buster” Hatcher is the chief of the Waccamaw Indian People. He said his role in the tribe is like being a mayor in a little town and that it comes with a lot of responsibility.
“I worry about people getting educated,” he said. “I worry about people’s health. I try to help ’em, make sure they have a place to live and they’re treated fairly by the government. I feel responsible, and I think I am responsible to try to make sure that the government, state and federal government, treat us like they do any other citizen.”
Unfortunately, he said he does not feel like he and his people are treated the same as other citizens.
“For example, I want for my people to be able to bury their dead the way that they did in ancient times,” Hatcher said. “There’s 600 sets of human remains now on shelves in South Carolina that we can’t put back in the ground.”
Hatcher works hard to find that justice. He is the chairman of the South Carolina Indian Development Council, the South Carolina Indian Affairs Commission, and the South Carolina Council of Chief. He also works with the secretary of state and Gov. Henry McMaster.
He said he continues to poke at government officials, but it is not easy. However, he has seen movement on the local level.
“I approached the Myrtle Beach City Council and asked them to do away with Columbus Day, and they did that,” Hatcher said. ”Matter of fact, every Columbus Day now I get a plaque saying it’s now Indigenous People’s Day.”
He said he is working to see the same change at the Horry County Council and Conway City Council.
While he is working hard to make change now, he said he has felt the inequalities since he was a little boy.
“I grew up here on 10th Avenue in Myrtle Beach. There were no Indian schools,” Hatcher said. “There used to be black water fountains and white water fountains and black entrances to the restaurants, but there were no Indian entrances. It’s either black or white.”
He says that there is a lot of change that needs to happen, but it starts with recognizing that we are all people regardless of our heritage or skin color.
“When you discriminate against a black man or a white person or whatever, that’s a real person that you are hurting,” Hatcher said. “We all ought to come across as equal. Not anybody better than anybody else, but at least equal. We don’t ask for anything better, but we think we should at least get the same.”