North American Indian people of South Carolina, U.S. The meaning of the name Catawba, which seems to have been applied after European contact to several small bands of peoples in the region of the Catawba River, is unknown. The peoples first encountered by Hernando de Soto subsisted principally by farming and by harvesting corn, beans, squash, and gourds. Fish and birds were also staples of their diet. They traded bowls, baskets, and mats to other native groups and, later, to colonists. Each village was governed by a council presided over by a chief. After contact with European settlers, disease and other factors diminished their numbers rapidly. Catawba descendants numbered more than 2,500 in the early 21st century.
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