Waxhaws are an extinct nation of Native Americans that once lived in present-day Lancaster County. Like many South Carolina Indian nations, the Waxhaws spoke a Siouan language. The origin of their name is uncertain. Some believe it means “people of the cane.” The first known contact between the Waxhaws and Europeans occurred in 1566, when a party of about one hundred Spanish explorers passed through the Waxhaw lands. Juan Pardo, the commander of this expedition, noted that their villages were composed of long lodges, which were typical of eastern Woodland Indians. The next mention of the Waxhaws is in 1670. John Lederer, who was passing through the area, called them the “Wisacky” in his journal. He also noted that they were subordinate to the larger Catawba tribe, their neighbors to the north. The English explorer John Lawson left a detailed description of the Waxhaws after he encountered them in his travels across the Carolinas in 1701. He described their lodges as large, comfortable buildings and wrote that they were gracious hosts. He also noted their practice of flattening their foreheads in the belief that this made them better hunters. The Waxhaw Indians fought against the colonists in the Yamassee War, and this action along with disease caused the dispersion of the nation. The Waxhaws that survived the war are believed to have been absorbed by the Catawbas and Seminoles.
Milling, Chapman J. Red Carolinians. 1940. Reprint, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969.
Pettus, Louise. The Waxhaws. Rock Hill, S.C.: Regal Graphics, 1993.